47th Annual WiG Conference

More information about the 2022 conference and how to register to be posted soon.

You can email the organizers with questions at: conference@womeningerman.org.

Head over to the WiggieWegWeiser to learn a little about WiG conference culture and read the WiG Community Agreement.

Panels at the 2021 WiG Conference

The sessions for the 2021 conference are currently seeking proposals. Submissions for the panels are due by February 15, 2021 to their respective organizers. Accepted panelists will be notified by March 1. 

All presentations must accord with the WiG Mission Statement:

The Coalition of Women in German (WiG) provides a democratic forum for all people interested in feminist approaches to German literature and culture or in the intersection of gender with other categories of analysis such as sexuality, class, race, and ethnicity. Through its annual conference, panels at national professional meetings, and through the publication of the Feminist German Studies, the organization promotes feminist scholarship of outstanding quality. Women in German is committed to making school and college curricula inclusive and seeks to create bridges, cross boundaries, nurture aspiration, and challenge assumptions while exercising critical self-awareness. Women in German is dedicated to eradicating discrimination in the classroom and in the teaching profession at all levels.

Note: Given the volatile situation presented by the pandemic, we are not certain what the WiG conference will look like next year. At the moment, we are planning for an in-person conference in Portland, Oregon on November 4–7, 2021. We will revisit this discussion at our spring leadership meeting and will notify the membership at that point as to whether any changes are necessary and forthcoming. Membership to the Coalition of Women in German will be required to present on this panel but is not required to submit an abstract.


Thursday Night Session: “Laziness” and Non-Production as a Radical Form of Political Resistance

There is no call for papers for this workshop. 


Praxis/Pedagogy/Professional Session: “In the Foreground”: Using graphic novels, comics, and visual art to teach in the German Classroom


As schools and universities continue to operate differently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding innovative ways to engage students and hold their attention has become an even greater challenge. In the past several years, graphic novels have become more readily accessible — as a growing art form, as a text genre that has become more accepted in academia, as texts available to educators for pedagogical purposes, and as a text type accessible to students as readers and learners. Many of us have seen steady success in utilizing these texts to create a more even playing field for language comprehension, reading and writing skills, and creative thinking, for instance, among students of differing language proficiency levels in the same class. 

This panel will explore how we can use graphic novels, comics, and other forms of sequential visual art that link to feminist approaches to teaching. We are interested not only in the application of these art forms to language learning generally, but more specifically as pertains to ongoing efforts to utilize feminist and anti-racist pedagogies to decolonialize our instruction. We especially invite presentations that frame these art forms as means to build bridges, cross boundaries, and offer more inclusive curricula to students and to university programs at large. Graphic novels, comics, picture books, and other forms of sequential art that combine text and image will be the focus of these presentations. Presentations featuring older forms such as the Bilderbogen are also welcome, provided they fit into the parameters described above. 

We welcome all papers addressing one or several of the aforementioned pedagogical points of interest. Abstracts (250-300 words) for papers and a brief bio are due by February 15, 2021, and should be emailed to BOTH panel organizers: Elizabeth Bridges (bridgese@rhodes.edu) and Gabrielle Taylor (gabrielle.e.taylor92@gmail.com).  


Pre-20th Century Panel: “Irenic Utopias: Non-Violent Women and Powerful Non-Places”


2021 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rosa Luxemburg, the Marxist philosopher, revolutionary, economist and anti-war activist.  In her 1911 essay “Friedensutopien,” Luxemburg joins the dominant Marxist narrative in rejecting utopianism and bourgeois pacifist movements. Ernst Bloch would later reframe this relationship between Marxism, revolution and utopia, arguing that the revolutionary content of Marxism is precisely that which constitutes its “concrete” or “anticipatory” utopianism. In direct contrast to both scientific and utopian Marxisms, Bertha von Suttner proposes an incremental bourgeois pacifism that will arise without a violent revolution.  In her 1889 novel Die Waffen nieder!, Suttner locates her pacifiscm in a capitalist system, and in her utopian novel Der Menschheit Hochgedanken–which appeared in 1911, the same year as Luxemburg’s “Friedensutopien”– von Suttner even imagines a billionaire who bankrolls the peace movement and changes the course of history. 

Rosa Luxemburg and Bertha von Suttner represent two positions in a much larger historical context.  Since the eighteenth century, German-speaking women have been prolific producers of pacifist and utopian literature.  For example, Sophie von La Roche, Sophie Mereau and Henriette Fröhlich imagined utopias that are, as Bloch describes, spatially removed from the problems of existing society.  Other authors such as Friederike Unger, Bettina and Gisela von Arnim, and Magda Trott imagined women’s utopias where women bring peace by eliminating abusive aspects of male society.  In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, German-speaking women locate utopia in a harmonious future, corresponding to the historical shift of the ideal topos from faraway places to an inevitable new era. 

In our 2021 WiG panel, we hope to gather a series of papers that address pacifist and utopian literature by German-speaking women from the Early Modern period through the long 19th century, including the Weimar era and Red Vienna. 


Possible topics include:

  • Relationship between utopianism, revolution and pacifism
  • Abstract vs. concrete utopias
  • Utopian re-imaginings of gender relations and sexuality
  • Models of transition to utopian society, either peaceful or revolutionary
  • Marxism as utopianism
  • Bertha von Suttner as the ultimate anti-war, peace-driven bourgeois thinker vs. Luxemburg, who dismisses reformism as utopian
  • Early utopian visions in works by authors such as Sophie von La Roche: Erscheinung am See Oneida (1798); Sophie Mereau: Elise (1800), Henriette Fröhlich: Die Kolonie von Kentucky (1820),  Bettina and Gisela von Arnim: Das Leben der Hochgräfin Gritta von Rattenzuhausbeiuns (1845)  
  • Utopian and pacifist science fiction by German-speaking women such as Emelia Bufalo della Valle: Die Deutschen und die Engländer im Mond (1873); Bertha von Suttner: Das Maschinenalter (1889), Helene Judeich: Neugermanien: Zukunftsschwank aus dem Jahre 2075 (1903) Fannie von Bernsdorf: Miki das Mondkind (1910); Auguste Groner: Mene Tekel (1910); Annie France-Herrar: Die Feuerseelen (1920) 
  • Dystopia/Utopia and the rejection of socialism in Thea von Harbou’s novels Metropolis (1925) and Die Frau im Mond (1928) as well as the film adaptations of her novels.  
  • Pacifist salons such as those of Hetta Gräfin Treuberg
  • Journalistic treatments of pacifism such as Annette Kolb: Beschwerdebuch (1932)
  • Scientific works such as Helene Stöcker: Geschlechterpsychologie und Krieg (1915)
  • Pacifist/utopian artists such as Käthe Kollwitz or Jeanne Mammen

Please submit 250-word abstracts by February 15 to Mari Jarris (mjarris@princeton.edu), Michelle James (michelle_james@byu.edu), and Rob McFarland (robmc@byu.edu).


Open Session I: “Trauma Beyond the Holocaust”


Trauma scholarship in Germanic Studies is very often tied to the Holocaust, but there are many other ways of thinking and writing about trauma that receive less attention. Feminist and queer approaches to trauma theory, such as by Ann Cvetkovich (An Archive of Feelings, 2003), as well as critical race approaches, such as by Christina Sharpe (In The Wake: On Blackness and Being, 2016), make it clear that the predominant discourses in trauma studies lack the vocabulary to theorize traumas that occur daily and are unacknowledged as well as unmemorialized. This panel will look at systemic, ongoing, and intersectional traumas, such as those caused by sexual violence and racism, as reflected in German-language cultural texts from any time period.  We understand texts widely as fictional and non-fictional literature, graphic novels, film, and other media that negotiate these issues.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Trauma caused by systemic violence (including racial violence, sexual violence, homophobic and transphobic violence, ableist violence)
  • Under-discussed effects and signs of trauma
  • Unmemorialized traumas
  • The timelessness or atemporality of PTSD
  • Traumas of COVID-19

Feb. 15, 2021: deadline to submit abstract (~250 words) and short bio to both organizers, shoshana.schwebel@ubc.ca and ncoleman@wayne.edu


Open Session II: “Gender and Religious Minorities”


Recent events have shown that discrimination and violence on the basis of one’s minority religious identity continues to be a widespread issue in German-speaking countries. Yet people who practice minority religions foster strong, resilient communities. We invite contributions that analyze the gendered experiences and representations of religious minorities in German-speaking countries, prioritizing papers that focus on materials produced from the perspective of women, non-binary, and queer individuals who identify as members of minority religious groups. Papers could address topics such as religious identity as it intersects with other aspects of identity and lived experience; artistic, activist, and affective responses to religious discrimination (including, for example, antisemitism and Islamophobia) and right-wing terror; feminist, queer- and trans-affirming, and antiracist approaches to religious observance and expression; and interreligious solidarities. 

Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words and a short bio to panel organizers Didem Uca (didem.uca@emory.edu) and Beverly Weber (beverly.weber@colorado.edu) by February 15, 2021.


Guest-related panel: Twisting Tongues: Multilingual Literature, Anti-Racism, and Afrofuturism


Marisol Bayona Roman, The University of Texas as Austin (bayonaroman@utexas.edu)

Nikki Fogle, University of Georgia (nikki.fogle@uga.edu)

Claire Scott, Kenyon College (scott4@kenyon.edu)

In her 2016 award-winning story “Herr Gröttrup setzt sich hin,” Sharon Dodua Otoo uses an unconventional narrator to transform a typical German breakfast scene into a polyvocal encounter with Germany’s racist past, present, and a potentially anti-racist future. In honor of her participation as a guest at the Coalition of Women in German’s 2021 conference and in celebration of her debut novel in German, Adas Raum (2021), we are seeking submissions that highlight the potential for multilingual/polyvocal language to inspire different ways of thinking and being both within and outside hegemonic modes of knowing and understanding. In particular, we are interested in non-canonical texts, misinterpreted works, and instances of misunderstanding or miscommunication that have contemporary relevance in light of recent calls for social justice. As in “Herr Gröttrup,” a simple mundane task can provide a backdrop for the emergence of unique forms of language and the imagination of new futures.  

We welcome papers on a variety of time periods and media that support WiG’s commitment to antiracist intersectional feminism. Some authors and artists to consider in this context include, but are certainly not limited to: Sharon Dodua Otoo, herself, Olivia Wenzel, Olumide Popoola, Phillip Khabo Koepsell, Yoko Tawada, and Natasha Kelly. 

Some potential questions to consider include: 

  • How do concepts become misinterpreted or untranslatable?
  • How do we reconcile the many modes and meanings of a single reference as it is discussed in different cultural and historical contexts? 
  • What do we gain from polyvocal or multilingual representation that would otherwise get lost in translation or remain unexpressed? 
  • In light of the manifold contributions by Black Germans to discourses on epistemic violence and injustice, how can cultural production reconfigure frames of knowledge? 
  • What types of futures do polyvocal or multilingual representation open up? How do these imagined futures resonate with current social justice movements and/or Afrofuturism? 
  • Where are the linguistic borders of German literature? How do polyvocal or multilingual texts challenge literary canons and disciplinary borders?
  • What language is needed to create or imagine anti-racist pasts, presents, and futures?

 Please submit an abstract of around 300 words and a short bio to the organizers by February 15, 2020.


Poster Session


The poster session allows scholars to employ audiovisual forms to initiate conversations about intersectional feminist issues in their research, teaching, and activism. Submissions have taken the form of traditional posters, PowerPoint presentations, short films, websites, dioramas, installations, interactive experiences, etc. “Posters” can address a variety of topics, such as pedagogy, literature, film, cultural studies, history, and politics. Be creative, discover a new approach to your work, and gain valuable feedback in real time.

Please email an abstract of 250-400 words describing the project’s content, thesis, and form (a description of the layout, design, and materials/technology) and a short biography to postersession@womeningerman.org by April 1, 2021. Presenters must provide their own materials, equipment, and technology; please consider this in your proposal.



WiG-Sponsored Panels at other Conferences, 2021-2022



More information soon.


German Studies Association 2021

More information soon.

Modern Language Association Convention 2022


Handmaidens of the Patriarchy: Anti-Feminist Complicity across Cultures

January 6–9, 2022 Washington, DC

“Ordinary, said Aunt Lydia, is what you are used to. This may not seem ordinary to you now, but after a time it will. It will become ordinary.” -Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 34)

From Bertha’s sacrifice of utopia for wealth in Ludwig Tieck’s Eckbert the Fair (1797), to Marta’s shocking betrayal at the hands of her “woke” friend Meg in the 2019 film Knives Out, to the events that have necessitated San Francisco’s recent introduction of the CAREN (Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies) Act, the complicity of female players in patriarchy has a long and troubling history. Concomitant to this complicity are other forms of privilege that allow some women to gain provisional access to safety and success under the confines of patriarchy. For example, the Twitter #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, coined by Hood Feminism author Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) in 2013, pithily summarizes contemporary discourses surrounding the employment of white women’s perceived vulnerability and fragility to uphold systems of violence and oppression. Such maneuvers often rely on forms of policing and marginalization––such as involving law enforcement or propping up capitalist structures––revealing a disconcerting perpetuation of the very frameworks that disenfranchise certain women and femmes at the expense of protecting others with relative power.

This panel invites contributions that analyze media from any linguistic or cultural tradition that depict female figures whose actions serve to bolster patriarchal structures and/or destruct feminist movements. We especially welcome approaches that consider how anti-feminism and misogyny relate to and intersect with other forms of oppression, such as racism, ableism, anti-queer and anti-trans discrimination, and discrimination against religious minorities.

Please submit abstracts of 250-300 words and a short bio to panel organizers Didem Uca (didem.uca@emory.edu) and Melissa Sheedy (melissa.sheedy@wisc.edu) by March 1, 2021.


Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences/CAUTG Annual Meeting 2022

More information soon.

WiG Annual Conference: History

2020 Conference: Oct. 15-18, 2020, at The Sewanee Inn, Sewanee, Tennessee

2019 Conference: Oct. 17-20, 2019, at The Sewanee Inn, Sewanee, Tennessee

2018 Conference: Oct. 18-21, 2018, at The Sewanee Inn, Sewanee, Tennessee

2017 Conference: Oct. 26-29, 2017, at the Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta

2016 Conference: Oct. 13-16, 2016, at the Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta

2015 Conference: Oct. 22-25, 2015, at the Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta

2014 Conference: Oct. 23-26, 2014, at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, PA

2013 Conference: Oct. 24-27, 2013, at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, PA

2012 Conference: Oct. 25-28, 2012, at Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort, Shawnee on Delaware, PA

2011 Conference: Oct. 20-23, 2011, at Yarrow Golf and Conference Center, Augusta, MI

2010 Conference: Oct. 21-24, 2010, at Yarrow Golf and Conference Center, Augusta, MI

2009 Conference: Oct. 22-25, 2009, at Brook Lodge, Augusta, MI

2008 Conference: Oct. 23-26, 2008, at Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, UT

2007 Conference: Oct. 18-21, 2007, at Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, UT

2006 Conference: Oct. 19-22, 2006, at Snowbird Resort, Snowbird, UT

2005 Conference: Oct. 16-19, 2003, at General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, KY

2004 Conference: Oct. 16-19, 2003, at General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, KY

2003 Conference: Oct. 16-19, 2003, at General Butler State Resort Park, Carrollton, KY

2002 Conference: Oct. 17-20, 2002, at Rio Rico Resort, Rio Rico, AZ

2001 Conference: Oct. 18-21, 2001, at Rio Rico Resort, Rio Rico, AZ

2000 Conference: Oct. 19-22, 2000, at Rio Rico Resort, Rio Rico, AZ

1999 Conference: Oct. 28-31, 1999, at Monte Toyon Retreat, Aptos, CA

1998 Conference: Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 1998, at Monte Toyon Retreat, Aptos, CA

1997 Conference: Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 1997, at Monte Toyon Retreat, Aptos, CA

1996 Conference: Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 1996, in St. Augustine, FL

1995 Conference: Oct. 19-22, 1995, in St. Augustine, FL

1994 Conference: St. Augustine, FL

1991-1993 Conferences: Great Barrington, MA

1988-1990 Conferences: St. Croix, MN

1985-1987 Conferences: Portland, OR

1982-1984 Conferences: Thompson’s Island, Boston Harbor, MA

1979-1981 Conferences: Racine, WI

1976-1978 Conferences: Miami University, Oxford, OH

Thursday Night Session – “Visioning Transformative and Anti-Racist Futures: A Call for Principled Solidarities. A Talk and Q+A by Dr. Xhercis Méndez”

Session organizers: Maria Stehle (University of Tennessee Knoxville); Helga Thorson (University of Victoria); Didem Uca (Emory University)

In an effort to learn ways to identify, confront, and fight racism and white supremacy in our organization, in the profession, and at our respective institutions, we invited Dr. Xhercis Méndez to give a presentation and facilitate a Q+A.

Dr. Xhercis Méndez is Associate Professor of Women and Gender Studies and Queer Studies at California State University Fullerton. Prior to Fullerton, she was an assistant professor of Philosophy and African American and African Studies at Michigan State University, where she founded the Campus TJ (Transformative Justice) Project, a consultancy providing universities with an intersectional and transformative justice approach to building healthy and harm-free campus climates.

This WiG conference session on “Visioning Transformative and Anti-Racist Futures: A Call for Principled Solidarities” was the first step in a longer process that we are undertaking to bring about a deep anti-racist cultural change in our organization. In preparation, Dr. Méndez worked with the three session organizers regularly to plan the event and to get to know the organization’s history and culture, as well as its values and priorities. During this preparation period, we, the three session organizers, gained new-found skills that have helped us navigate the difficult terrain upon which we consistently tread.

In her presentation, Dr. Méndez encouraged WiG to examine its own structure and behaviors and white WiGgies to recognize how we/they participate in and benefit from structural racisms. She stressed that inclusion is not necessarily the ultimate goal of feminism–especially if it means maintaining racist power structures within feminist spaces. Rather than inclusion, she proposed working to decolonize the spaces in which we live and work. After providing an overview of theories of racism and oppression as well as approaches to anti-racist activism, Dr. Méndez presented both BIPOC and white members with lists of “actionable items.” Drawing on the work of André Gorz, Dr. Méndez outlined the difference between “reformist reform,” referring to change proposed within the terms of the system, and “non-reformist reform,” which attempts to change the structure of the system itself. The focus of her presentation was on transformative action for better futures, motivating us to learn the skills we need to intervene, advocate, and activate others in the name of social justice.

This session marks the beginning of our sustained commitment to anti-racist feminist scholarship, activism, and tranformation in WiG. Following the conference session, WiG is taking further steps in this direction by offering a healing space for those who have been directly impacted by racism in our organization and a skills-building workshop for those who are motivated and inspired to take action towards building antiracist futures. The workshops and healing space will be facilitated by Dr. Méndez and offered in December 2020 for WiG members committed to intersectional and decolonizing feminist transformation.

Please let the session organizers know if you have any questions or further suggestions: Maria Stehle (mstehle@utk.edu), Helga Thorson (helgat@uvic.ca), and Didem Uca (didem.uca@emory.edu). We are also looking for people who might have the means to fund these and future initiatives. Please contact us if you have any ideas.


Session: Pre-20 th Century “Writing in Drag: (A)Gendered Storytelling”

Session Organizers: Brandy E. Wilcox (University of Wisconsin—Madison); Sharon Munger Wailes (The Pennsylvania State University)

Presenter: Mary Helen Dupree (Georgetown University)

Presentation: “Writing in Drag, Out Loud: The Recitation Anthologies of Moritz Gottlieb Saphir”

Working at the intersection of performance history and print culture, Dupree explores the practice of “writing in drag” in the recitation anthologies of Moritz Gottlieb Saphir (1795-1858).  Raised in an Orthodox Jewish household in what is now Hungary, Saphir turned as a young man to literary studies and pursued a varied career in Vienna, Berlin, and Munich as a publicist, poet, actor, theater director, and combatant in a series of highly public intellectual disputes. Saphir was well known as a declamator, or professional reader of poetry, and wrote many lengthy poems to be declaimed by professional or amateur actors, often in benefit concerts that he himself organized. His extensive oeuvre includes at least two single-author recitation anthologies: Fliegendes Album für Ernst, Scherz, Humor und Lebensfrohe Laune (1846) and Declamations-Soirée für Ernst und Scherz, Geist und Herz (1858). Whereas most nineteenth-century recitation anthologies were multi-author collections of canonical poems meant to be read by male or female readers, Saphir’s poems are gender-specific, and many of them are intended to be read by a female declamator (or, in at least one instance, a male speaker in drag). These mostly monologic “Deklamationen,” which were performed frequently by prominent Viennese actresses such as Julie Rettich and Amalie Mittel-Weißbach, derive humor from the discourse of the “battle of the sexes,” reflecting the polarization of gender roles since the late eighteenth century. (A survey of titles from Fliegendes Album includes such gems as “Sanftes Ehestands-Duettino,” “Männlich und Weiblich,” and “Frauenherz und Eisenbahn.”) At the same time, Saphir’s recitation anthologies use textual strategies to foreground the contributions of the female actors with whom he associated, recognizing them as co-authors or collaborators. By foregrounding the functional, performative, and sociable dimensions of poetry, Saphir’s recitation anthologies open up potential creative space for resistance to restrictive, patriarchal, and nationalistic notions of identity.


Presenter: Andrea Meyertholen (University of Kansas) 

Presentation: “Rumpelstiltskin Revisited: Losing Female Voices, Gaining Opportunities for Radical Change”

In his recent book Rumpelstiltskin’s Secret: What Women Didn’t Tell the Grimms (2019), Harry Rands considers how women dealt with men who behaved badly in the workforce, long before the #MeToo movement. Drawing from historical, textual, and psychological analysis, Rands interprets the title figure as a mechanism which allows story-telling women to cope with and subvert the patriarchal structures controlling their lives. Women in spinning circles wove personal experiences with male impotence into successive iterations of the tale to humiliate and retaliate against powerful men at home (and in the castle). In turning Rumpelstiltskin into an impotent figure, they asserted their voices in a world where they went from their fathers’ to their husbands’ property. Yet in appropriating the tale and retelling it themselves, the Brothers Grimm effectively effaced the female voice. Responding to Rand’s thesis, Meyertholen presents an alternate reading of the Rumpelstiltskin figure as one who is him-/her-/itself representative of a marginalized social group within the same patriarchal structure that disenfranchises the miller’s daughter. Rumpelstiltskin is not interchangeable with or symbolic of the tale’s other men (the miller, the king), because the narrative implicitly and explicitly de-sexes the mysterious figure as masculine. Instead, as Meyertholen argues through textual analysis, the character is emblematic of non-heteronormativity, and is also victimized like the miller’s daughter. Ultimately, the story demonstrates how patriarchal societies marginalize and disenfranchise multiple segments of society in respective ways, turning these groups against each other rather than against the originary cause of the social inequity: The patriarchy itself. Although the Grimms’ version reinforces patriarchal structures, it nonetheless offers an opening for destabilizing and reconfiguring them by suggesting that multiple subjectivities could institute radical change.


Session: Praxis/ Pedagogy/ Professional Session “Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as/and Feminist Pedagogy in the German Curriculum”

Session Organizers: Brigetta (Britt) Abel (Macalester College); Angineh Djavadghazaryans (Oakland University); Ester González Martin (Universiy of Massachusetts Amherst)


Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework that builds flexibility into the educational context to accommodate different types of learners. This framework employs cognitive and neuroscientific insights into how humans learn, in order to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people. UDL assumes that any barrier to learning lies in the design of the environment, and not in the learner. Much work in UDL centers on the “plus one” approach, which provides an alternative option for assessments or another mode of interacting with or representing course material. For instance, students might write a paper OR record a video presentation to demonstrate that they have met course goals. Course material might be presented as a written text as well as an audio file. And the way in which we assess students builds flexibility into the assessment process, such as with specifications for grading or ungrading. The ultimate goal of Universal Design for Learning is to create a classroom in which no individual accommodations are necessary—because they are built into the very framework of the course itself.

Meanwhile, feminist pedagogical theory focuses on decentering the authority in the classroom and empowering students to take responsibility for their own learning. Feminist pedagogy operates on the following fundamental principles: relationship between teacher and student, empowerment, community building, privilege of voice, respect for diverse personal experiences, and challenge to traditional learning ideals. As bell hooks sums it up in Teaching to Transgress, “Making the classroom a democratic setting where everyone feels a responsibility to contribute is a central goal of transformative pedagogy” (39).

For this panel, we asked panelists to investigate the connections, tensions, and overlaps between UDL and feminist pedagogical practice. How can implementing UDL support feminist pedagogy? In other words, how do the ideas of UDL build inclusivity and equity into the classroom? How can the ideas of UDL make our classrooms and our course materials more accessible? How might this accessibility be viewed as “feminist”? In response to these prompts, our panelist Erika Berroth examines ways in which UDL can shape and guide syllabus design. Nicole Coleman interrogates traditional forms of assessment while presenting various alternatives. And Elizabeth Bridges provides a case study of UDL assessment with the idea of ungrading.


Presenter: Erika Berroth (Southwestern University)

Presentation:UDL in Learner Centered Syllabi and Assignments 

In her presentation, Erika Berroth shares current research on syllabus design and assignment design, e.g. Cia Verschelden’s model for “High Hopes” syllabus features or for adopting transparency strategies in assignment design, including strategies for effective student feed-back. 

Syllabi and assignments are frequently our earliest ways of communicating with our students. They set the tone for expectations we have of ourselves and our learners and signal to students how they are included in the very design of our courses. Intentional communication about UDL features, using inclusive language and strategies, can contribute to creating a sense of belonging and encourage resilience for students from traditionally underrepresented and frequently marginalized groups. Syllabi and assignments can contribute to creating a sense of inclusion by normalizing differentiated instruction and by intentionally offering multiple paths to reaching learning outcomes. Including multiple pathways to success in our courses includes and respects all students from the start and creates communities in which students are not made to feel “extra” and “in need” of specific accommodations. The overarching idea is that our MLL classrooms can increasingly be “student ready” – rather than expecting all students to be equally “college-classroom ready.” UDL asks us to clearly articulate the “What, Why, and How” of learning and the definitions of success in reaching learning goals. The UDL commitment to diversity and inclusion is central to feminist pedagogy. 

Here is the link for Erika’s Resource Website for this presentation (a work in progress with many amazing annotated resources!).


Presenter: Nicole Coleman (Wayne State University)

Presentation: “Shifting Power: UDL and Feminist Assessment Practices for the German Classroom

Grading is a form of power and this power usually rests with the instructor. This grading power has also been shown to be a social justice issue because inherent biases lead to different grades for similar work in the same class. Rejecting the “banking model” of education (Paulo Freire) and instead embracing democratic participation in the classroom (bell hooks), both feminist pedagogy and UDL create learning opportunities as a collaborative and interactive effort of meaning-making. Accordingly, my approaches shift power partially to the students and increase accountability, responsibility and motivation for the students using “specifications grading” (specs grading) and alternative forms of assessment. 

For example, in a culture course, a basic learning outcome is to be able to define and identify key concepts. This learning outcome can be achieved through a midterm. If students fall below 85% (which is set as satisfactory), they propose a different way of showing that they have indeed achieved a working knowledge of the concepts. In doing so, students have created quizlet sets and kahoots, or have opted for oral exams. This semester, Nicole Coleman is experimenting with “unessays” that entail any kind of product that connects to course content. In the fall, she will be able to speak more concretely to what these unessays look(ed) like, but inspiring examples can be found online, ranging from a comic book in an English literature class to primates’ Facebook profiles in an anthropology class. 

Coleman’s talk consists of three sections: 1) a short part about background and theories on specs grading and how it fits into feminist pedagogy and UDL; 2) a part that focuses on practices of specs grading in different language and culture courses; and 3) a part that concentrates on flexibility and alternative forms of assignments with samples. 

Presenter: Elizabeth Bridges (Rhodes College)

Presentation: “Unleashing Ungrading: UDL as a Leveler for Language Learners 

The concept of “ungrading,” – that is, using evaluation and motivational methods other than traditional forms—has recently increased both in educational circles and in society at large. In the book Universal Design for Learning, Anna Meyer, David Rose, and David Gordon state that in their work with UDL they shifted their approach to “address the disabilities of schools rather than students” (5). That is to say that they began to see the flaws in structures and institutions that disadvantaged students with, as well as those without disabilities. It is with this notion that Elizabeth Bridges began redesigning her entire approach to grading in her courses. Many students avoid language courses because they fear the unknown, “getting things wrong,” and appearing less-than-proficient. For some students, that reaches the point of a “language anxiety,” which can deter them from enrolling in upper-level classes, or potentially enrolling at all (Horowitz 112). Meanwhile, students of all ability levels can benefit from decreased anxiety surrounding language proficiency. Indeed, Bridges asked herself the question: does counting mistakes on a test ever do anything to encourage German proficiency? The conclusion she arrived at was, “No.” In an attempt to level the field not only for students with diagnosed cognitive or psychiatric disabilities, but for all students, she designed an “ungrading” approach. She does not give conventional tests and does not assign number grades, while she encourages independent exploration of the language in a (relatively) anxiety-free environment.

Here is a link to Elizabeth’s folder of amazing resources for ungrading.


Special Topics Discussion: Sustainability

Facilitators: Britta Kallin (Georgia Institute of Technology); Sabine von Mering (Brandeis University); Petra Watzke (Kalamazoo College)
Britta Kallin, Sabine von Mering, and Petra Watzke briefly presented background information, Internet links, and questions as starting points for discussions in the breakout rooms. Topics to be discussed were: Teaching sustainability, environmental racism, environmental humanities, degrowth, eco-feminism, and divestment/climate action.

To improve our teaching of sustainability in the German classroom we can offer and explain frameworks and examples of texts and films that deal with environmental, economic, and social sustainability. Group members in the breakout rooms asked for a list with a selection of primary texts that work well in the language classroom in addition to textbooks. We can start connecting our teaching about German-speaking countries to the localities from which we teach, allowing complex comparative work in the classroom. Students’ projects can be place-based with community engagement to foster interdisciplinary learning. We can also offer secondary (eco-)feminist and green texts and approaches as a cultural critique and encourage discussions
about more inclusive and egalitarian societies. The breakout groups also discussed what “Women in German” can do (differently) in the future to run the organization in a more sustainable manner. For example, what amount of energy do we need to travel and meet in person versus in virtual conference gatherings?

WiG members want to look at the ways in which we could incorporate sustainable relationships in the face of precarity produced by contemporary political and economic circumstances. The need for political will to effect genuine change still seems absent in the US context, but this will hopefully change soon. In terms of the effects of climate change and environmental racism, we need to find solutions to poverty and food insecurity on various continents; to floods, hurricanes, air and water pollution; as well as to the increasing number of climate refugees and increased world-wide migration. How can WiG members alleviate these problems and how can we as feminists hold our organizations, politicians, and policy makers accountable?

The organizers of the session will put together a list of recommendations for the WiG steering committee to address some of the challenges so that WiG can implement positive changes to the organization in support of its membership.


Session: “Intersections and Potential Affinities between Indigenous Studies and Feminist German StudiesSession Organizers: Emily Frazier-Rath (Davidson College); Lars Richter (University of Manitoba); Wendy Timmons (Vanderbilt University)

Presenter: Helga Thorson (University of Victoria)

I organized my presentation around three different experiences I have had in recent years that have made an impact on me and allowed me to view the intersections and potential affinities between Indigenous studies and feminist German studies in a new light The first was the process of coauthoring an article with Dawn Smith, a specialist in Indigenous Education and Educational Leadership and Policy who is Nuu-chah-nulth from Ehattesaht, for the 2019 volume of Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies. In the article, we discuss the relationship we built over time as well as the work we have done to bring our two disciplines (Indigenous education and German studies) into conversation with one another. Our vision, as we describe it, involves moving “from a position of listening and knowledge exchange to one of mutual understanding and action” (342).

The second example I shared has to do with my experiences on a grant that I received together with a team of researchers from five different faculties at the University of Victoria (Canada). For this grant, which is funded by the President’s office at the University of Victoria to enhance the university’s Strategic Framework and to advance its priorities and strategies, we proposed to establish a research collective on Historical Injustices and Current Realities. Seventeen faculty members from a diverse range of fields (Indigenous studies, German studies, law, music, visual arts, history, political science, social work, public health, child and youth care, and gender studies), over a third of whom are Indigenous faculty members, came together to engage in conversations as we moved towards a process of collaborative research, community building, and action. It was through this experience that I discovered that the research process is just as important, if not more important, than our eventual research outputs. We also engaged in protocols and processes for our meetings that respected local traditions and Indigenous ways of knowing. Our research is not only process-oriented but also collaborative and emergent. We spent the entire first year of the three-year project getting to know one another, learning about each other’s research, discussing our own research methodologies and what we mean by community-engaged research, and building a sense of community and a sense of trust with one another before even discussing the specific research content and direction we want to take. 

The third, and final, example draws on my own experience in thinking through ways to decolonize research and teaching. Together with Charlotte Schallié and Andrea van Noord, I recently edited a book called After the Holocaust: Human Rights and Genocide Education in the Approaching Post-Witness Era. In the introduction and afterword of the book, we discuss the importance of decolonizing Holocaust studies and the benefits of talking across contexts in order to better understand the after-effects of genocide and human rights abuses. However, we didn’t completely grasp what this means in actuality until the third or fourth draft, when it occurred to us that the notion of a soon to be approaching post-witness era, a concept in Holocaust studies that signifies that Holocaust survivors are coming to the end of their lives and a term that is often expressed with anxiety, is one that needs further interrogation. Although we realize that Indigenous ways of knowing vary between and within First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and Indigenous Peoples around the world and that there is no monolithic or singular belief system, the concept of witnessing is often viewed by the Coast Salish as a community practice extending beyond the original “eye-witness” encounter. As we write in the introduction to the book: “Such an understanding challenges the notion that there is an endpoint to witnessing the Holocaust and we are quickly approaching it. This perspectival shift serves to decenter the anxiety surrounding a post-witness era that has been circulating for some time now in the discipline of Holocaust studies: we can now speak of the witness to the story’s transmission, who is then entrusted to serve as a mediator of history by not only safe-guarding that story but also continuing to share it” (xxi). 

These three experiences have shown me the importance of speaking—and above all else listening—across generations and contexts; they have helped me pay serious attention to collaborative and emergent research processes, including providing ample time for relationship building and collaborative brainstorming, and they have helped me understand what it means to decolonize some of the concepts we continually take for granted in our research and teaching. 


Works cited 

Schallié, Charlotte, Helga Thorson, and Andrea van Noord. “Introduction.” After the Holocaust: Human Rights and Genocide Education in the Approaching Post-Witness Era, edited by Charlotte Schallié, Helga Thorson, and Andrea van Noord, U of Regina P, 2020, pp. xi-xxix. 

Smith, Dawn, and Helga Thorson. “Building Transdisciplinary Relationships through Multidirectional Memory Work and Education.” Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, vol. 55, no. 4, 2019, pp. 342-359.


Presenter: Renae Watchman (Mount Royal University)

I began the session with my introduction in Diné bizaad (the Navajo language): Yá’át’ééh! Tódich’íi’nii éínishłị dóó Kinya’áanii báshíshchíín. Áádóó Tsalagi, Gv-gi-yv-wi A-ni-tsi-s-qua éí da shichei dóó Táchii’nii éí da shinálí. Naat’áanii Nééz déé’ íiyisí naashá. Dóó Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada di shighaan. Shi éí Renae Watchman yinishyé. 

Diné (Navajo) protocol follows the matrilineal line and lists our four clans, beginning with our mother’s mother’s clan. I said: I am Bitter Water clan. We then say our father’s mother’s clan, and in my case, I am born for the Towering House People. Our third clan is that of our mother’s father. My chei, or maternal grandfather was Bird Clan from the Cherokee Nation of Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Our fourth and final clan is our father’s father’s clan, and my paternal grandfather was from the Táchii’nii, which means Red Running Through the Water. As you see, these clans are placed based and land-based, and establish kinship relations with other Navajos (and from my maternal grandpa—with other Cherokees). 

Here I acknowledged my mother’s father, the late Andrew Manus. His mother, my great-grandma, was named Edna Gritts. Her father was Phillp Gritts. His father, my great-great-great grandpa, was Budd Gritts. Great-great-great grandpa Budd was born in 1804 in Long Savannah, in what is currently Tennessee, and he died in 1867 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. How he got to Oklahoma is what is critical to this portion of my introduction. On Oct. 11th, 1838, 700 Cherokees who had been imprisoned at Fort Cass commenced their journey on the Trail of Tears. There were approximately 60,000 Indigenous people from various nations who were forcefully relocated and marched the Trail of Tears during 1830-1850, and the route that my great-great-great grandfather was on was called the Bell Route. Sewanee: The University of the South is in the direct path of the Bell Route, which began in Charleston, Tennessee and ended in Evansville (formerly Indian Territory, now Oklahoma). More than 20 people died on this specific march and route of the Trail of Tears, and those who survived arrived in Indian Territory on January 7, 1839, a journey which took 8 weeks and one day. I am a direct descendent of survivors of the genocidal policy of removal, and this past week, as I was searching for how to respectfully acknowledge the lands of the 2020 WiG conference institutional host, I was overcome by tremendous grief, as Indigenous erasure is glaring. 

I was invited to speak about “Intersections and Potential Affinities Between Indigenous Studies and Feminist German Studies.” I was trained as a Germanist and ultimately found myself in an English department, cross-appointed to Indigenous Studies, at a Canadian institution where I teach courses in North American Indigenous Literatures and Indigenous Film. I left German Studies in the fall of 2010. These many threads informed my talk, which pathed my trajectory from undergrad to graduate student to faculty member. These various hats (Diné single mom, German speaker, student, faculty member, and administrator) have informed my ongoing research, published scholarship, teaching, and finally my administrative secondment that has prioritized anti-racist work and Indigenizing curriculum over the past 12 years. I concluded by talking briefly about the journal Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, special issue of Indigenous and German Studies, which I co-edited with Carrie Smith and Markus Stock in 2019. 

Educators must first have a strong command of acceptable terminology regarding work that has to do with Indigenous people. It is your responsibility to know the debates on land acknowledgements and most importantly, to recognize the benefits accorded to you as a settler (guest) or as a relative on Indigenous lands. I also mandate the capitalization of all instances of the word Indigenous, and I reference Gregory Younging’s Elements of Indigenous Style. A Guide for Writing by and about Indigenous Peoples. Respectful terminology then necessitates the decolonizing of words in the German language that reference Indigenous people. Zum Beispiel, statt des Wortes “Indianer,” sollten wir “Indigene” beibringen and benutzen. I talked about my contribution as consultant for the new edition of the German language textbook Impuls Deutsch. I remain most concerned with whether teachers of German have the analytic tools needed to discuss Indigenous erasure, which includes the problematics of the title of the unit: “Die Faszinationen mit dem Wilden Westen,” and whether or not instructors have adequate knowledge about racist stereotypes, as featured in a subunit called Logos und Maskottchen, so as not to recirculate the very stereotypes that are needing to be challenged. I suggested that we not focus on propelling topics of Indigenous people and Indigeneity to relics of the past, and always have active Indigenous presence, of 21st century Indigenous people, prominently at the centre of such work. As educators, we also have the added responsibility of not putting the pressure of Indigenous learning and educating on Indigenous students who are in our classrooms, as it is not the job of Indigenous students to become Indigenous experts. We need to ensure that any material regarding Indigenous peoples is not triggering or harmful. Educators need to expand their own toolbox and read, for example, Stephanie Fryberg’s scholarship, which talks about the negative effects that Indigenous mascots have on the self-efficacy of Indigenous students. Furthermore, are teachers prepared to effectively deal with non-Indigenous student comments about Indigenous content that may be problematic or outright racist? This applies, for example, to teachers of German who come across a “Winnetou” unit and want to tackle it with a respectful and forward-thinking pedagogy. Of course, not all courses will even consider Indigenous peoples and issues as applicable to the transdisciplinarity that is German Studies. While I am not advocating for forcing Indigeneity and Indigenization onto any discipline, there are ways to integrate positive changes that centre Indigenous voices and provide cultural safety for potential Indigenous students. As one of the few Indigenous people trained in German studies,” (Seminar 311) I can speak to the erasure of Indigenous presence and knowledge in the discipline, as well as the overwhelming force of Indianthusiasm in German-speaking contexts. 

I encourage you to read the Special Issue of Seminar, as the contributions are thoughtful and stimulating. There is a long scholarly history of decolonizing German Studies, and there is at least one professional development opportunity organized by Diversity, Decolonization, and the German Curriculum, to be held virtually on March 11-14th, 2021. Finally, the University of Waterloo has a page dedicated to “Inclusion and Diversity in German Studies,” which has some resources, and is a model as you begin thinking about your own departmental websites. 

When thinking about how you will go forward in making changes, whether strategic, operational, or structural, always keep in mind that action matters. Performative lip service is as damaging as paralysis. You cannot propagate that you are enthusiastic and supportive of decolonization and Indigenization (which are not synonymous), by prioritizing the active erasure of Indigeneity. This includes knowing the ground beneath your feet, recognizing and acknowledging how Indigenous epistemologies might inform your own critical thinking, and finally acknowledging how uplifting Indianthusiasm privileges white supremacy.

My great-great-great grandpa Budd Gritts has a colourful and rich cultural and political history, that I am only just beginning to learn about. I have already become unsettled in the little I have learned in preparation for the Sewanee land acknowledgement. This will likely develop into future research and kinship connections, for which I am grateful. If I had not been asked by Women in German to discuss the “Intersections and Potential Affinities Between Indigenous Studies and Feminist German Studies,” this part of my own Indigeneity might have remained erased. 

Ahéhee’ (Danke!)


Select Bibliography 

Criser, Regine and Ervin Malakaj. Diversity in Decolonization in German Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, 2020

Grunewald, Amina. “’So You Want to Write about American Indians?’ Ethical Reflections on Euro-Academia’s Research on Indigenous Cultural Narratives.” Who Can Speak and Who is Heard/Hurt? Facing Problems of Race, Racism, and Ethnic Diversity in the Humanities in Germany. Editors Mahmoud Arghavan, Nicole Hirschfelder, Luvena Kopp, and Katharina Motyl. Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2019, pp. 239-260.

“Inclusion and Diversity in German Studies.” Waterloo Centre for German Studies. University of Waterloo. https://uwaterloo.ca/centre-for-german-studies/inclusion-and-diversity-german-studies#Indigeneity

Layne, Priscilla. “Decolonizing German Studies While Dissecting Race in the American Classroom.”  Diversity in Decolonization in German Studies. Edited by Regine Criser and Ervin Malakaj, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp. 83-100.

—.“On Racism without Race: The Need to Diversify Germanistik and the German Academy.” Who Can Speak and Who is Heard/Hurt? Facing Problems of Race, Racism, and Ethnic Diversity in the Humanities in Germany. Editors Mahmoud Arghavan, Nicole Hirschfelder, Luvena Kopp, and Katharina Motyl. Transcript Verlag, Bielefeld, 2019, pp. 217-238. 

Louie, Dustin William, Yvonne Poitras Pratt, Aubrey Jean Hanson, and Jacqueline Ottmann. “Applying Indigenizing Principles of Decolonizing Methodologies in University Classrooms.” Canadian Journal of Higher Education. Vol. 47, no. 3, 2017, pp. 16-33.

Malakaj, Ervin. “The State of Diversity and Decolonization in North American German Studies.” Transnational German Education and Comparative Education Systems. Global Germany in Transnational Dialogues. Editors B. Nickl, S. Popenici, and D. Blackler. Springer, Cham, 2020, pp. 85-101.

Manthripragada, Ashwin and Emina Mušanović. “Accounting for Our Settler Colonialism: Toward an Unsettled German Studies in the United States.” Diversity in Decolonization in German Studies. Edited by Regine Criser and Ervin Malakaj, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, pp. 23-40.

Pete, Shauneen, Bettina Schneider, and Kathleen O’Reilly. “Decolonizing Our Practice—Indigenizing Our Teaching.” First Nations Perspectives.5,1 (2013), pp. 99-115.

Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies, special issue of Indigenous and German Studies, Editors Renae Watchman, Carrie Smith and Markus Stock, vol. 55, no. 4, University of Toronto Press, 2019.


Session: “Slutty Sluts Who Slut: Promiscuity and Sexuality through the Ages”

Session Organizers: Amy Lynne Hill (Vanderbilt University) and Faye Stewart (University of North Carolina Greensboro)

Presenter: Hester Baer (University of Maryland, College Park)

Paper: “Promiscuity and Pollen-Amory in Ula Stöckl’s Neun Leben hat die Katze (1968)” Ula Stöckl’s Neun Leben hat die Katze premiered on October 12, 1968, but disappeared shortly after its debut. Often recognized as postwar Germany’s first feminist film, Neun Leben develops a radical aesthetics and politics of women’s sexuality that could not be assimilated in the 1960s. Not least due to its defiance of classic cinematic depictions of purity and promiscuity, the film was indicted by contemporary critics and failed to find an audience. Posing the question, “Women have never had as many possibilities to do what they want as they have today, but do they know what they want?,” Neun Leben follows the intertwined stories of five women who occupy a range of sexual positionalities but struggle to break with normative expectations defined by the horizon of heteropatriarchal marriage. Drawing on contemporary (eco-)feminist resignifications of the slut (e.g. Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens; “Citizen Slut”) as a “polymorphous and pollen-amorous” figure, this paper critically reframes the depiction of women’s promiscuity in Stöckl’s film with a particular focus on what is surely its most striking visual motif: plant life. Ultimately, I considered how the (highly sexualized) vegetal renders excess and utopia in Neun Leben.


Poster Session

Presenter: Viktoria Pötzl (Grinnell College)

Presentation: “Gender, Orientalism, and Zionism“

The picture of “the Orient” is a discursively produced image, reproduced through language, and thus analysed in my project through literature. Like gender, “the Orient” serves as a category of analysis throughout this study. Following Edward Said, I use the term “Orient” to refer to a violent discursive praxis and a construct in desperate need of deconstruction. I analyse how “the Orient” served and still serves as an opposition to the global North/West. Taking into account early critiques of Said’s Orientalism (Al-Azm 1981) as well as queer and feminist critiques (Hastings 1992, Yeğenoğlu 1998, Abu-Lughod 2001), my poster presentation probes representations of Palestine in Jewish-Austrian literature and analyses the influence of (gendered) Zionist narratives. My presentation highlights the relationship between three central concepts: Gender, Zionism, and Orientalism. Here I explore the influence of gendered, national narratives in Jewish-Austrian literary production from former Galicia to Vienna, from the nineteenth to the early twentieth-century, and ask how representations of Palestine/Israel shifted over time and how Palestine was imagined beyond the reductive binary of Zionism/anti-Zionism. My main argument is that of a return of the Palestinian Subject and a decolonization in Jewish-Austrian Literature, as opposed to violent non-representations and misrepresentations. I challenge the representation of “the Orient” as a priori the Other in contrast to Europe, by highlighting various forms of representation in Jewish-Austrian Literature. Beyond reading the self as an (idealized) norm in opposition to a (defiant) other, I understand the very representation of the Other as being highly complicated, since here the othering comes from an already othered position. 

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