In 1986, Black German women published their first text, a collection of writing and visual art entitled Farbe Bekennen: Afro-Deutsche Frauen auf den Spuren ihrer Geschichte (Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out) edited by Katharina Oguntoye, May (Opitz) Ayim, and Dagmar Schultz. In the “Preface” to the English-language edition, “Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet” Audre Lorde wrote, “To successfully battle the many faces of institutionalized racial oppression, we must share the strengths of each other’s vision as well as the weaponries born of particular experience. First, we must recognize each other.” This course allows students to learn, appreciate, and honor this intellectual tradition through various pedagogical projects situated at the nexus of Black feminism, transnational feminism, LGBTQI studies, and other transdisciplinary modes of analysis: they study the histories of marginalized peoples during walking tours in various parts of the city, visit with NGOs committed to eradicating oppression, attend workshops at several museums that document the histories and contemporary experiences of subjugated communities, and participate in cross-generational discussions with artists, activists, and scholars that share our intellectual commitments.
Why you should contribute?
Feminist & Gender Studies, Summer Session, and International Programs continue to support this course, in part, because it is the first time a study abroad course has been offered by a faculty member fully appointed in the former. Additionally, through this course, the college is illustrating its commitment to providing students with opportunities to conduct feminist studies of power, inequality, and privilege along the lines of sexuality, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, age, religion, physical embodiment, and other social, cultural, and political markers. The “rub” is that in addition to tuition costs, students who enroll in the summer session of this course are required to pay a $4,000 program fee to cover expenses, which includes their flight from New York City to Berlin, but not their flight to New York (if they live elsewhere). Professor Lewis has worked to keep costs — which must include expenses for the professor and a mandatory second responsible adult per Summer Session policy — especially low. However, your donation can significantly lower the program fee so that this unique and unprecedented opportunity is available to more students, particularly those who are in deep financial need and especially since Feminist & Gender Studies is willing but unable to financially support this course.
Who are we?
In 2012, Dr. Heidi R. Lewis —associate director and assistant professor of Feminist & Gender Studies — became interested in teaching abroad to further develop the Feminist & Gender Studies curriculum in intersectional and transnational ways. She chose Berlin for a few reasons: first, the sociological, historical, and civil rights work of the late W.E.B. DuBois was greatly influenced by his two years of graduate study in Berlin from 1892-1894; further, there were several manifestations of solidarity with and support for Black Panther Party activist Angela Y. Davis throughout Germany, including Berlin; and last but not least, the late “Black, Lesbian, Mother, Warrior, Poet” Audre Lorde spent part of each year of her life in Berlin from 1984 until 1992 when she died, and was instrumental in helping to develop Afro-German, especially Afro-German women’s, communities. Additionally, since a reported 70 percent of Germans speak English, Professor Lewis can significantly contribute to the learning of her students in Berlin while also learning a great deal more about the global intricacies of oppression. With the support of Professor Eric Popkin, then dean of Summer Programs, and the Christian Johnson Endeavor Grant for course development, she first visited Berlin in November 2013 and began to design the course in careful collaboration with her husband Antonio and myriad activists, artists, and scholars whom she now calls friends, including Celine Barry, Sharon Dodua Otoo, Rebecca Brückmann, Iris Rajanayagam, Jamile Da Silva, and many friends of and collaborators with Audre Lorde, such as Katharina Oguntoye, Dagmar Schultz, Ria Cheatom, Cassandra Ellerbe-Dück, and Ika Hügel-Marshall. Soon after, Professor Lewis brought the inaugural FemGeniuses in Berlin to Germany in 2014, and the success of this three-week course, now entitled “Hidden Spaces, Hidden Narratives: Intersectionality Studies in Berlin,” has allowed her to teach it every summer since, and she was also invited to teach it as part of the German Department’s semester-long Lüneburg Program in Fall 2017.