Dr. Sunčica Klaas

 

Campus Neues Palais 10
Building 19, room 1.31
14469 Potsdam

 

consulting hours
Office hours are held digitally. Please contact me via email to make an appointment and to find the best way to communicate.

Biography

I studied American, English and German Studies at the University of Padua, Italy, where I graduated in 2002. From 2005 to 2014, I worked as a research assistant at the American Studies Program at the Humboldt University, Berlin, teaching a variety of courses on American literature and culture. In this period, I began my dissertation on human rights and the contemporary American autobiography, which I will be submitting in 2016. I joined the team of the English and American Studies at the University of Potsdam in 2015. 

Focusing specifically on issues of mobility and diversity, my research portfolio consists of three areas, namely, “Human Rights Cultures,” “Minor Migrations,” and “Rac[e]ing Rails: Railroads and Transportation Justice in African American Literature and Culture.” The first of these developed from my PhD thesis on “Writing Wrongs: Human Rights and the Contemporary American Autobiography,” for which I was awarded a summa cum laude and a Humboldt Prize by the Humboldt University, Berlin. Together with Prof. Kerry Bystrom (Bard College) and Dr. Carly McLaughlin (Potsdam), I have also developed my second research area “Minor Migrations,” which maps the legal and sociopolitical vulnerabilities of displaced children in the Anglosphere. In this context, I co-organized an international symposium on Shifting Frames: Migrant Children, Politics and History (May, 2019) as well as a lecture series on Children Crossing Borders (2018-2020). Also, our project has teamed up with the Department for Teaching English as a Foreign Language at the Potsdam University, producing a list of reading recommendations for introducing German high school students to the topic of forced migration. At present, I am working on my postdoctoral project “Rac[e]ing Rails: Railroads and Transportation Justice in African American Literature and Culture,” which reads the junctions of race and transportation technologies in a highly diverse archive of African American texts. Exploring railroad imaginaries in law and literature, popular and political culture, this third research area locates intersectionality at the heart of technology studies, while also exposing technological discourses, practices, and artifacts to a cultural and literary analysis.

Research Project: Minor Migrations

Developed in collaboration with Prof. Kerry Bystrom (Bard College Berlin) and Dr. Carly McLaughlin (Potsdam University), the project Minor Migrations maps the increased visibility of displaced children in the Anglosphere and explores how the figure of the migrant child embodies political meanings and agendas. In our critique of such universalizing tendencies, we insist on the knowability of the “specific histories and specific cultural or political contexts” (Malkki 1996) of child migration. Also, we call for a turn to the voices, knowledge, agency and aspirations of children who cross borders for survival. Such angle, we believe, enables explorations of broader and sometimes unexpected intersectional modes of youth activism; as well as centering the majority of children who tend to fall out of the frame altogether. Seeking to develop a truly “child-centered approach” to migration called for by Jacqueline Bhabha (2014) and others, this project takes a multidisciplinary and transnational standpoint to the politics of childhood, history/memory, and migrancy. We hope to “shift the frame” of contemporary discussions about displaced children by analyzing and critiquing the way they are configured as subjects of humanitarian, legal and politico-cultural discourses. 

 For further information on Minor Migrations see https://criticalhabitations.wordpress.com

Postdoctoral Project: Free White Hands

If one segment of the American electorate dominated the newsfeed during the last U.S. election it was that of the working-class. Displaced by the forces of globalization and deindustrialization, working-class Americans have been portrayed by pundits as unemployed, underpaid, and, most importantly, angry at the “globalist establishment” for neglecting the “average,” blue-collar worker in favor of “identity politics.” Yet, although many blue-collar jobs have been destroyed or outsourced, working-class itself, writes Alessandro Portelli, has not vanished. Indeed, displacements produced by the post-industrial capitalism have only deepened the existing rifts within the U.S. American society, calling for a renewed engagement with the issue of class.

It is precisely this racialized history of the working-class pushbacks against the hegemonic global narratives that is at the center of my postdoctoral project Free White Hands: Slavery and Race in the Working-Class Literature of the United States. Calling for an intersectional approach to class and race, the project firstly aims to produce a critical genealogy of the “white,” working-class consciousness by exploring how this segment of the population and of the labor force came to represent itself as radically different from African-American slaves and laborers throughout the eighteenth and the nineteenth century. Secondly, the project investigates how “white” workers were translating in racial terms their own anxieties of social dislocation as well as their struggles for economic competitiveness and rights. These semiotic and ideological practices, I argue, circulate as assets within the American labor market, contributing to the formation of what W.E.B. du Bois describes as America’s “racial capitalism.” And, thirdly, the project explores the ways in which “white” workers were both engaging and decentering the dominant models and forces of “worlding” (Spivak), focusing specifically on alternative visions of internationalism and cosmopolitanism produced by the working-classes.

Dissertation Project

Dissertation project

Research Interests

Mobility Studies, Gender Studies, African American Studies, Cultural Theory, Visual Culture, Law & Literature, Life Writing 

Publications 

Monographs

Writing Wrongs: Human Rights and the Contemporary American Autobiography, Universitätsverlag Winter, 2018.

Articles and Reviews

“Alone Together on La Bestia: ‘Mobile Commons,’ Border Crossings, and Child Refugee Narratives.” The Routledge Handbook of Refugee Studies, edited by Evyn Lê Espiritu Gandhi and Vinh Nguyen. Routledge, in preparation.

“Changing Scales, Changing Hands: Fugitive Literacies and Reading Beyond Citizenship in Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive.” Citizenship, Law and Literature, edited by Daniela Carpi and Klaus Stierstorfer. De Gruyer, estimated publication 8 November, 2021.

“A Crime Against Humanity: Prefiguring Human Rights in Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.” The State of Human Rights: Historical Genealogies, Political Controversies, and Cultural Imaginaries. Publications of the Bavarian American Academy, edited by Kerstin Schmidt. Universitätsverlag Winter, 2020, 193-208.

“‘We Will Give Him a Family’: Economies of Race and Rescue in the Autobiographies of Young African Refugees.” Literatur in Wissenschaft und Unterricht. Sondenderheft “Refugees and/in Litearture,” vol. xvix, no. 2/3, 2016, pp. 193-206.

“Review of Crystal Parikh’s Writing Human Rights:The Political Imaginaries of Writers of Color.” Kritikon Litterarum: Internationale Rezensionszeitschrift für Romanistik, Slavistik, Anglistik und Amerikanistik, vol. 47, no. 3/4, 2020, 370-374.

“Teaching Minor Migrations: Narratives of Refugee and Asylum-Seeking Children for the Classroom,” co-authored with Carly McLaughlin. Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch. Sonderheft “Seeking Refuge – Globales Lernen zum Thema Flucht, Vertreibung, Migration,no. 159, 2019, pp. 48-49.

“Those Tigers of Memory: Life-Writing in Exile.” Cultural Memory and Multiple Identities: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Identity Politics in the 20th Century. Transatlantic American Studies, edited by Rüdiger Kunow and Wilfried Raussert, LIT Verlag, 2007, pp. 31-42.

“On Pens and Swords: Life-Writing as Socio-Political Engagement.” ZENAF Conference Proceedings, edited by Christa Buschendorf, Zentrum für Nordamerika-Forschung, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main, 2005, pp. 69-83.

Traveling Theorists: Edward Said and the Challenge of Intellectual Engagement within Humanism.” Approaching SeaChanges: Metamorphoses and Migrations across the Atlantic, edited by Annalisa Oboe, Unipress, 2005, pp. 89-110.