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Johanna Heide

Doctoral Fellow


Campus am Neuen Palais
Am Neuen Palais 10
Building 1, Room 0.15
14469 Potsdam


consulting hours
by appointment only

Dissertation Project

"Make a way out of no way: Black Women's Itinerant Practices in Early America and beyond"

Race, class and gender constraints frequently thwarted Black women's attempts at agency in early America and confined them to spaces so tight that it seems almost impossible to maneuver within them. Yet, enslaved, self-emancipated and free Black women frequently strained against enclosures of all kinds and found ways to enact what Saidiya Hartman terms "itinerant acts of defiance."

            Drawing on Black feminism and scholarship in the field of Black women's history, my thesis turns to better as well as lesser-known 18th and 19th century archival subjects (Jarena Lee, Sally Hemings, Ona Judge, Ellen Craft, Martina and Mary Anne Dickerson) and their itinerant practices. Each woman's unique historical, social and geographical background informed her attempt(s) at "making a way out of no way" and led to a diverse range of itinerant practices such as self-liberation, truancy/petit marronage, itinerant preaching, abolitionist activism or journaling/letter writing.

            Through developing and enacting new self- and placemaking practices both within the US but also in the larger Atlantic world, Black itinerant women challenged and complicated received narratives and dichotomies (e.g. of North/South, freedom/bondage, male/female, private/public, mobile/immobile).

            While Black women's historical experience in the early republic is at the heart of my project, I also want to pair my own readings of source materials with the forceful practices of re-reading itinerant histories that have emerged from within the Black community, e.g. in contemporary artists'/activists'/scholars' projects.


I studied American Studies and Cultural Studies at the University of Potsdam, Duke University and the English Foreign Languages University in Hyderabad. Since fall 2019, I am a PhD fellow with the DFG-funded Research Training Group "Minor Cosmopolitanisms" at the University of Potsdam. My dissertation project with the working title "Make a way out of no way: Black Women’s Itinerant Practices in Early America and beyond" is a continuation of my longstanding interest in questions of the 'archive of slavery'. Besides academia, I also have work experience as an editor (news and non-fiction).

Research Interests

  • American Studies
  • Black Studies
  • Postcolonial/Decolonial Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Archival Studies

Publications and Conference Talks

Bala, Sruti and Dylan Kerrigan. “Embodied Practices - Looking from Small Places.” Minor Constellations
in Conversation Lecture Series, edited by Johanna Heide, Universitätsverlag Potsdam, 2021,
pp. 1-11.

“Make a Way Out of No Way: Black Women’s Itinerant Practices in Early America and Beyond,” Postgraduate Forum Postcolonial Narrations, International Graduate Center for the Study of Culture, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen, February 10-12, 2021.

Heide, Johanna. “Archiv.“ Gender Glossar / Gender Glossary, 2020,

"Reclaiming Herstory: Female Fugitives from Slavery and the Printed Wor(l)d," Symposium African American Worldmaking in the Long Nineteenth Century, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, October 11 – 12, 2019.

“Reading the Archive of Slavery: Free Black Women in Antebellum Philadelphia,“ BAA 10th International Summer Academy, Bavarian American Academy & Florida International University, Miami, June 2 – 10, 2018.


Heide, Johanna. "Review: Saidiya Hartman: Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Initimate Histories of Social Upheaval." poco.lit, March 2021,

Heide, Johanna. "Review: Sarah M. Broom: The Yellow House." poco.lit, September 2020,

Heide, Johanna. "Review: Daina Ramey Berry, Kali Nicole Gross: A Black Women's History of the United States." poco.lit, May 2020,

Heide, Johanna. "Review: Colson Whitehead: Harlem Shuffle." poco.lit, November 2021,

Event Organisation

"Embodied Practices - Looking From Small Places" – Online event with Sruti Bala and Dylan Kerrigan, 19 November 2020, conceptualised and organised together with Tori Sinanan, Jan Dammel and Saskia Köbschall as part of the Minor Constellations in Conversation series.

Detours – Approaches to Doing Decolonial Work During a Pandemic; a roaming workshop series with Jewish Museum Berlin, Floating University Berlin and xart splitta, September and October 2021, organized together with Yael Attia, Sofia Apostolidou, Anne Mikkelsen, Kathleen Samson and Jan Dammel.


Fellow with the Whole Life Academy Berlin organized by HKW (fall 2021- spring 2022)

Peter Nicolaisen International Fellowship by the International Center for Jefferson Studies at Monticello (2021, postponed due to Covid)

Scholarship for the Promotion of Young Researchers by the Kommission für Forschung und wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchs (FNK) of the University of Potsdam (2018).

Scholarship by the Bayerische Amerika-Akademie to participate in the 10th BAA International Summer Academy at Florida International University, Miami (2018).

Scholarship by the University of Potsdam and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study at Duke University, Durham (2016).

Scholarship by Fulbright to participate in the American Studies Summer School at Humboldt University, Berlin (2013).

Scholarship by the University of Potsdam and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to study at the English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad (2012).