16.11.2020 · 16.00 Uhr

Identity Politics and Academia. A Transatlantic Conversation with Eva Geulen and Mark Lilla

Ort: online

As U.S. and European societies define and redefine themselves, much of their discourse around identity and commonality plays out not only in the political sphere but also within academia. To what extent do questions of identity and belonging hold together and/or delimit society, and what role does academia play in this self-definition? In an attempt to further understand this intersection of politics and academia, the German American Event Series at Harvard presents: A virtual conversation between Prof. Eva Geulen and Prof. Mark Lilla, moderated by Dr. Annie Pfeifer. The speakers will share how their scholarship explores the relationship between identity and politics, and look at both theoretical and practical dimensions of identity politics on both sides of the Atlantic. Some guiding questions will include how party politics in the U.S. and Germany may use and abuse identity, whether identity serves as the right framework for promoting change and cohesion, and what role academica has in shaping this debate.

  • How does your scholarship explore the politics of identity, or the relationship between identity and politics more broadly?
  • How would you define identity politics? Are its roots academic or political (or both)?
    • Do you consider its theoretical or practical implications problematic (or neither)?
  • How does identity politics shape and influence party politics on both sides of the Atlantic?
    • E.g. populist parties in Germany, and the recent U.S. election
  • Is identity politics the right tool/framework to promote change and assert civil liberties? To create social cohesion and collectivity?
    • Does identity politicize or de-politicize?
    • What alternative models may work?
  • What role does academia have in shaping the debate around identity politics?


Eva Geulen is the director of the Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturwissenschaft and Professor for European Culture and History of Knowledge at Humboldt University. She received her Ph.D in 1989 from the Johns Hopkins University with a dissertation on Adalbert Stifter. Until 2003 she taught at various US-institutions, including Stanford University, University of Rochester and New York University. From 2003 until 2012 she was Professor for German Literature at Bonn University and then at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt until 2015. Among her publications are Aus dem Leben der Form. Goethe und die Nager (August Verlag 2016), Giorgio Agamben zur Einführung (Junius 2016) and The End of Art. Readings in a Rumor after Hegel (Stanford Press 2006). Eva Geulen is co-editor of the Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. Her research focuses on literature and philosophy from the 18th-century to the present.

Mark Lilla is Professor of Humanities at Columbia University. He was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1956, and was educated at the University of Michigan and Harvard University. After holding professorships at New York University and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, he joined Columbia University in 2007 as Professor of the Humanities. He has been awarded fellowships by the Russell Sage Foundation, the Institut d’études avancées (Paris), the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), and the American Academy in Rome. In 1995 he was inducted into the French Order of Academic Palms.
Lilla is a frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, the New York Times, and publications worldwide. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. He lectures widely and has delivered the Weizmann Memorial Lecture in Israel and the Carlyle Lectures at Oxford University. In 2015 Overseas Press Club of America awarded him its prize for Best Commentary on International News in Any Medium.

Annie Pfeifer is Assistant Professor of Germanic Languages at Columbia University. Her research and teaching interests focus on 19th and 20th century German literature and culture, literary and political theory, the Frankfurt School, aesthetics, visual and material culture, and most recently, the intersection of modernism and fascism. She is currently completing her first monograph on modernist practices of collecting. She has published articles in The New German Critique, German Life and Letters, and the peer-reviewed volumes Que(e)rying Consent and Iran and the West. Together with Reto Sorg, the Director of the Robert Walser Center in Switzerland, she edited “Walk I absolutely Must,” a collection of essays on Robert Walser and the culture of walking, published by Wilhelm Fink in 2019. She is also the editor of a new series on Walser at the Wilhelm Fink Press. Her writing has appeared in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times and The Huffington Post. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the DAAD Postdoctoral Fellowship, Neubauer Faculty Fellowship, and the Harry S. Truman Scholarship.
As an undergraduate, Annie Pfeifer studied literature and history at Columbia University. Before returning to Columbia, she taught at Tufts University and the University of Bern (Switzerland). She received her Ph.D. from Yale in 2015.