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Austrian Studies Association Conference Set For April 26-28

Published: April 16, 2012

The Austrian Studies Association (ASA) will hold its annual conference at CSULB from April 26-28 with the theme this year being “AEIOU Global Austria.”

“There will be 64 speakers from all over the world,” said conference organizer Nele Hempel-Lamer, associate professor of German in the Department of Romance/German/Russian Languages and Literatures (RGRLL). “The conference opens with a special reception at the Austrian Consul’s residence in Brentwood on Thursday evening (April 26), followed by two days of panels on interdisciplinary approaches towards Austrian literature and culture. Topics include the First and Second World Wars, Resistance and Memory, Theater Politics, Documentary and Travel Narratives as well as Nationalism and Gender Politics.”

The Annual Conference of the Austrian Studies Association will feature two keynote speakers from Austria. Barbara Neuwirth, a fiction writer and feminist scholar, will begin Friday’s events with her address on issues of migration and globalization in Austria. Filmmaker Harald Friedl will then provide the closing event on Saturday afternoon with the U.S. premiere of his latest film, “Mein Leben als Apfelbaum” [My Life as an Apple Tree], which is followed by a Q&A. All events are free and open to the public.

Organized by Hempel-Lamer, the conference is supported by CSULB’s College of Liberal Arts, the Office of Academic Affairs and RGRLL. The conference has also received generous support from the Austrian Consulate in Los Angeles, the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York and the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota.

“It will be a great chance for our students to connect with internationally renowned scholars,” said Hempel-Lamer, a CSULB faculty member since 2006 who also organized the campus photographic exhibition “Kreuzberg SO36” as part of the German Embassy’s 2009 “Freedom Without Walls” campaign and the 2011 “doDeutsch!” project weeks. “The conference will allow my students to meet scholars whose publications they have been reading in conjunction with this class. Some of our M.A. students in German will also participate as moderators; M.A. graduate Curtis Maughan–who just received the Dean’s Award as 2012 Outstanding Graduate Student in the College of Liberal Arts–was accepted by the external review panel to present a paper on Harald Friedl’s documentary “Aus der Zeit” [Out of Time].”

Panelists are predominantly professors and Ph.D. candidates from prestigious public and private universities in the U.S., Canada, Austria, Germany, Great Britain and South Africa. A conference program is posted on the RGRLL website. “Hosting a conference like this brings recognition to our department and to CSULB. In addition, every time a conference takes place here, it also gives our students the opportunity to see the kind of work faculty members engage in aside from teaching,” said Hempel-Lamer. “Students are often not aware that a faculty member’s scholarly expertise, research agenda and professional network can also benefit a student who is looking for a good graduate program beyond CSULB. I think that the ASA conference will be an excellent opportunity for some of our students to have conversations with the people who run Ph.D. programs at their respective institutions. Since we also have a lot of support from the Austrian Consulate, students can get information regarding studying and living in Austria.”

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The conference reinforces the importance of RGRLL on this campus, Hempel-Lamer believes.

“Our department is all about student engagement,” she said. “We look to provide our students intellectual opportunities but also opportunities just to get involved. We recognize that students who have been part of a conference like this can talk about these experiences when they apply to a graduate program, a scholarship or a job. Our students frequently win awards and external scholarships because they have been able to create unusually competitive resumes under the mentorship of my colleagues.”

Hempel-Lamer describes RGRLL’s German program as a vibrant program full of energy and enthusiasm. “We invest as many hours as we do because we are passionate about our students and our work,” she said. “This conference makes a good fit here. It is part of our department’s goal to socialize students into becoming well-educated global citizens. If you don’t do these kinds of events, your program can become stagnant. Every time our program hosts a conference on campus, visiting colleagues from other universities are simply astounded by the level of student involvement in an academic event.”

Hempel-Lamer encourages both the campus and the local community to attend.

“I want participants to go home saying this was the best conference they’ve been to in years,” she said. “What is especially interesting about this conference is how it examines Austria from an interdisciplinary point of view with papers on topics related to Austrian history, politics, theater, and culture. But then there also will be the more traditional literature panels focusing on feminist readings and/or narratives depicting the post-WWII Austrian society. Whatever your discipline may be, there should be a panel there for you. For those interested in studying Austria, and that encompasses many subjects, their time would be well-spent attending this conference.”

–Richard Manly