All five houses of the network regard themselves as spaces of debate about the life and work of Thomas Mann.
What role does Thomas Mann’s lifelong concerns play in today’s world? In what way can the Mann family’s literature and political attitudes provoke us to think about the pressing issues of our times? Migration and exile, gender issues or political engagement and democracy are only a few of the topics that are of great relevance to the present day. Our houses regularly organize a series of digital and analog events on these topics and beyond. Visit our calendar of events and exchange ideas with us within an international context.

Aesthetics & Politics: Perspectives

Lectures & discussions with Nikita Dhawan, María do Mar Castro Varela, Vivek Bald, Helen Yitah, Hortense Spillers and Emily Apter (Kopie)

Los Angeles

Im Rahmen ihres 2023 Thomas Mann Fellowships unternehmen die Politikwissenschaftlerinnen Nikita Dhawan und María do Mar Castro Varela eine Reise an die Amerikanische Ostküste. Bei Lesungen, Vorträgen, und Gesprächen mit Partnern in den USA untersuchen sie Fragen zu ihrem Projekt zu einer ästhetischen Aufklärung und der Kunst der Dekolonisierung. Bei der Veranstaltung an Columbia University werden sie sich mit den Wissenschaftlern Vivek Bald, Helen Yitah und Hortense Spillers austauschen, die jeweils einen Vortrag halten werden. Im Anschluss an die Gespräche findet eine von Emily Apter geleitete Diskussion statt.
*This event will be held in English*

The program will start with a talk The Archive Onscreen: Reflections on History "In Search of Bengali Harlem" by Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Writing at MIT Vivek Bald. The lecture will be followed by 2023 Thomas Mann Fellow María do Mar Castro Varela, remarks, Emancipation (Re-)Considered: Aesthetic Education and the Aesthetics of Education. After her talk and a provided lunch, 2023 Thomas Mann Fellow, Nikita Dhawan will discuss the Aesthetic Enlightenment and the Art of Decolonization. Nikita's contributions will be followed with a talk by Helen Yitah, who is a professor of English at the University of Ghana-Legon's. Her lecture Singing [In]elegance: A Critique of Tradition and Custom in African Women's Songs will be accompanied by Hortense Spillers, professor at Vanderbilt University's Up Close and Personal: The Space of the Aesthetic. After a coffee break Emily Apter, Silver Professor of French and Comparative Literature from New York University will bring all the participants together for a discussion.

María do Mar Castro Varela studied psychology and pedagogy at the University of Cologne and earned her doctorate in political science at the Justus Liebig University Giessen. She is a professor of general education and social work with a focus on gender and queer at the Alice Salomon University of Applied Science in Berlin. Her research focus on social justice, digital hate and conspiracy theories, and issues of emancipation.

Nikita Dhawan studied German Studies, Philosophy und Gender Studies at Mumbai University and Ruhr-University Bochum. She holds the Chair in Political Theory and History of Ideas at the Technical University Dresden. Her research and teaching focuses on global justice, human rights, democracy and decolonization.


Emily Apter is an American academic, translator, editor and professor. Her areas of research are translation theory, language philosophy, political theory, critical theory, continental philosophy, history and theory of comparative literature, psychoanalysis, and political fiction. She is currently Silver Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture at New York University.


Vivek Bald is a scholar, writer, and documentary filmmaker whose work focuses on histories of migration and diaspora, particularly from the South Asian subcontinent. He is also Associate Professor of Comparative Media Studies and Writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Hortense J. Spillers is an American literary critic, Black Feminist scholar and the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor at Vanderbilt University. A scholar of the African diaspora, Spillers is known for her essays on African-American literature, collected in Black, White, and In Color: Essays on American Literature and Culture, published by the University of Chicago Press in 2003, and Comparative American Identities: Race, Sex, and Nationality in the Modern Text, a collection edited by Spillers published by Routledge in 1991.


Helen Yitah is a Professor in English, University of Ghana. She teaches Introductory Courses in Composition and Literary Studies. Her higher level teaching is in the areas of the New Literatures in English, Eighteenth Century British Literature, The Short Story, Practice in Criticism, Literary Theory, American literature and Research Methods. Her scholarly articles have appeared in many local and international peer reviewed journals.

Attendance Information

Attendance to this event is free and open to the public.

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10 a.m. - 6 p.m. (EDT)

The Forum at Columbia University

Room 301

601 W 125th St,

New York, NY 10027

An event in collaboration with Columbia University.

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