Fellows & Projects

Dr. Kasey Henricks

Kasey Henricks is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee who studies race, class, and stratification. He’s currently working on a project that treats crime data as suspect and develops alternative methods to capture how policing routinely exceeds legal restraint. His award-winning work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the American Bar Foundation, and it has appeared in journals like Social Problems, Sociology of Race & Ethnicity, Critical Sociology, and American Behavioral Scientist.

During his time at KWI, he will further develop his second book project tentatively titled Chicago on the Take: Ticketing and Towing in the City of Collision. The project is situated within a historical moment where we are witnessing two sweeping changes, punishment reform that increasingly welcomes civil penalties in the form of cash payment on the one hand and intensified financialization where government mimics predatory business strategies on the other.

Dr. Gregory Jones-Katz

Gregory Jones-Katz is an American historian based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shenzhen. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and he works in the fields of intellectual and cultural history, the history of higher education, and the global history of the humanities. Greg’s first book Deconstruction: An American Institution was published in 2021 with the University of Chicago Press. His scholarly work has also appeared in History and Theory, Analyse & Kritik, and Modern Intellectual History. He is committed to public-facing scholarship, and has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Boston Review.

At KWI, Greg will concentrate on his new book project, Globalizing American Theory: The Cultural Politics of the Academic Left and the Neoliberal University. This project aims to tell a comprehensive history of American Theory, investigating the reasons for this body of work’s domestic production and its wider influence in the United States from the 1960s to the 2000s. The project will also trace American Theory’s reception and distribution in Europe and China. By examining the texts, presses, curricula, institutes, journals, and symposia invested in Theory during the last three decades of the twentieth century, this new work aims to illuminate how uses of theory and its cultural politics transformed the humanities and social sciences, influencing not only higher education and intellectual life, but cultural and political conversations beyond university walls. While at KWI, Greg will work on the first chapters of Globalizing American Theory; “Decline, Decay, and Decentering: Theory’s Domestic Production, 1975-1985,” and“The Neoliberal Work Ethic and Leftist Cultural Politics, 1985-1995.”

Greg is also writing a travelogue in which he reflects on his intellectual life in China as an American academic. Examining his own cultural disorientation, Greg contemplates his refracted view of America through the lens of his experiences as an expatriate. He considers topics including history, technology, education, and simulacra. A selection from this project has been published in Merkur.

Dr. Regina Karl

Regina Karl is Assistant Professor of German Studies and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University. She received her PhD from Yale University. In her research, media ecology, the history of technology, and psychoanalysis build the comprehensive framework for understanding the interplay and impact of twentieth century and contemporary literature and film.

Her current book project reassesses technological reproducibility based on a sweeping emergence of hands in German and French literature, photography, and film after the turn of the century. She has co-edited several volumes in the series Unbedingte Universitäten (diaphanes 2010) and serves on the editorial board of RISS. Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse. Amongst more recent publications is an essay on the question of technology in Paul Valéry and Walter Benjamin included in Entwendungen. Walter Benjamin und seine Quellen (Paderborn: Fink, 2019), as well as her article “Technological reproduction at odds: Hand and cinematography in Robert Wiene’s The Hands of Orlac” (Cinéma&Cie, vol. XXI, no. 35, 2020).

As a Thyssen fellow at KWI, Regina will work on her book manuscript “Manipulations. The Hand as Symbol and Symptom in the Arts after 1900,” examining the manifold ways in which the hand emerges in literature and the visual arts in early modernism. It does so by dint of German and French case studies addressing literature, sculpture, photography, film, and industrial design. More than a motif, or a dominant theme, the hands of this period reflect the parameters of modern technology and industry. Due to its dual nature, operating between fragment and entity, vitality and instrumentality, intelligibility and sensibility, the hand both embodies and challenges key notions of aesthetics: namely, to what extent the production of art requires the work of hands and, vice versa, in what ways an artwork enables a tactile understanding of the world. Foregrounding the hand’s dyadic status of working and experiencing allows a deeper understanding of the sensorial aftermath of urbanization and industrialization between 1910 and 1930. For her chapter on Germaine Krull, Regina is looking forward to perusing the artist´s photographic collection at the Folkwang Museum, Essen.

In addition, Regina is currently developing a second research project engaging with the socio-political implications of contemporary European cinema and literature. Tentatively titled “Clash of Images: On the Contemporariness of Iconoclasm,” this project proposes a discourse analysis of recent phenomena of iconoclashes (Bruno Latour). Further to art’s dominantly representative function, one observes a backlash in debates about inclusion and diversity, present in such phenomena as “cancel culture,” “shitstorms,” or “viral images.” Investigating the double bind between social critique and freedom of expression, Regina seeks to examine the symbolic foundations of identity politics and community-building today.

Dr. Weronika Kobylińska

Dr Weronika Kobylińska is an art historian and since 2021 she is a faculty member at the Filmschool in Łódź. She teaches about new media, photography, theory of art and the concept of modernity. She also worked at the Institute of Art History at the University of Warsaw (2019-2021), where she played the role of the director of part-time studies. Moreover, she delivered lectures at the Warsaw University of Technology. In 2020 she was a guest professor at the Aleksander Brückner Center (Halle), where she was conducting an interdisciplinary seminar about contemporary art practices.

Her doctoral research – on which she was working at the Department of History (University of Warsaw) – was devoted to the problem of defining the term avant-garde in the context of Polish visual culture of the 1920s and 1930s (PhD received in 2019). Zachęta – National Gallery of Art has recently published her book about Polish National Photography Exhibitions. She is the deputy editor-in-chief of the international journal entitled ‘Daguerreotype. Studies in the history and theory of photography’. She belongs to the advisory board of the Polish Cultural Office (where, among others, she assets proposals of cultural events). She was a curator/co-curator of various exhibitions, regarding both modern and contemporary art practices. During her multiple research stays she was working at Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte (Rome), Art Institute of Chicago, Photography Department (Chicago), and Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum (Kecskemét and Budapest), among others.

At KWI she will focus on the artistic narratives – such as soundwalkings and sonic art – created in a dialogue with the Ruhr’s soundscape. She will gather data on artists who try to avoid the anthropocentric perspective and create environmental audial narratives that include not only urban noise, but also the sounds of the natural world, or the “voice” of the Ruhr’s cultural heritage.

Dr. Nisha Kommattam

Dr. Nisha Kommattam is Associate Instructional Professor in the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Chicago. She was trained in South Asian Studies, English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Cologne, with additional training at the University of Bonn, University of Hamburg and Heidelberg University. Her main research interests include South Asian literatures with a particular focus on Southern India, as well as Gender & Sexuality Studies across cultures and languages. She is also interested in translation studies, literatures of migration and diaspora, Asian popular cultures (including Japanese), literary trauma studies and animal studies.

Recent publications include „Are They Women? A Novel Concerning the Third Sex“ by Aimée Duc; with Margaret S. Breen, (translation from German, with critical introduction); Broadview Press, Canada, (2020) and „Sind es Frauen? Ein Roman über das dritte Geschlecht“ by Aimée Duc, with Margaret S. Breen, (new edition with critical introduction); Querverlag, Germany (2020). This work examines critical moments in fin-de-siècle German sexology and their impact on pioneering queer narratives in German. A recent book chapter, “Vehicles of Progress: The Kerala Rikshawalla at the Intersection of Communism and Cosmopolitanism”, in: Bourdaghs, Michael, Paola Iovene and Kaley Mason (eds.) „Sound Alignments“, Duke University Press (2021) interrogates the trope of the riksha driver as an icon of upward social mobility in Malayalam popular culture from Kerala, South India.

Her work has been supported by numerous research grants and fellowships, most recently by the Bundesministerium für Bildung and Forschung (German Ministry of Education and Research) for a multi-year project on “Transnational Networks of Queerness in South Asia” (2017 – 2020). At KWI, she will devote her time to the completion of a book manuscript titled „The Public Secret“, a monograph focusing on narratives of queerness and trauma in South India.

Dr. Irit Kornblit

Irit Sholomon-Kornblit is a discourse and rhetoric scholar. Her doctoral thesis, conducted at Bar Ilan University, analyzed the concept of “cultural diversity” in a variety of institutional settings and showed how it rhetorically enabled the construction of a collective identity devoid of conflict. Currently a postdoc at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she is interested in the role of the “expert” and the interaction and permeability between scientific and political discourse in the construction of knowledge in the public sphere. To this end, she is undertaking a conceptual history of “cultural diversity” in a perspective of border crossing: by analyzing the writings to the general public of exiled or self-exiled anthropologists, such as Franz Boas or Claude Levi-Strauss, who introduced the term to the sociopolitical sphere through their social role of scientists and experts, she examines the porosity of genre, the rhetoric of engaged science and the role of exiled scientists in the promotion of the concept of “cultural diversity”.

Irit has published in French and English on the discourse and rhetorical argumentation of cultural diversity at UNESCO and in France, the cultural factor in discourse analysis and argumentation, and the rhetorical construction of authority and legitimacy in political discourse during times of crisis in a cultural perspective. She is currently preparing an article on world leaders’ speeches on international fora on “dialogue between civilizations” in the immediate context of symbolically global terror attacks (9/11, Paris 2015).

Dr. Tilo Reifenstein

Tilo Reifenstein is Senior Lecturer in Critical Studies at York St John University. His research is concerned with the intersection of writing and artistic practices. He’s interested in both expressions of that convergence: artists who write or use language in their works and the relations of written texts—whether historical, philosophical or literary—to artistic practice. Recent publications have, for example, explored the drawing-writings of Raymond Pettibon through the lens of ekphrasis (in „Ekphrastic Encounters“, MUP, 2018) and the artist’s use of the line to act as a graphic junction of writing and drawing („Tracey“, vol. 15, 2021). He was co-editor of the special issue ‘Between sensuous and making-sense-of’ for the „Open Arts Journal“ (no. 7, 2019).

During the KWI International Fellowship, his work aims to characterise art-history writing as an epistemic practice that is necessarily literary. Examining a range of contemporary art historians’ writings that deliberately play with literary forms of the practice, the research questions institutional demands on knowledge production and positions writerly difference and multivalence as not only affirmative of but necessary for the discipline’s scope, vitality and rigour. Tilo is currently Deputy Editor at the „Open Arts Journal“ (The Open University) and an „Art Journal“ Awards of Distinction jury member for the College Art Association. He was previously a trustee (2014–16) and honorary secretary (2018–20) of the Association for Art History, and held a Franz Roh Fellowship in Modern and Contemporary Art at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte (Munich, 2015–16).

Dr. Avril Tynan

Avril Tynan is a postdoctoral researcher in comparative literature and critical medical humanities at the SELMA Centre for the Study of Storytelling, Experientiality and Memory at the University of Turku in Finland. Her research explores the ethics and aesthetics of interpretation in literary representations of ill-health and distress. She has published widely on the representation of ageing, illness and death in French and anglophone literature and regularly presents at international conferences and seminars. She is co-editor of „Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies“ and coconvenor of the SELMA Medical Humanities Seminar Series.

As an International Fellow at KWI, Avril will pursue a monograph on the role of dementia in contemporary French literature. This interdisciplinary project aims to further deanglicize the medical humanities by exploring how French fiction is entangled in global and national, and public and private understandings of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In six chapters, this completed monograph will demonstrate how narrative fiction communicates and challenges the dehumanizing and infantilizing cultural narratives of dementia as loss – of memory, of identity, of skill, of humanity – and proposes to investigate how the disease might also be transformative, producing new ways of being-in-theworld that are meaningful, fulfilling and future-oriented.

Dr. Kathrin Yacavone

Kathrin Yacavone is a photography theorist and historian, and literary scholar, with an emphasis on visual culture studies. Her research focuses on the history and theory of photography, literary theory, and discourses surrounding authorship and portraiture. She studied in Germany, France and the UK, receiving a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. She was tenured Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham, before coming to Germany with an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellowship in 2019.

She has published widely in English, French and German on the history and theory of photography, and inter- and transmedial dimensions of literature and media history. Her first book „Benjamin, Barthes and the Singularity of Photography“ (2012) has been translated into Spanish and Turkish, and a second book on „Photography, Portraiture, and Intermedial Authorship in France“ is under contract with Amsterdam University Press. Recent publications include two edited journal issues: „La Portraitomanie: Intermediality and the Portrait in 19thcentury France“, edited with  rika Wicky (L’Esprit cr ateur, 2019); and „Norm und Form: Fotoalben im 19. Jahrhundert, edited with Bernd Stiegler“ (Fotogeschichte, 2021).

As a Thyssen@KWI Fellow, Yacavone will begin work on a new project on „Forms and Formats of Photography’s Cultural Institutionalisation“. It examines the cultural, aesthetic, historical and political factors involved in the institutionalisation of photography – through private collections, public galleries and museums, national archives and libraries – in Germany since 1945. Deploying interdisciplinary and cultural studies methodologies, the project aims to map the complex meanings and definitions of photography through the lens of this institutionalisation, and both historicise and conceptualise current debates concerning the establishment and functions of a federal Institute of Photography. It will show that, ultimately, to trace the institutionalisation of photography in Germany since World War II is also to write a new and inclusive history of the medium over the last 75 years.