Alrun Berger: RUB SPECTRESS Fellow in New Haven

I had the great opportunity to be seconded to Yale University, or rather, to the Yale Center for Cultural Sociology (CCS) for three months. At the CCS, I had the pleasure of staying at the very source of the Cultural Trauma concept where Ron Eyerman and Jeffrey Alexander had revised and specified its framework some years ago. When I arrived in September, New Haven welcomed me with sunshine and warm weather, and until the beginning of November the weather remained typical of an Indian summer – I even had some issues to get used to the omnipresent chill caused by the air conditioning systems everywhere during my first few weeks. However, the period from September to December is probably the best time of the year to visit New England since the light is amazing and then there will probably be snow towards the end of the year! But not just because of the fantastic weather I had a very productive stay. At Yale, I met many interesting people, learned a lot about sociological concepts and methods, about the American research landscape in general, and last but not least, certainly, about myself. Thus, I could take lots of experiences, thoughts, ideas and new networks home with me.
Aside from daily visits of the amazing libraries on Yale campus, where I spent lots of productive (working) hours a week, I attended two weekly seminars at the Yale Sociology Department. The first one was a graduate school pro-seminar, actually held for first year graduate students at the department. It is a scientific career preparation project where two different Sociology professors talk about their experiences, or rather, learning processes each week. Such insights could, indeed, be very helpful for future careers. The CCS workshop, which is the heart of the Center, was the other seminar I regularly participated in. It was held roughly every Friday. For two hours followed by lunch, one scholar (attached in one way or another to the CCS) answered questions about her or his work, which had been read by every attendee beforehand. At the CCS I had the opportunity to learn more about the useful interconnectivity of sociological concepts, theories and methods for my further work as a historian. Especially several discussions with Ron Eyerman, my advisor at Yale, revealed some very advantageous and helpful aspects (of the Cultural Trauma concept) for my own research projects (at the Institute for Social Movements at the Ruhr-University Bochum). Through CCS contacts, I had the great opportunity to present an excerpt of my dissertation in a working group on Memory Studies in Modern Europe, organized by Yale Ph.D. students from the History and Sociology Department that aims at exploring the multifaceted concept of memory, which fits perfectly to my own research. Moreover, I attended many other interesting lectures and talks at both the Sociology as well as the History Department, had many interesting discussions and conversations and made many new contacts.
The working conditions at Yale University were even better than expected. Apart from the several libraries where one can get hold of excellent working spaces in a fantastic working atmosphere, the Sociology Department offers a small office for its Visiting Graduate Students. In the libraries, it is possible to borrow almost every book one can imagine. Hence, it was certainly not very difficult to readjust myself to this place so far away from home. It is almost impossible to exhaust all possibilities Yale has to offer. To get used to the town itself took me a bit longer as there is a huge contrast between its center, which is largely dominated by the beautiful university buildings and some shops, bars and restaurants, and poorer neighbourhoods. There are many homeless people freezing in and around a park called New Haven Green, a National Historic Landmark, which is located in the downtown district. These people can apparently not partake of the university’s prosperity; that being New Haven’s biggest employer.
The bottom line is that I made contact with many interesting people, learned and worked a lot – to put it in a nutshell, I had a wonderful time in Connecticut.


About Jennifer Edmond

Dr Jennifer Edmond, is the Director of Strategic Projects in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Trinity College Dublin. Trained as a scholar of German literature, Jennifer is mostly engaged professionally with the investigation of knowledge exchange and collaboration in Humanities research and in particular the impact of technology on these processes.
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