Dr. Anne Kaun reflects on her time as a CGCS Visiting Scholar.
After spending 1.5 years as a visiting scholar at the Center for Global Communication Studies and the Annenberg School, I am somewhat of a veteran among the visitors that have come to CGCS from a plethora of countries. At Annenberg I feel, and have felt, part of a community despite being an outside visitor. During my stay, I continuously felt in-between places: my home and host department, between American and European academia, between different social and political systems.
The position of being in-between was an inspiring locus and experience for me. Instead of feeling completely at home and belonging, like an insider, or being completely disconnected, like an outsider; in my position as the in-betweener I fused aspects of both. I felt welcome and part of the milieu, but did not fully identify with the order of things since I also belonged elsewhere.
The being in-between related not only to the institutional setting I was moving within, but also emerged in the context of current discourses and mobilizations that were actualized during the last months of my stay. I felt in-between the #blacklivesmatter movement as well as the growing success of the right-wing party Sweden Democrats and increasing support for a group called Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident (PEGIDA) in Germany – a movement that claims to come from the middle of the society and that mobilizes around anti-refugee sentiments and anti-Islamic rhetoric. In that context, being the in-betweener felt utterly frustrating. I wanted to be fully part of the struggles and support different groups and activities. Knowing that I will be leaving soon, engaging the #blacklivesmatter movement for only a couple of weeks seemed unfair to the hard-working organizers here in Philadelphia. The same sentiment goes for protests and mobilizations against fascist groups in Europe. I am not there and online activism is only partly helping.
But being an in-betweener also means that I see the troubling connections between the mobilizations in Europe and here in the USA. For example, how growing inequality in Europe enhances the divides along ethnic lines and how it feeds the fear of cultural alienation (Ueberfremdung), while in the USA social and economic inequality is based on race (race is still a category that is rarely used in Europe). Returning to Sweden, I hope I will be able to articulate these connections and see what activists can learn from each other. From distance, I will keep following the developments in Philadelphia, at Penn and Annenberg where student groups such as SOUL and SLAP have been so vocal in organizing for #blacklivesmatter.
I am grateful for the opportunity to become an in-betweener thanks to CGCS’ excellent visiting scholars program, the Annenberg School and the Swedish Research Council.
Dr. Anne Kaun is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Department for Media and Communication Studies at Södertörn University, Stockholm. Being interested in the relationship between crisis and social critique, her current project concerns historical forms of media participation that emerged in the context of moments of crisis.