Heidelberg University has acquired a new research training group in the field of interdisciplinary American studies. The German Research Foundation has approved a grant application worth 3.5 million euros. The group, focusing on ‘Authority and Trust in American Culture, Society, History and Politics’, is based at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies (HCA) and rests on the shoulders of ten researchers from different disciplines including geography, history, linguistics, literature, political science, and cultural and religious studies. In addition, associate scholars from Germany, Europe and North America will be involved in the new research training group. The first four-and-a-half-year funding period, beginning in October 2017, will involve two cohorts of grantees, each including ten doctoral students, six research students, and one postdoctoral scholar. Manfred Berg (Curt Engelhorn Chair of American History) will serve as spokesperson of the research training group; substitute spokesperson will be Günter Leypoldt (Department of English Literature).
At the centre of the group’s research programme is the emergence and transformation of authority in state and civil society, social institutions, urban spaces, culture and religion, as well as the shifting trust relationships inside the United States and in the transatlantic world. The spokespersons point out that ‘due to its early democratisation, its egalitarian and libertarian political culture, its ethno-cultural heterogeneity, and its international predominance, the United States is a particularly interesting case study of how authority and trust relate to one another in the modern world’. Prof. Berg and Prof. Leypoldt note that this topic is of great current interest, not only for the humanities and social sciences but also for the general public. ‘The research training group will make important scholarly contributions to this field and at the same time offer an innovative qualification program that will help young scholars to launch their careers inside and outside academia.’