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DCORE/REGSS Visiting Scholar


Shamira Gelbman

Shamira Gelbman (Spring 2019)
Associate Professor, Political Science
Wabash College

Shamira is completing a book manuscript called The Civil Rights Lobby: The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Development of Civil Rights Policy in the Postwar Era. Drawing on a wealth of archival resources and interviews with individuals who were centrally involved in civil rights lobbying during the mid-1960s, she examines the origins and early history of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, now known as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has coordinated lobbying efforts for federal civil rights legislation since its founding in the early 1950s.

In addition to highlighting lobbyists’ role in the achievements of the Second Reconstruction, this project sheds light on how interest group coalitions develop and navigate the challenges that arise when organizations with diverse constituencies, resource endowments, and strategic orientations join forces in pursuit of shared legislative goals.

Shamira has enjoyed her time at Duke:

“Being at Duke has been very beneficial to my work on this project. In addition to working with library resources to help flesh out my account of the complex relationship between the Leadership Conference and the broader civil rights movement, I have been able to attend talks and connect with scholars working on related subjects.”




The Bavarian American Academy in Munich, Germany, the Duke Club of Germany, and our Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the Social Sciences (REGSS) sponsor the Duke University Post-Graduate Research Fellowship, an annual short-term fellowship that supports a German post-graduate student for a stay up to a 2-month research stay at REGSS.

The Bavarian American Academy

The Bavarian American Academy (BAA, https://www.amerikahaus.de/en/academy/), founded in 1998, provides a scholarly network for researchers working on North America and inter-American relations in the fields of cultural studies and the social sciences. The BAA organizes annual conferences and summer schools, sponsors regional symposia and lectures, awards postgraduate fellowships, and fosters knowledge transfer.

Although the primary focus of the Academy‘s activities is the USA, in the context of interdisciplinary and interregional studies it also supports research on Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Current and Recent Fellows

Clara Sophie Höhn (2018)
Research Assistant, Transatlantic History and Culture/Ph.D. Candidate
Augsburg University

Clara’s Ph.D. project aims to locate white southern female activists visible in the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) as well as highlight their contributions to the successes of the social movement. Women played an essential and even ground breaking role for the movement. They mobilized the masses, recruited new allies and members, initiated, organized, and led numerous projects. There were a range of white southern women, who fought vehemently for racial equality of their fellow black citizens in the 1950s and 1960s. Thus, by concentrating on a cohort of white female activists born around 1940, her study contributes to closing this particular research gap.

“I am focusing on intersectionality, established by Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, as an integrative analytic concept. It examines how social categories, in my case race, whiteness, gender, class, culture, and religion, overlap as well as intersect and therefore influence systems of oppression, discrimination, domination and/or privilege. The anti-racist activism of white southern women has to be continually analyzed regarding the interdependent connections between these social categories. They highlight how and why white women’s participation in the CRM was structured as it was, as well as when and why they could not escape the privileges of their social status as “white women.” Therefore, intersectionality is not only the theoretical and methodological base of my research but also highlights the relevance of my thesis for the CRM historiography.”

How Duke helped advance her research project:

“It presented me with the unique opportunity to engage with experts on topics relating to my Ph.D. project was well as access the research facilities. The one I frequented the most was the David Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library with its vast collections of first-hand materials. Here I studied personal collections by former CRM activists, like Constance Curry, Faith Holsaert, Judy Richardson or Larry Rubin. These materials offered me an intimate look into the personal experiences in as well as interpretations of the CRM by these activists during the late 1950s and 1960s. Furthermore, I had the chance to work with the collections of William Chafe and Sara Evans, two of the pioneers of CRM and gender history.  I was able to comprehend their individual projects better after looking at their archived research materials. The various oral history interviews were of considerable interest to me since they were conducted in the early 1970s, very close in time to the actual events my Ph.D. project focuses on.

The resource that was most helpful at Duke were the personal contacts and conversations I had with various experts on topics that closely relate to my own research focus, such as Kerry Haynie or Wesley Hogan. These interactions assisted me in organizing my research plan and, thanks to the connections I made at Duke I was able to get in contact with former activists, such as Joan Browning, Constance Curry, Faith Holsaert, Larry Rubin and Bob Moses. These interviews were a personal highlight for me during my stay in North Carolina. I could ask the questions that specifically relate to my own project and I could find answers that were not in archival collections or other source materials. However, the most important aspect for me was to meet the people I am studying personally and get an impression on who they are and what motivated them to take part in one of the major social movements in the U.S.”


Thomas Stelzl (2017)
Research Assistant, Cultural and Media Studies/Ph.D. Candidate
Universität Passau

While at Duke, Thomas worked on his Ph.D. project, Cultural Bias in Post-9/11 German and American Foreign Policy – An Intercultural Comparison.

Through an analysis of speeches by foreign policy makers in the United States and Germany, he intends to explore and explain how cultural differences cause problems in mutual understanding and how they complicate German-American cooperation in international relations.

Being at Duke helped Thomas in multiple ways:

“I could take advantage of the library and Duke’s digital resources, find material that addresses the American perspective or the perspective of German researchers working in the US. In addition, I could participate in some of the methodological workshops offered at Duke, e.g. a very helpful one provided by SSRI about qualitative data collection. The most valuable resource, however, were the people I met at Duke and in the research triangle, especially in the political science department, but also in German studies or history. They helped me broaden my perspective on my research topic and provided some of the cross-cultural outsiders’ perspective needed in intercultural research.”


Laura VorbergLaura Vorberg, M.A. (2016)
Ph.D. Candidate

The working title of Laura’s Ph.D. project is, Presence and Political Power: Structural Couplings between Mass Media Coverage and Democratic Legitimization in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Campaigns.

Employing an interdisciplinary approach, her Ph.D. project investigates the interdependencies of culture-specific tacit knowledge and the affective dimensions of strategies for staging political power in and for varied media formats in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential election campaigns.

“My project analyzes different forms of media appearances of presidential candidates on the campaign trail with regard to their respective strategies of staging political power. I investigate large-scale events such as party conventions, presidential debates, late night shows, campaign speeches and follow-up reports as well as social media presences with respect to their unique mechanisms of political (re-)presentation. In doing so, I show how presidential candidates enact political power and thus make this power tangible through different media by reverting to a variety of established U.S. American myths and master narratives (such as for example recurring fantasies of American Exceptionalism) as well as recent references to popular culture. By employing popular culture and ‘symbolic politics’ candidates may trigger culture-specific forms of tacit knowledge in the minds of their audience that may lead to actual, individual experiences of the presence of political power.”

Laura visited Duke in the final weeks before the 2016 election.

“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to both attend numerous pre-election events and talks organized by the Department of Political Science as well as well as to conduct research atClinton 2016 campaign rallies.  I particularly gained some important insights into the mechanisms of press coverage of the election from a talk by Washington Post journalist Kathleen Parker (“The Wierdest Presidential Election Ever”), a panelist discussion on the political ramifications of possible election outcomes on U.S. racial and ethnic groups (“The 2016 Election in Black and Brown”), as well as a discussion on recent campaigns and political polarization featuring campaign strategists Karl Rove and Jim Messina (“America at the Crossroads: The 2016 Election”). These insights helped me to assess the current political climate in the U.S. and to understand the logics and interdependencies of campaigns and media coverage that are vital to my Ph.D. thesis. Moreover, I was able to access important literature on Presidential campaigns and media at Perkins Library.”


Jonas Bodensohn (2015)
(more information to come)