Main Content

Seminars and field trips

ISU seminars take place following the German language course from 11.30 am – 01.00 pm (nine sessions per seminar). Each course is comprised of 18 hours (in class) plus study time for homework, etc.

Additionally, in order to receive the full amount of ECTS points for the academic thematic module, you are required to participate in evening events and in the mandatory weekend excursions. Please note, that the three-day excursion and one of the other trips is obligatory. If you wish, you can of course also participate in all excursions.

Seminars 2022*

The seminar program 2022 will be updated during the next weeks and completed until the end of March. 

Week 1&2 (July 25 - August4)

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen HistoryHistory


    Instructor:Annika Stendebach, M.Ed. (International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, University of Giessen)

    Course Description: 

    The year 1968 has become a very well-known synonym for social movements in most of the (western) world. In this context, the universities were considered “the cradle of change”[1] and accordingly the role of students has been described as follows “The student has become the most powerful invisible force in the reform of education - and [...] in the reform of [...] society.”[2] In contrast, special national studies, e.g. on the German Democratic Republic, pointed out that this phenomenon was not very pronounced there;[3]  in Ireland, the focus seems to have been more on the “invisible” than on the “powerful” part.[4] 

    Historian Christina von Hodenberg argues that our present perception of ‘1968’ was largely based on visual sources: When we think of ‘1968’, we often think of similar photographs: depictions of young men with flowing hair, presumably from a student milieu, running through the streets, their arms linked together, waving posters and banners.[5] It is this stereotypical representation of ‘1968’ in the media that we have been exposed to multiple times, but maybe they show only a tiny fraction of what actually constituted the revolt?

    [1] Students for a Democratic Society, Port Huron Statement. 15 June 1962, pp. 61 – 63.
    [2] Charles C. Collins, College Orientation. Education for Relevance, Boston 1969, p. 173
    [3] Stefan Wolle, Der Traum von der Revolte. Die DDR 1968, Bonn 2008 (Schriftenreihe der bpb, Bd. 728).
    [4] Annika Stendebach: Sleepwalking through the Sixties. The Student Movement at University College Galway, unpublished undergraduate thesis, University of Mainz 2015
    [5] Christina von Hodenberg, Das andere Achtundsechzig, p. 9f.

    Learning Objectives:

    We will critically analyse how ‘1968’ has for a long time been constructed in the media and in research and will in this context also learn about the concept of the ‘long sixties.’

    Following Christina von Hodenberg’s plea to question the so-called ‘myth of 1968’ and its ‘tunnel view’ of student movements in major cities in her reinterpretation of 1968 in the Federal Republic of Germany,[1] this course aims at broadening our conception of what ‘1968’ might entail. We aim at achieving this by relying on different sources from a private sphere instead of those circulated widely in the media and will thus focus on certain changes of lifestyles in the depths of society. While we will compare and contrast the movements in different European countries, the developments on island of Ireland in the ‘long sixties’ will serve as a case study and will be paid special attention to.

    [1] Christina von Hodenberg, Das andere Achtundsechzig, p. 9-11.

    Course Materials:


  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen PoliticsPolitics

    The EU in the World: National and European Foreign Policy

    Instructor: Dr. Kutlay Muzaffer (University of Oxford, School of Global and Area Studies )

    Course Description: The European Union is one of the major actors in global politics and economy. It is the second largest economy in the world and the largest trade partner of several countries across the world. With its multilevel governance framework, the EU is a distinct actor with certain unique institutional features and policy-making procedures. The EU plays a central role in key areas of global governance including but not limited to international trade, security, environmental protection and human rights. This module centres on the varied roles the European Union and its member states play in the international system. It aims to provide students with the theoretical and empirical aspects of the European foreign policy making to analyse short term dynamics and long-term trends. The module will cover how key EU policies, such as trade, development, security, counter terrorism, external migration management, are designed. The module also looks at how the EU exercises its actorness in a shifting international order vis-à-vis the US, Russia and China.

    Learning Objectives: tba

    Course Materials

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen SocietySociety

    The politics of migration in contemporary Europe

    Instructor: Dr. Polina Manolova (Universität Tübingen)

    Course Description: Contemporary migration dynamics within the EU and beyond have become a matter of heated contestation, sparking an array of political interventions and moral positionings. The ways in which we think about migration and immigration are heavily influenced by politicised images and discourses of threat, cultural difference and crisis that have gradually left the arena of right-wing politics and permeated the mass public discourse. It has been claimed that, as a human phenomenon marked by diverse forms and encompassing a multitude of actors, migration is resistant to theory building and formal explanatory models. Traditional migration studies scholarship has been criticized for studying migration as a ‘stand-alone’ phenomenon and not as positioned within social, economic and political processes and transformations. While arguing against a single general theory of migration, critical approaches to European migration insist on ‘widening the gaze’ and acknowledging intersections between heterogeneous (im)migration realities and their positioning within structures of power, dominance, and inequality.

    Learning objectives

    This course will provide students with the empirical and theoretical insights needed for developing a critical awareness to contemporary migration dynamics within Europe. In line with the interdisciplinary nature of migration studies, this course introduces students to texts that help them explore the heterogeneity of the research field and the variety of theoretical approaches developed to explain why migration has taken a central stage in today’s politics and governance and the policy approaches that have been developed to ‘manage’ its effects on EU and nation-state levels. The course addresses the following key questions:

    Why has population mobility become such a contested phenomenon in contemporary European politics?
    How are the different modes of European migration (free movement, third country migration, asylum seeker flows) regulated in terms of migration policies, legalistic and discursive categories, and everyday process of bordering?
    What are the debates framing the processes of diversification in European societies in terms of competing integration models, citizenship rights and the acceptance of ethnic and religious minority groups?
     How are migrants affected by efforts to regulate their movements? How are they navigating the subject positions that they have been relegated to in European societies and what are the alternative modes of citizenship and belonging that they have developed?

    Preliminary reading:

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen CultureCulture

    German Theatre and Cinema in Turbulent Times

    Dr. Keren Cohen (Ben-Gurion University, Center for Austrian and German Studies)
    Course Description:

    The course will focus on modernist German theatre and cinema, beginning in the late nineteenth century and ending in the mid-twentieth century. It will explore the ways in which plays and films created in Germany at the time both reflected and commented on their social, political and cultural environment. In the short span of just over half a century covered by the course, Germany experienced two world wars and saw the fall of the German Empire, the emergence of the Weimar Republic and the Nazis’ rise to power. The conflicts and challenges characteristic of these turbulent times served as the backdrop to constant artistic innovation, which led to the creation of some of the most celebrated masterpieces in the history of theatre and cinema. The course will incorporate artistic, cultural and historical perspectives, and will introduce students to the diversity of theatrical and cinematic artistic styles which emerged in the period, from German Expressionism to Brecht’s Epic Theatre. We will conduct an in-depth analysis of representative, groundbreaking works, and will consider the ways in which these works could be relevant to the present day. We will discuss the unique manner in which theatre and cinema – both public forums in which a community gathers to experience a work of art together – can communicate with their audiences and provoke them to think of their world in new ways.

    Recommended Literature:

Week 3&4 (August 9 - August 19)

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen HistoryHistory

    A half-century of terrorism!? Violent political and religious extremism in Germany and Europe since the 1970s

    Alexander Cramer (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

    Course Description:

    Terrorist attacks and politically motivated murders, fueled by different ideologies and targeting different victims have shaken German society and politics repeatedly in the past 50 years. Terrorists invoked either extremist left, extremist right or militant Islamist/ jihadist motives for their acts. Despite some ideological features that are similar in most terrorist groups, research has shown that the groups who can be summarized under the three aforementioned major strains have specific particularities that allow clear differentiation. Most groups develop as part of an ideologically coherent political and social environment and rely on stable networks of supporters. Moreover, the relevant groups whose attacks will be analyzed in this course were in contact with other terrorist organizations and Europe or even worldwide, which led to reciprocal influences. These two forms of integration make a theoretical analysis along the lines of Bruno Latour’s actor-network-theory highly feasible.

    Possible aims of terrorist groups can be the overthrow of a government or political system in general while others try to further the outbreak of a civil war or simply want to extort ransom money or the release of comrades through kidnappings. This course looks at the groups’ means and measures to achieve their respective goals and the state’s response to terrorist attacks.  Lastly, a specific focus lies on the effects that terrorism has had on the German society and its perception of the threat of terrorism.

    Learning Objectives:

    This course aims at developing and deepening the students’ understanding of the origins and development of terrorist groups in Germany and Europe since the 1970s. Firstly, the group will analyze several different definitions of terrorism to gather a theoretical understanding of the course topic and the various possible manifestations of terrorism, before scrutinizing and contrasting the underlying ideologies.

    Thereafter, students will aim at understanding the different motives for and forms of radicalization and learn about the history of different German terrorist groups and groups operating in Germany. By considering the general political climate of the respective times, students will be able to understand how active terrorists were integrated in a surrounding network of supporters and sympathizers and the role the latter played in maintaining and strenghtening the former’s ability to operate. The actor-network-theory offers a theoretical framework. In this context, the most infamous attacks in German history and their profound effects on society and politics as a whole will also be discussed.

    Moreover, students are to assess the transnational and even global networks of left-wing, right-wing and Islamist terrorist groups. Specifically in the context of Islamism, the role that Germany and Europa have in the dualism of recruiting area for global jihad and operation territory for attacks are exemplified.

    Course Materials:


  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen PoliticsPolitics

    The European Union

    Instructor: Dr. Guillermo Reyes Pascual (University of Kent)

    Course Description:

    This course has the intention of exploring the EU as the current most important international political integration organisation. This has been the result of important and profound concatenated political changes in the European continent after the devastation of the Second World War. With the aim of overcoming deep feelings of distrust and enmity between the different parties and recover the life standards of all citizens beyond historical rivalries, the European states agreed to search for common grounds rather than focusing on the differences. What started as a regional pact to share basic raw materials between a reduced number of states, has resulted in one of the most attractive markets of the World and a geopolitical region where common rights belong to all European citizens regardless the state member in which they reside. By voluntarily ceding part of its sovereignty to commonly agreed supranational institutions, historically consolidated national states have given way to a new actor in the political arena that deserves our attention. This makes the EU one of the most appealing international actors that Politics and International Relations students can research.
    To be able to properly understand this phenomenon, we will be scrutinising the EU from its genesis to the Treaty of Lisbon 2009 and the different political integration processes that it has experienced over the last 7 decades. This includes, amongst others, the examination of the key EU institutions and its main bodies; the Judicial system that creates the first supranational judicial organ that is capable of having direct influence in national courts; the European Human Rights protection system; the articulation of its legal personality; the executive and legislative processes; and the main challenges that are currently hindering its consolidation and expansion. These topics will allow us to have a deep comprehension of EU politics and how it has shaped the past of Europe and its future in an increasing multipolar world.

    Learning Objectives: 
    Be familiar with and understand the main institutions and governmental structures of today's European Union.

    Analyse and critically assess the origins and effects of these structures, by using the conceptual and theoretical tools of comparative politics, international relations and relevant sources.

    Appreciate and explain the changing nature of the political process in the European Union and the role played by political parties, interest groups, social movements and public opinion.

    Assess the role and influence of states on the political process of the EU.

    Anterpret and critically evaluate the main issues in the contemporary political debate in the EU.

    Course Materials:

    Cini, M. and N. Perez-Solorzano Borragan. Eds. 2016. European Union Politics. Fifth Edition. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

    Egan, M., N. Nugent and W.E. Paterson Eds. 2009. Research Agendas in EU Studies. Stalking the Elephant. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

    Hix, S. and B Hoyland. 2018. The Political System of the European Union. Fourth Edition. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

    Nugent, N. 2017. The Government and Politics of the European Union. Eighth Edition. Palgrave: Basingstoke.

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen SocietySociety

    Protest and Democratic Backsliding in Europe

    Dr. Tareq Sydiq (Philipps-Universität Marburg)

    Course Description: 
    In recent years, increasingly authoritarian politics in Europe have raised questions about democratic incentives of the European Union as an institution and democracy as a goal across societies and states. While the 90s saw quick progress in democratization, raising hopes about the EU as a democratizing force on its neighbours and new members, the 2000s saw an erosion of those hopes across countries. In Eastern Europe, this took the shape of often ruling parties undermining democratic institutions and challenging EU-norms on the rule of law. In Western Europe, there are lingering fears on far-right parties challenging democratic norms from outside of government. While these processes mostly take the shape of top-down politics, they are constantly challenged on multiple levels. On the international level, institutions are strongly interlinked with the EU, creating interdependencies and checks on governmental reforms. On the state level, democracy activists maintain pressure to slow down, prevent, or even reverse backsliding. And with broad outlines of European activist networks, mobilization across state borders and pressure on EU institutions allows activists to influence politics even when they are not successful at the national level. As a result, democratic backsliding occurs not only as a governmental policy, but as multiple interlinked dynamics of concentration of state power, international norms and pressure to decentralize power, as well as stakeholders and activists challenging both. In this class, we look at these processes and situate them within theories on democratization, social movements, authoritarian politics and backsliding.

    Learning Objectives: tba

    Course Materials: tba

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen CultureCulture

    Europe and the Global South- Intersections of History and Political Cultures

    Arshita Nandan (University of Kent)

    Seminar Description:

    This course takes a multi-disciplinary approach to the interrelated history and political cultures of Europe and the Global South. Over the last centuries, the process of colonisation and de-colonisation connected the two geo-political regions. Europe in general and the EU specifically has been involved in the post-colonial development of the world. Policies of structural adjustment, conflict management and good governance have been and continue to be pursued in several former colonies. Simultaneously, the Global South has contributed to the development and perceived stability of European Nationstates. It is evident that the interconnections between the regions go beyond policy making and development as they also share cultures of violence, authoritarianism and resistance which have impacted contemporary societies.

    However, the significance of this interconnectedness in European societies and cultures has been heavily debated. The course will focus itself around this debate in its pursuit to challenge the established narrative that the flow of knowledge is from the “west to the rest”. Furthermore, it will critically evaluate the long term implications of political and cultural engagement of Europe and the Global South. The goal is to help students gain perspective on different ways in which the cultures and politics of and/ in the Global South impact Europe and vice versa. For example; the course will be built around how the cultures of resistance that were developed during the anti-colonial movements, and inspired the spirit of resistance across Europe. We will evaluate different case studies (France, Germany, Italy, India, Algeria, East Timor) and trace the historical and contemporary mutual influences between the global south and Europe.

    Learning Objectives: tba

     Course Materials: tba

Supplement Course

The supplement course "German Politics and History" will provide additional insight into the topics discussed in the main seminars. The workload of the supplement course will count towards the total ECTS - the attendance of the supplement course is obligatory.

Two courses will be offered, from which you may choose one, depending on your individual schedule. One course will be offered in week 1&2 and the other in week 3&4. Each course consists of 18 class room hours and takes place from 02.15 pm – 3.45 pm.

The objective of this course is to provide an overview of German culture, history and politics and thereby allowing the students to gain a better understanding of Germany today.  Participants will learn to trace contemporary cultural and political phenomena in key historical moments as well as learn about basics like the political system. This will help them to understand current developments and debates in Germany and in Europe and provide further background regarding the main topic of the ISU.

Field Trips

The field trips are an important and exciting part of the program. They count towards your total ECTS credits (see above) while they are also a great chance to get to know more about Germany as well as the European Union. All trips take place on the weekends. The trip to Weimar is a two-day excursion including a night in a hostel. All costs for the trips (travel, accommodation including breakfast and program) are included in the program fee (except personal expenses). See further information in the FAQs. Please read those information carefully
Please note, that the trips are subject to change due to the ongoing Corona pandemic. 

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen Field Trip FrankfurtField Trip Frankfurt

    In this city, German history is embedded within one of the largest financial and transportation centers of Europe. You will make a unique experience while learning about Germany’s impressive history and culture, getting to know the city and visiting St. Paul Church. In addition, you will have a chance to view Frankfurt from a pleasant boat tour on the Main River, as it carves through Frankfurt’s parks and industrial centers. Afterwards there will be free time to explore Frankfurt’s famous shopping centers and the rest of the city.

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen Field Trip KasselField Trip Kassel

    Once again, the city of Kassel will host the world famous documenta, an important contemporary art exhibition. We will take you to Kassel and you will have the chance to visit the documenta as well as see some of the famous landmarks the city offers, like the famous Herkules.

  • Inhalt ausklappen Inhalt einklappen Field Trip WeimarField Trip Weimar

    In Weimar you will learn about the large cultural heritage of the city and its importance in German history. A guided tour will tell you more about why in this city you will be wandering around in the footsteps of famous German writers. After having enjoyed some free time over lunch, a visit to the memorial site of Buchenwald is planned, which was one of the biggest concentration camps during the Nazi regime and now serves as a memorial site and therewith a place of historical understanding. A visit to a site like this is always a deeply moving experience, that does not only teach about the atrocities committed by the German Nazis, but also reminds us of the importance of values such as freedom, human dignity, tolerance and justice that by far are not self-evident and always must be defended.

We want those trips to be a pleasant experience for all the participants and the ISU team. Therefore please always read the schedule and provided information on the destination beforehand and be in time for all appointments, to not make your fellow students wait unnecessarily.

*After you successfully completed your application you will receive a Philipps-Universität Marburg students account. With this account you will be able to log into the online learning platform Ilias in June. There you can access some of the readings for your seminar before you arrive. You can find instructions on how to log here.