Victoria University hosts international German Studies conference

On 28–30 November 2018, the German Studies Association of Australia (GSAA) International Conference was hosted by Victoria University of Wellington—the first time this conference has been held outside Australia.

Delegates of the GSAA International Conference outside Te Herenga Waka Marae, 28 November 2018
Delegates of the GSAA International Conference outside Te Herenga Waka Marae, 28 November 2018

“New Zealand and Australia can no longer be considered on the periphery of German Studies,” stated Professor Lyndal Roper of Oriel College, University of Oxford, during the GSAA International Conference. “Digitisation has now reached the point where scholars of the German-speaking world can work at more or less the same level in Wellington as they can in Europe,” explained the distinguished historian.

Professor Roper was one of four keynote speakers at the conference, which in total brought 77 speakers from 15 countries to Wellington—the single largest meeting of Germanists ever to take place in Aotearoa New Zealand. Addressing the theme “Epochal Thinking / Epochales Denken”, delegates discussed questions of memorialisation, periodisation and temporality in areas as diverse as history, philosophy, literature, film and television, linguistics, and language teaching. In her own talk titled “Why Luther is not a Hero”, Professor Roper gave a highly entertaining retrospective of the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation celebrated in 2017. Other keynote speakers were literary scholar Professor Frauke Berndt of the University of Zurich, Vienna-based novelist Linda Stift, and language teaching expert Professor Karin Kleppin of the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. The full programme, including all abstracts, can be accessed here.

The conference was epoch-making not only in its theme but also in its design. This was not only the first time that the GSAA had held its biennial conference in Aotearoa New Zealand, it was the first time that it had taken place anywhere outside Australia. The decision to hold it in Wellington was emblematic of a shared wish to strengthen ties between Germanists on different sides of the Tasman—and between our region and the rest of the world. The three days of discussion provided ample evidence of the benefits of international scholarly collaboration and exchange.

The conference was made possible by generous sponsorship from the Goethe-Institut New Zealand, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in New Zealand, the Austrian Embassy in Australia, and the Embassy of Switzerland in New Zealand, as well as Victoria University’s own Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. On the first morning guests were greeted at a pōwhiri at Te Herenga Waka Marae, while that evening the German Ambassador HE Gerhard Thiedemann and Dr Marlies Theidemann kindly hosted a reception for all delegates at the Ambassador’s residence in Belmont.