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Atalie Gerhard

Atalie Gerhard
IRTG Diversity
University of Trier
DM 242
Phone +49 651 201 2203
E-Mail atalie.gerhard@uni-saarland.de


Diversity and Resistance in North American Women’s Containment Narratives from the 21st Century

(Supervisor: Astrid Fellner, Saarland / Heike Paul, Erlangen-Nürnberg
Mentoring: Paul Morris, Winnipeg)

At the beginning of the 21st century, more women of diverse ethnic and political backgrounds narrate experiences of containment than ever before, while increased criminalization insufficiently accounts for this phenomenon. Narratives of contained women from and in diverse contexts serve as critical sites for knowledge formation, because they simultaneously depict social issues, challenge legislation, and imagine restorative futures.

My corpus material reflects a diversity of women’s perspectives on containment in narratives. I closely read how women in North America process markers for victimization and stigmatization, such as race, gender, sexuality, religion, and political affiliation in narratives that invoke discourses of struggle and create agency over suffering by strategically appealing to the public for acknowledgment or understanding. For already stigmatized women, institutional containment appears to be a condition of life which is informed by legacies of discriminatory stereotypes, not only in the penal context.
In my discussions, I contextualize how women in Canada and the U.S.
narrate suffering in the first two decades of the new millennium compared to traditional North American genres of containment literature, including slave narratives, captivity narratives, and trauma testimonies.

In my thesis, I argue that by negotiating between ideals of liberty and realities of exclusion, these texts exemplify strategies of resisting containment by uniting over shared cultural imaginaries across different identity markers. With its focus on contained diversity through the lens of gender, my project also probes the limits of representing female solidarity. My subjects of analysis invite timely and urgent comparative discussions about collective self-images circulating in Canada and the U.S.


Since 2019
Doctoral Candidate at IRTG Diversity
2017 - 2019
Start of doctorate in American Studies, Friedrich-Alexander-University of Erlangen-Nuremberg
2014 - 2016
Master of Arts in North American Studies: Culture and Literature, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg
2011 - 2014
Bachelor of Arts in English and American Studies/French Romance Studies, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg

Work Experience

01/2016 - 03/2016
Student research assistant, Chair of American Studies: North American Cultural and Literary Studies (Prof. Dr. Heike Paul), Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg
10/2015 - 12/2015
Interim secretary, Chair of American Studies: North American Cultural and Literary Studies (Prof. Dr. Heike Paul), Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg
10/2013 - 09/2015
Student research assistant, Chair of American Studies: North American Cultural and Literary Studies (Prof. Dr. Heike Paul), Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg

Awards and Fellowships

2016 Certificate for civil commitment in voluntary refugee work, Bavarian State Ministry of Work and Social Affairs, Family and Integration, 29/11/2016.


“Losses Not to Be Passed On: Paula C. Johnson’s and Sara Bennett’s Portraits Rewriting (Ex-) Incarcerated Black Mothers”, in: Lesly Deschler Canossi/Zoraida Lopez-Diago (eds.), Black Matrilineage, Photography, and Representation: Another Way of Knowing (Leuven: Leuven University Press), 145-170.
"From the Hood to the White House: The Cultural Imaginary of Presidential Blackness in Head of State", in: Niels Bjerre-Poulsen (ed.), American Studies in Scandinavia 52.2: Spec. issue on the American Presidency and Presidential elections, 81-99, https://rauli.cbs.dk/index.php/assc/article/view/6500/7015
“Commemorating Compassion, Countering Containment: The Female Wars on Terror Witnesses of Helen Benedict’s and Lynsey Addario’s Transcultural Narratives”, in: Dragoş Manea/Mihaela Precup (eds.), [Inter]sections – The American Studies Journal at the University of Bucharest 22: War and Conflict in Autobiographical and Documentary Narratives, 46-63, https://intersections-journal.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/3.-AG-article.pdf
“The Monstrous Return of the Commodified Female: How Zombie Strippers (2008) and From Dusk Till Dawn (2014) Transgress Foundational U.S. Cultural Values”, in: Rachid M’Rabty (ed.), The Dark Arts Journal. New and Emerging Voices in Gothic Studies 4.1: Transgressive Femininity and Contemporary Gothic.
“Creepypastas: How Counterterrorist Fantasies (Re-) Create Horror Traditions for Today’s Digital Communities”, in: Ina Batzke/Eric Erbacher/Linda Heß/Corinna Lenhardt (eds.), Exploring the Fantastic: Genre, Ideology, and Popular Culture (Bielefeld: Transcript), 239-268.
“Bricolage of Protest: Unveiling the Multicultural Dimensions of the Chicano Movement through its Murals of Protest”, in: Sämi Ludwig (ed.), American Multiculturalism in Context: Views from at Home and Abroad (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing), 371-386.
“African American Corporeality: Repossessing the Nobility of Africa”, in: Hayes Peter Mauro (ed.), The International Review of African American Art 26.3: Race and Labor in American Art, 12-18.

Conference Presentations

“Womanist Awakenings in the Multicultural North: How Fatuma Adar’s and Méshama Eyob-Austin’s Life Writings Represent Black Girlhood in Canada”
Life Writing, Creativity, and the Social in the Americas. Center for InterAmerican Studies, Bielefeld University, 24-25/06/2022.
“Studying Indigenous Literatures and Cultures of Turtle Island in Europe: Questions of Methodology, Positionality, Accountability, and Research Ethics”
Nachwuchsforum der Gesellschaft für Kanadastudien e.V. (NWF)/Emerging Scholars’ Forum of the Association for Canadian Studies in German-Speaking Countries (ESF)/Forum de la Relève Académique de l’Association d’Études Canadiennes dans les Pays de Langue Allemande, Online, 05-06/05/2022. (Co-organization, Webinar Moderation, and Panel Moderation).
“The Borders of Humanity: Pursuing a Connection between Indigenous Women’s Life Narratives of Victimization and Indigenous Discourse Surrounding the Keystone Pipeline”
Wastelands: 34th European Association for American Studies (EAAS). Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED), Madrid/Online, 06-08/04/2022.
“Connecting Containment, Staging Sovereignty: The Aesthetics of the O’odham Anti-Border Collective’s Facebook Videos (2020-2021)”
Border Close-Ups: Film and Everyday Lives in the Borderlands. UdS American Studies Graduate Forum 2021. Universität des Saarlandes, 02-04/12/2021.
“Remembering Activism”
International Workshop: Narrated Lives – Remembered Selves. Emerging Research in Life Writing Studies, Online, 13-14/05/2021. (Panel Moderation).
“Resisting Cultural Containment by Renouncing (Black) Feminism?: Universalist Ideals of Conservative Black Women (2016-2021)”
4th Biannual European Association for American Studies (EAAS) Women’s Network Symposium & Polish Association for American Studies (PAAS): Feminisms in American Studies in/and Crisis: Where Do We Go From Here?, Online, 29/04/2021.
"Dismantling Distance or Commodifying Crisis? Women Depicting Diversity and Social Issues in VR Experiences from the U.S."
Distance and Diversity in Times of Crisis: Literary Expressions and Artistic Responses. UdS American Studies Graduate Forum 2020. Universität des Saarlandes, 15-17/10/2020.
"Black Experiences Matter: The Prison Resistance of Marie-Josephe Angélique and Les derniers jours de Smokey Nelson (2011) from Québec"
National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates 28th Joint National Conference. Dallas/Addison Marriott Quorum by the Galleria, Dallas, Texas, 17-22/02/2020.
“Waves of Exclusion: The Fugitive Voices of Reinaldo Arenas (Antes que anochezca: autobiografía; 1992) and Aeham Ahmad (Und die Vögel werden singen: Ich, der Pianist aus den Trümmern; 2017) in their Memoirs of Migration”
Liquid Trajectories: Flight, Mobility, and Migration. UdS American Studies Graduate Forum 2019. Universität des Saarlandes, 29-30/11/2019.
“Prisoners Podcasting or Podcasted Prisons? A Cultural Studies Analysis of Ear Hustle (2017-)’s Performances of Convict Inclusion”
Podcasting Poetics, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität, Mainz, 11-12/10/2019.
“No More Prisoners of Radicalism: Leonard Peltier’s and Ahmad Mansour’s Critiques of Institutional Containment and Their Transcultural Efforts for Post-Colonial Peace”
Local Alignments, Global Upheavals. Re-Imaging Peace, Legitimacy, Jurisdiction and Authority. Annual Conference of the Peace and Justice Studies Association & Peace and Conflict Studies – Canadian Association, Canadian Mennonite University & Menno Simons College, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 4-6/10/2019.
“Postcolonial Theory”
International Research Training Group “Diversity: Mediating Difference in Transcultural Spaces”, Universität Trier, 13/08/2019. (Workshop Organization and Moderation).
“Self-Representation Behind Bars: On the Redemptive Potential of Narrative in Inner Lives: Voices of African American Women in Prison (Ed. Paula C. Johnson, 2003)”
Writing Her/Self in Text and Image in Anglophone Women’s Life Writing - International Conference on Women’s Life Writing Organized by Paris Nanterre’s FAAAM group, Femmes Auteurs Anglo-Américaines (FAAAM), Université Paris Nanterre, 28-29/09/2018.
“Traumatic Interventionism in the Alternative U.S.-American Historical War Narratives Blue Ravens (Gerald Vizenor; 2014) and Redeployment (Phil Klay; 2015)”
Erotema – A Conference on Rhetoric and Literature, Kulturvetenskapliga Forskargruppen (KuFo) vid Karlstads Universitet, Karlstads Universitet, 14-16/09/2017.
“Empowerment and Containment in Compassionate Representations of Female Wars on Terror Witnesses by Helen Benedict and Lynsey Addario”
2nd Biannual European Association for American Studies (EAAS) Women’s Network Symposium: Transnational Feminism and/in American Studies, Université de Lausanne, 31/03/2017.
“Critiques of U.S.-American Counterterrorist Communities of Virtue Through its Pop-cultural Individualizations in the TV-Series Homeland and Generation Kill”
2016 Biannual Conference of the Swiss Association for North American Studies (SANAS): American Communities: Between the Popular and the Political, Universität Bern, 04-05/11/2016.
“Fantasies of ‘Knowledge’ (De-)formation in Selected Creepypastas of the U.S.-American Counterterrorist Culture”
7. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung (GfF) e.V.: The Fantastic Now: Research in the Fantastic in the 21st Century, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, 22-24/09/2016.
“The Fantastic in Popular Genres”
7. Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Fantastikforschung (GfF) e.V.: The Fantastic Now: Research in the Fantastic in the 21st Century, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, 22-24/09/2016. (Workshop Moderation).
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