Thanks to Leila for providing the material for this month’s edition of our regular feature, Thesis of the Month. This is where we get to glimpse aspects of one postgrad’s life and research in any area of German studies from institutions around the UK, Ireland, Europe and beyond. If you would like to contribute to the feature, contact Emily Spiers at firstname.lastname@example.org
“I meandered quite a bit before arriving at the IGS at Birmingham. After heading straight to Berlin upon finishing my Bachelor’s at Warwick University, I moved back and forth between the UK and Germany for several years, working as a freelance translator, participating in film projects, and completing a Master’s in German Cultural Studies. My decision to move to Birmingham was based as much on my excellent supervisors as it was the chance to be part of the DAAD-funded research project entitled Zeitgeist. What does it mean to be German in the 21st Century? I not only became part of an international network of DAAD scholars (the benefits of which are far-reaching); this project has also given me the opportunity to take an active role in organising seminars and film screenings that directly relate to my research, as well as learning more about my colleagues’ areas of interest.
As is often the case, I abandoned my initial PhD proposal (about transnational co-productions in a German context) fairly quickly in favour of a more philosophical-theoretical approach to reading contemporary German-language cinema. My research considers the ways that a number of German and Austrian filmmakers (Michael Haneke, Ulrich Seidl, Barbara Albert, Fatih Akin) may be seen as responding to some of the (political) demands placed on the filmic medium by Walter Benjamin, Siegfried Kracauer and Alexander Kluge. I have had an interest in the Frankfurt School since writing a paper on Dziga Vertov and Walter Benjamin as part of my Master’s course, and my PhD project allows me to combine theories on cinema, distraction, violence and experience with detailed analysis of film-texts.
Studying film is a real luxury. It not only gives me a wealth of visual material to work with, but it also means that I get to visit film festivals and go to the cinema regularly as part of my research. One of the greatest benefits, however, is that although much of my work is heavily theoretical, the visual element makes it much easier to explain my thesis to those not working in my field (an advantage that is not to be underestimated!). I’m currently based in Berlin, home to two great film libraries and a dynamic film scene, and will be entering into the third year of my PhD in October.”
Leila Mukhida (Institute for German Studies, University of Birmingham)