An Interview with Dr. Konstantin Butz

aspeers: What sparked your interest in American Studies?

Dr. Konstantin Butz: I was born and grew up in Germany in the 1980s. The popular culture surrounding me was American to a large extent. TV shows like ALF or, a little later in the early 1990s, The Simpsons went on air in Germany—back then still on state channel ZDF. They shaped my image of the US and sparked my interest in its culture. Although I had never been to the US, I had the impression I really knew the country. Just from watching TV shows and movies, I knew where you would find the couch in a suburban home, what the fridge would look like, and that there would always be a giant garage where the most exciting events could happen. Of course, these were clichéd, idealized, and ideological images of American middle-class life but they really stuck for the moment. However, what followed and partly coincided were my impressions of the Gulf War of 1990/91. The news coverage of that conflict was disturbing and although I was still quite young I realized that the US and its culture and politics were more complex than the TV settings of suburban family shows might suggest. Ever since, an ambiguous feeling remained but also triggered a deepened interest in the United States and what the nation stood for. In high school I developed a passion for American punk music and skateboard culture, which remains with me until today. These subcultural influences introduced me to further political topics and encouraged me to consider more ambivalent and highly critical perspectives on the US and its manifold, often contradictory facets. When I realized that you could study American Studies (or “Amerikanistik”) at university, it did not take long to make my decision: It seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to follow my personal interests and take them to another level. Although I read into much more historical and also “canonical” topics during my studies, the passion for popular culture always constituted the main motivation for my scholarly endeavors. I think that is still the beauty of doing American Studies: Particularly in combination with a transnational and interdisciplinary approach it enables you to deal with topics mattering to you personally while analyzing them within highly diverse and heterogeneous contexts.

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