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Nichole Newman talks about the Max Kade German-American Research and Resource Center

The Max Kade Center will host a second Book Club on Dec. 5th, 2020 at 12p (Eastern), featuring Dr. Priscilla Layne (UNC Chapel Hill) leading a discussion of Nora Krug’s graphic novel Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home.  This event is conceptualized for the community, and is open to all faculty, staff, students, and friends.  Please consider attending or sending along to your students as an opportunity to analyze graphic novels, discuss narrative strategies, confront memory and post-memory, or to explore notions of history and heritage.  More about the event and registration can be found at the Max Kade website (under the Events) tab.  Registration is required, and one only buy or rent the book to get started.

The Athenaeum at 401 E. Michigan St. in Indianapolis.

The IUPUI Max Kade German-American Center, which is both a scholarly institution and a resource for the Indianapolis community and Indiana more broadly, has an office Athenaeum, in the Mass Ave Arts District in downtown Indianapolis.

The original name of the Athenaeum was Das Deutsche Haus, which reflects its heritage as a center for German culture. After the outbreak of World War I, the name was changed due to anti-German sentiments in Indianapolis.

Nichole Newman, Director of the Max Kade Center and assistant professor of World Languages and cultures at the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts, notes that the building, built in 1894, began as a Turner building, which housed a German American gymnastic club called a Turnverein.

“You’ll find their buildings all over the United States […] so there’s a long tie-in with a German-American community specifically with that building,” she says.

Author Kurt Vonnegut’s architect grandfather’s firm Vonnegut & Bohn designed this Athenaeum and clubhouse, as well as the Southside Turnverein at 306 Prospect St., which was renovated in 2018.  

Many Turnverein club members might have had German ancestry without ever having been to Germany, or they might have moved to the U.S. from Germany as children. Having a German background is not one immutable thing. Accordingly, Newman sees a role for the Max Kade Center in exploring hyphenated identities.

 “So I see the roots of the center, not just in experiencing or exploring German American identity specifically but also creating affiliations to other hybrid-identities,” says Newman. 

Events this fall, which have been entirely online due to the pandemic, have included a discussion with Nigerian-German Sheri Hagen and the screening of her film At Second Glance (Auf den zweiten Blick).

“She grew up in Lagos in Nigeria, and so she does have experience of having inhabited different places and I see a very strong affiliation between a Nigerian-German and a German American,” says Newman. “That’s why I brought her on. Also, it’s just an incredible opportunity to have such an accomplished filmmaker and actor come to Indianapolis virtually to give our students and our faculty and our community members a chance to speak with somebody who has done wonderful work in the film industry and the television industry in Germany as well.”

One of the innovations Newman brought to the Max Kade Center as director is a virtual book club. The next Max Kade Center is Dec. 5, at 12 PM EST featuring Dr. Priscilla Layne from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She will be leading a discussion of “Belonging: A German Reckons with History and Home.”  Registration for the discussion is free.  

The Max Kade Center was a co-sponsor with the Athenaeum for a Spirit & Place Festival event on Nov. 6 titled, “The Origins of Fascism.”  This event was a rare occurrence for the center: an in-person event.  

The center was a co-sponsor of the Carmel Christkindlmarkt, the annual Christmas market that occurs at Carmel City Center, but that’s been canceled this year.  Like everybody else involved in the arts and humanities, Newman is eager for a vaccine that will allow her to schedule in-person events.

This is the second year Newman has been running the center. Previously she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies, Freie Universität Berlin.

“This is great for me because I also have a lot of experience with nonprofit management in addition to teaching German and researching German cinema,” said Newman. “So it was sort of a happy marriage of my professional experience. The center has been around since the 80s. Itt was started by Dr Giles Hoyt, who is now a professor emeritus, and Dr. Ruth Reichmann, who has donated so much money, and her husband was a professor here at IUPUI. She taught and worked as an adjunct as well.”

While the Max Kade Center is, according to Newman, one of the smaller groups on campus, size does not diminish the group’s importance.

“We’re not just an academic center but we also work with the community and we also focus on teaching students, so we really wear a lot of different hats,” she says.

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