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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Christian WehrIN THE SPOTLIGHT: Christian Wehr

Christian Wehr is Professor of Romance Literatures at the University of Würzburg. His research focuses on Latin American literature and film of the 19th and 20th centuries, with an emphasis on literature & psychoanalysis and literature & meditation.


What is your fellowship trying to achieve? 

From the early modern period to the present day, key phases of Latin American history have been repeatedly mediated through apocalyptic images and narrative patterns. The representations of the Conquista as the biblical end of the world have established a model of historical interpretation and construction that has varied countless times over the course of half a millennium. Ultimately, this striking persistence of imagining the end of the world suggests that the perception of historical processes in Latin America has never been able to completely detach itself from its original trauma; the foundation of post-Columbian history cannot be separated from the extinction of a formerly existing world and its cultures. In this perspective, I examine various apocalyptic constructions of history in Latin American literature and essay writing, as well as in film from Columbus to the present.

What do you hope to take with you from the project and its results?

I had already prepared my project in detail before the stay and then worked it out in Heidelberg; the basic outlines did not change much. However, the further perspectives that emerged from the discussions and encounters in Heidelberg were tremendously beneficial: I am returning to my university with new ideas, project plans, new contacts and friendships. In the best case, long-term academic relationships and larger academic projects will develop from this.

What are the aspects you are looking forward to at CAPAS?

I have to admit that I started the fellowship without any specific expectations. I was simply full of curiosity and anticipation of the encounters with colleagues from very different academic traditions and cultures, and wanted to get involved in a spontaneous and unprejudiced way. Now, at the end of my six-month time in Heidelberg, I can say that this was exactly the right attitude for me personally.  Everyday life at a German university is very much determined by teaching obligations and administrative tasks. The free space for spontaneous encounters and the ideas that arise from them have become far too small, but I am convinced that it is essential for productive and creative work. The Käte Hamburger Kolleg creates such spaces, and for that I am very grateful.

To get some practical advice: What would be the three things you would definitely need in a post-apocalyptic world?

My external hard drives with Latin American, Spanish and French movies, the music collection on my iPod and my family.

What are some of your favourite pop culture references to the/an (post)apocalypse?

I do a lot of work on Latin American literature and film, and I believe that no culture has formulated apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic experiences more intensely and with more powerful imagery. Even if these directors are not among the very commercial ones, I simply have to mention them as my personal favorites: Carlos Reygadas, Lisandro Alonso, Lucrecia Martel and Glauber Rocha.