International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture

After a suspected cyber attack at Justus Liebig University, the GCSC remains offline too. This is a provisional website particularly addressed to applicants for scholarships and memberships at the GCSC. Please check the provisory JLU website for latest news on the state of affairs. We also frequently post information on our facebook page.

Based at Justus Liebig University Giessen, the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) offers a holistic research and training programme for doctoral candidates in the humanities and social sciences. Embedded in a research-intensive environment as well as wide-ranging national and international networks, PhD candidates at the GCSC become part of the scientific community early on. By means of a comprehensive programme that encompasses all PhD-related matters they gain skills that go far beyond their individual research projects and optimally qualify them for their future careers both within and outside of academia.



See procedure and FAQ below



See procedure below


Please register here:


GCSC Application Procedure

First Stage

To apply, you are first asked to register on the application platform

The platform is accessible as of 1 December. Please fill in and upload the following documents before 01 February 2020:

• A 1-2 page cover letter, explaining your motives for applying at the GCSC;

• A short abstract of your research project (approx. 500 words), including the title of your project and a brief outline of the methodology you will use

• A curriculum vitae

• Two letters of recommendation provided by university professors.

Your 2 referees (who you will already have specified in your online application) can also send us their letters of recommendation directly, preferably by email to

Once we’ve received both reference letters, they will be uploaded to the application file, which then is ready to be submitted.

Download application procedure as PDF

Second Stage

We will notify you by 14 February if you have been selected for the second stage. If so you will be requested to submit further documents via the application platform – until 9 March, 2020:

• Copies of your school and university diplomas

• A dissertation-project proposal that includes an overview of the current state of research pertaining to the topic, your main research questions and methodology as well as a selected bibliography. Please make clear to which extend your research project contributes to the GCSC’s research profile. Your proposal should not exceed 10 pages (excluding bibliography).

• A detailed schedule describing the specific stages of your work over a period of three years

• A digital copy of your M.A.-thesis

If your M.A.-thesis was written in a language other than English or German, please upload your original thesis as well as a summary of about two pages written in English or German. This summary should provide information on the major research questions, the methods and models applied, as well as the results achieved. Additionally, we ask you to provide a translated version of the table of contents.

Should you still be in the process of writing your thesis:

You are eligible to apply provided that you will have finished your degree by September 2020 at the latest. Please submit sample chapters and the table of contents of your thesis. In addition, we invite you to submit further pieces of academic writing that you consider representative of your approach and style.

We also ask you to have your referees comment on your academic work so far and to submit an up-to-date transcript of the courses taken so far. We also need a letter of your supervisor confirming that you will have received your degree by 30 September 2020. This confirmation has to reach us in the second round (before 9 March). We will also ask you to submit your exam certificates as soon as possible before 1 October 2020.

Your entire application will be examined by two internal referees. Together with their evaluation comments, your application will be submitted to the Selection Committee of the GCSC, who will compile a shortlist.

We will notify you – by 9 April – whether you will be invited to a 30-minute interview at the GCSC (international candidates can also opt for a video interview). These interviews will take place at the GCSC on 4 and 5 May. If you are called for an interview, you may present your research in either language.

Research Areas (RA)

The research project of our centre is by no means static. Rather, it continually receives stimuli from the diverse academic and social challenges that the Study of Culture faces today. Our focus on key concepts has always formed the essence of collaborative research and created a basis for exchange across disciplinary and national borders. It is reflected in the eight Research Areas, which are complemented by Emerging Topics Research Groups. The latter are decidedly oriented towards current socio-political challenges within and new approaches in the Study of Culture.

RA 1: Cultural Memory Studies

This Research Area is concerned with the conceptual, theoretical, methodological and practical questions raised by the burgeoning interdisciplinary field of memory studies. It draws on the strong tradition of Cultural Memory Studies in Giessen.

Through discussions, lectures, masterclasses, research presentations, exhibitions and other practical formats, the Research Area seeks to explore the global variety of approaches to, simply put, the role of the past in the present. The group has, in recent semesters, explored classic texts that have inspired the field, such as Maurice Halbwachs’ sociological studies, as well as products of the “memory boom” that has seen investigations of remembering flourish in the past three decades.

Besides dealing with now-canonical concepts, such as collective memory, sites of memory (lieux de mémoire), trauma, or travelling memory, the Research Area 1 has also kept abreast of recent developments in the field by exploring, for example, the transnational or transcultural turn in mem­ory studies. The Research Area works closely with scholars in area studies, particularly those working on Eastern Europe, South America, Africa and Anglophone cultures, thus providing a critical environment for testing the global claims of memory studies.

As a collaborative and open group, the Research Area is always open to testing new ideas and formats in its explorations of relations between past, present and future. The Research Area collaborates closely with the Frankfurt Memory Studies Platform, led by Astrid Erll. It also collaborates with other groups within GCSC and JLU, or the university library in organising exhibitions and talks.

RA 2: Cultural Narratologies

Cultural Narratologies aims to study how the world versions to which we have access are con­structed through the use of narratives and to analyse the system of values embedded by such world versions. This means making sense of some of the narrative processes employed in order to convey a particular set of values. Such an approach can help us interpret the plurality of stories we have access to. Being aware of the processes used to shape narratives can indeed be­come a powerful tool for cultural analysis, making ourselves ask questions such as who produced this narration and with which aims.

Narratives are depending on the cultures from which they emerge. This, in turn, lends them their colourful particularity in the guise of – occasionally surprising – topics, characters, plots, and styles. Cultural Narratologies, consequently, means the study of those particularities, the practices and modes of story-telling, no matter if they are rendered fictional or factual. Often fatefully, narratives can decide of war and peace, veneration or vilification, what values we hold dear and which futures we dread. This Research Area thus investigates how stories are told: how they are created or erased, made famous or forgotten, sold or bought, broken or repaired, fashioned as truth or debunked as lies.

RA 3: Cultural Transformation and Performativity Studies

Research Area 3 focuses on the theorisation, interpretation, and application of the concepts of performativity, performances, and cultural transformation. We look at different theoretical perspectives that have shaped the development of the theory of performativity, and that test its limits in contemporary understanding. We also consider the challenges of performativity, as well as its relation to cultural discourses and practices more broadly. A major focus of the group is the relation between theories of performativity and various forms of art, such as performance, theatre, film, photography, music, and literature, as well as to lived experiences and public spaces.

Performativity, in its many uses, holds the potential to impact social developments and to propel cultural transformation. Approaching cultural change from the perspective of performativity studies implies observing the gradual alterations of cultural processes and analysing their adaptations to equally changing cultural contexts. Such an approach not only highlights the interference of continuities and discontinuities, and the simultaneity of the dissimilar as fundamental features of cultural transformations but also emphasises the agency of the subject or groups of subjects to bring about real change.

In 2018, Research Area 3 focused on the interplay between agency, theatricality and rituality regarded from both social and artistic angles. We organised a Keynote Lecture and a Master Class with Frans-Willem Korsten from the University of Leiden and discussed modes of the theatrical and the dramatic in political and legal contexts. Research Area 3 and its temporary subgroup “Evil” was also involved in the conference “Villains! Constructing Narratives of Evil”, which took place in February 2019.

RA 4: Visual and Material Culture Studies

What is our research about?

Our research area is focused on studying the “image”, which we approach through two main topics. One is the field of art theory, which deals with the understanding of the image in general. There we discuss how an image can be defined, how images influence our perception, and how images are used in our daily life. The second field is the artwork in particular and its modes of analysis. We compare theories, interpretations and methodologies from all kinds of disciplines (from art history, history, literary studies, to sociology) we look at how each discipline approaches and uses the artwork within its particular field of research and what we can learn from these different methodologies.

What is Visual Culture?

The area of visual culture studies offers a vast horizon of inquiry, insofar as it explores cultures of both the past and present no longer primarily on the basis of “text” but on the basis of “image“. For some time it has been generally accepted across many disciplines that „images” do not, by any account, simply reflect their cultural enviroment and quasi translate “texts” into a “pictorial language“, but are also active, formative factors in the production of power and knowledge, in communication and the shaping of identity of both individuals and groups.

RA 5: Media and Multiliteracy Studies

This Research Area focuses jointly on language and media, two sites of cultural production vital to contemporary cultures. We represent a wide variety of disciplines, including sociology, linguistics, and cultural, literary and film studies. Hence, our discussions and projects reflect both conceptual engagement and thematic diversity. Our research focuses on how media and multiliteracy reinforce, negotiate and subvert identities and policies, build and question communities, and to which effect they convey intercultural communication. As a result, we explore contemporary perspectives by looking into visual and narrative constructions as both transforming and transformed in the process of digitalisation. Besides critical insight into established texts, we are interested in recent and more engaged developments in the field, reaching out to intersectionality, postcoloniality, and affect.

Lately, we have dealt with the phenomenon of “Fake News” and the loss of credibility in traditional media. In this context, we have also focused in particular on the new influence of social media and how aspects of language change the classical structure of news.

In the summer term 2019, our Research Area (co-)organized a Keynote Lecture and Masterclass with Prof. Boris Buden from Humboldt University (“The End of Language as We Know It?”) as well as a film screening of the Thomas Elsaesser documentary: “The Sun Island“ and a subsequent Masterclass, deal­ing with the new materialities of (media-)memory.

RA 6: Cultural Identities

Within our particular Research Area we deal with a very complex and fluid set of notions of identity. We tend to approach it from a vast array of cultural perspectives. In this regard, it is important to empha­sise the interconnectedness of the two mentioned concepts, that is, the concept of culture and identity, which could not be grasped independently but must instead be taken together in all its conflictual dynam­ics. Hence, throughout our theoretical discussions we seek to bring light to the potential results of the aforementioned intertwining. Subsequent to paradigms such as poststructuralism and deconstruction theory that have profoundly shaped identitarian theory and politics within the past few decades, we are also invested in building on alternative theoretical takes on cultural identity that may extend and challenge but do not ignore former conceptual articulations and its influential legacies. This in­cludes reframed notions of terms such as identity and/or subjectivity in a direction of their never-ending search for ‘the Other’ as a constitutive element that paradoxically confirms their always already incoherent ontological status. The notion of identity, in this sense, is not to be taken as an autonomous and self-sustaining entity, but rather as an open yet fundamental network that consists of distinct layers of productive intersections between subjects and objects, dramatically informed by various discursive repertoires. Following this path, we welcome a number of theoretical angles that include but are not limited to: New Materialism, Posthumanism, Embodiment and Affect Theory, Gender Studies, Postcolonial Theory, Narratology, Philosophy of Self and similar.

RA 7: Global Studies and the Politics of Space

The focus of this Research Area has been both on comparing national phenomena and their interlinks and on transfers between spaces located in various national cultures. The Research Area is dedicated to an exploration of how globality and spatiality impinge on each other, foregrounding the relevance of politics and transnation­al relations for the study of culture. The combination of questions of globality and space differentiates the so-called ‘spatial turn’ in the study of culture, viz. Global Studies and the study of the politics of space or the spatiality of politics. Going beyond an understanding of the term ‘globalisation’ as a political, economic and cultural constellation of homogeneity, the Research Area explores the processes of political integration and conflict and the spatial structures that produce different and divergent globalities.

Current and future research in this Research Area will explore processes of translation, negotiation and acquisition in productive ‘inter-spaces’ between social groups, including situations of conflict such as political, economic, social and cultural exclusions and marginalisations. The segmentation of globally interconnected spaces also calls for a questioning of the outmoded model of centre and periphery, and for comparisons between the dynamics of such processes in order to discover parallels and differences. As political spatialities affect enclosing and arrest­ing movement, but also serve to organise and dynamise it, phenomena such as migration, diaspora, transnational movements, global mediascapes, and ‘travelling concepts’ will be studied not only in their transgressive power but also with a view to how they affect the movement of persons and groups, cultural representations and heuristics in the study of culture. By conceptualising cultural contacts as complex processes of cultural translation, the Research Area will link research on transnational/global phenomena to both spatial politics and significant culture-specific activities and cultural techniques.

RA 8: Cultures of Knowledge, Research, and Education

Knowledge is a key dimension of cultural and social processes. It is not only the targeted aim of research and therefore subject to specific conventions, standards, and rules, but also tied up with phenomena such as subject formation, structures of power, and mechanisms of social exclusions.

Conceiving of knowledge, its production and utilization, as subject to historical change, the Research Area investigates the social and material production of knowledge, cognitive aspects of individual knowledge creation, the materialities of knowledge production and empirical practices of knowledge transmission in research and education. This ranges from discussions of science studies to issues of post-colonial theory, from discourse analysis to structures and formats of education at schools and universities, but also includes practices of knowledge production in premodern cultures, religious contexts and, artistic formats.

The specific situation, status, and social impact of humanities in general and the study of culture in particular has recently become a special issue of interest of this Research Area. The rise of right wing populism in Europe, but also in many other areas of the globe has paved the way for a critique of many core insights of the study of culture in public debate. These shifts in discourse do not only concern many areas and fields of the study of culture, but also raise questions of the social role and activities of the study of culture.


Application requirements

I took a one-year research-track MA. Am I eligible to apply?

In most cases, only two-year research-track programmes will be considered equivalent to a German MA Degree. Graduates of one-year programmes might be asked to complete extra coursework prior to starting with their doctorate.

I already hold a doctorate, but would like to gain a second PhD. Will the centre support me?

German universities do not grant doctorates to candidates already holding a PhD in the same discipline (e.g. the humanities). For this reason, we cannot accept applications for doctoral scholarships from candidates who already hold a PhD.

I already started my PhD. Am I eligible for your program?

We only accept applicants who have not yet worked towards their PhD for more than one year (by the application deadline)

Does the GCSC require me to choose a certain topic for my research project when applying for a scholarship?

In order to benefit from our interdisciplinary research environment, your research project should contribute to at least one of our eight research areas. However, we refrain from imposing thematic restrictions on research proposals. Instead, we encourage talented postgraduate students to contribute to the diversified research profile and allow their own research to be stimulated by constant exchange with other fellows and senior researchers.

In the application I am asked to specify the ‘Academic Discipline of the Doctoral/PhD Thesis’. Am I eligible if the discipline that I have my degree in is not taught at Justus-Liebig-University?

Yes, and we will be happy to look for the adequate subject available in Giessen where your research can be located and will always try and find individual solutions suited to the candidate’s needs.

Due to the transdisciplinary nature of my project, I am not sure which academic discipline to choose.

Since we welcome interdisciplinary projects, you may locate your research project within one or more of our academic subjects and research areas. However, please make sure that your research proposal includes an explanation of how the project fits into the relevant disciplines and the GCSC’s research profile.

I don’t have a supervisor at JLU. May I apply?

Yes. PhD supervisors from among the GCSC faculty may be chosen by the applicants before or after their admission. It will be part of the application procedure to verify if your chosen faculty member is willing to supervise your thesis. You do not have to contact potential supervisors beforehand, but are of course free to do so if you want to get in touch before filling your application

Should I contact potential supervisors in advance?

There is no need for you to discuss your project with a potential supervisor before being admitted here at the GCSC. We would, however, ask you to list members of the faculty you would like to see on your advisory board. Once we have reviewed and approved your application, we will put you in touch with relevant faculty to negotiate supervision details and the finer details of your future collaboration.

Are only professors eligible to submit references?

We would ask you to submit at least one reference by a full professor (i.e. holding a chair). Your second referee should hold a doctorate (i.e. readers, lecturers, assistant and associate professors) and have taught you at university level.

Should the primary supervisor (or both supervisors) be affiliated with the GCSC and Giessen University?

You may choose your second examiner/supervisor from another institution in Germany or abroad. We do, however, require your fist supervisor to be based at Giessen University. Remember that there is no need to contact potential supervisors prior to applying at the GCSC. As we’ll gladly put you in touch with suitable supervisors once you’ve been accepted to the programme.

Are there age restrictions for GCSC membership and scholarship?

GCSC considers applications from candidatesof all ages. Please note, though, that you must have graduated from your master programme no longer than two years ago. Furthermore you should not have been working in a non-academic context for a significant period.

You are invited to let us know about periods of parental leave, chronic or severe illness, and periods of time spent caring for relatives, etc. If for these reasons you have not been able to prepare an application during the two years following your university degree, these periods will not be taken into account.

Language Issues

Can I submit my application in English?

You may write your application in English or German. If you are called for an interview, you may present your research in either language.

Do I need to sit language exams, such as TOEFL or TestDaF, before applying?

We do not require you to sit foreign language examinations.

Is knowledge of German imperative for participation in the GCSC Research Training Programme?

Courses at the GCSC are taught in English and in German and you should be fluent in either of these languages when you start your PhD at the GCSC. According to the doctoral degree regulations, doctoral students are asked to obtain a German language proficiency certificate by the end of their graduate studies at the GCSC. At JLU, German language courses for doctoral students are offered on a regular basis, which allows you to obtain the certificate within one year. However, we would warmly advise you to acquire a basic knowledge of the German language before coming to Giessen.

Application Procedure

Which information should the references contain? Should my referees comment on my research proposal?

Formally, references should be submitted on official letterhead paper and contain your referee’s contact details, as well as information on the nature of your relationship. We do not require your references to comment on the project you are proposing. Rather, your references should give us a clear idea of your academic as well as personal skills and standing in class.

Research proposal of no more than 10 pages: Which information should this proposal contain?

The research proposal should follow these five academic guidelines:

• Objective: Define what it is you would like to know. Furthermore, clarify why certain aspects of your research are of special interest. Define the key questions for your next step.

• Methods: Describe how you would like to proceed. Also explain how you are going to use prescribed methods of your discipline and why these methods are especially helpful for your dissertation project.

• Theories and Terms: Clarify what principles you’re orienting yourself by. On which general statements from select representatives of your discipline would you like to base your thoughts? When possible, apply current terminology to your explanation.

• Materials/Objects: Describe what material you’ll be analyzing and depicting. Briefly present the texts, dates or sources and clarify why these materials are relevant to your work. Are these sources easily accessed, or do you foresee archival research as a means to reach certain sources?

• Hypothesis: Explain what you hope to find out. Are there already hunches in the research or do you already have presumptions with which you would like to support your work?

Additional Information

How does the GCSC deal with underrepresented groups and potential evaluation bias during the application process?

The scholarships and membership of the centre are awarded to applicants on the basis of the excellence and quality of their application. All applications are treated equally with regard to gender, ability and disability, sexual identity, nationality, ethnicity, religion, age, social background, possible care obligations, and any other factors. A member of the Equal Opportunities Committee is involved in all stages of the application process. The Equal Opportunities Committee can be contacted confidentially in advance of or during any application should you have any concerns or questions in respect of equal opportunities.

How much does the doctoral scholarship amount to?

The doctoral scholarship include a monthly stipend of approximately €1,468

IPP Application Procedure

The International PhD Programme (IPP) “Literary and Cultural Studies” (IPP):


The International PhD Programme (IPP) “Literary and Cultural Studies” at Justus Liebig University Giessen offers a clearly structured and research-oriented three-year doctoral programme focused on four main research areas:

• Literary and Cultural Theory

• Genre Theory

• Literary and Cultural Historiography

• Comparative and Interdisciplinary Issues

Participating departments include English and American Studies, German Studies, Romance Studies, Slavic Studies, Comparative Literary Studies and Theatre Studies. IPP members benefit from the programme's close integration into academic structures at Justus Liebig University (JLU). The IPP and the Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (GCSC) jointly organise parts of their programmes. Additionally, IPP members are welcome to join junior research groups at the Giessen Graduate Centre for the Humanities (GGK).

Personal supervision is complemented by participation in our curriculum: regular colloquia with fellow PhD students, professors and post-docs allow an ongoing discussion of one’s project from an early state of inception to the submission of the PhD thesis. The IPP curriculum grants postgraduate students the opportunity to develop their academic profile in a wide range of courses designed specifically for (international) PhD students in the fields of literary and cultural studies. Core modules, seminars, workshops and master classes with renowned scholars acquaint postgraduate students with state-of-the-art concepts, theories, methodologies and approaches.

Application Requirements

The application deadline is February 1, 2020. The programme begins in October 2020.

*Applications should be submitted either via email or regular mail.*

Applicants must hold a university degree in Literary or Cultural Studies with a GPA well above average (international degrees must be equivalent to German ‘Diplom’, ‘Magister’, ‘Master’ or ‘Erstes Staatsexamen’ degrees). Only projects for which supervision can be offered within the departments at Justus Liebig University Giessen and which are relevant to the IPP profile can be considered. An international research perspective and/or international study experience are an advantage.

If you are interested in applying to the IPP, please submit the following documents:

• A covering letter stating your motivation for applying to the IPP, addressing how your project fits with the IPP profile

• Curriculum vitae with a detailed description of your academic profile

• Copies of all relevant school-leaving/university entrance certificates and university degree certificates (including transcripts of records)

• A copy of your diploma/MA thesis

• Two letters of reference from university teachers providing information about your academic qualifications

• An outline of the dissertation project of no more than 10 pages as well as an indication of the timeframe envisaged for the completion of the project

Applications can be emailed to:

Please send all documents as one pdf-file, titled <last name>_Application, and attach your diploma/MA thesis as a separate pdf-file, titled <last name>_Thesis. Covering letters should be addressed to the IPP’s Academic Director, Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Ansgar Nünning.

Applications can be mailed to:

Prof. Dr. Dr. hc Ansgar Nünning

International PhD Programme (IPP) “Literary and Cultural Studies”

Giessen Graduate School for the Humanities (GGK)

Justus Liebig University Giessen

Alter Steinbacher Weg 38

35394 Giessen


All questions can be directed to: (temporary email address due to cyber attack on JLU)

Dr. Elizabeth Kovach (IPP Coordinator) +49 641 99 30055