Being an expert in American Studies, Einstein Junior Fellow Martin Lüthe conducts research on “Critical Whiteness Studies“ – a US-born young research branch in the field of racism and discrimination research in which the construction of whiteness as a normative category is questioned. On the basis of selected case studies, Lüthe examines how the portrayal as “white” (or “black”) conditions the testimonials concept of identity in the digital age reciprocally affecting their actions and thinking.
Please close your eyes for a moment and think about the work on your research project. What's the first thing you see?
Beyoncé and Erik Killmonger (Black Panther).
How would you explain your research project to a child?
My project involves how relationships between people with different skin colours arise when they read specific books, watch films or listen to songs.
What surprises people most of all when you tell them about your research?
Actually always (still) that fact that “being white“ also doesn't represent a neutral identity.
Who would you like to swap a working day with, and what would you then like to do?
Not very imaginative, I'm afraid: with an astronaut on the ISS — just to be able to look down at the earth!
Do you have a specific, unusual hobby or talent you would like to tell us about?
Well, I absolutely love playing digital football games, although I have no real talent for it.
What have you learnt about life from your research?
How (popular) culture has provided us with the scope for identifications and gaining identity.
What would you be today if you hadn't become a scientist?
A full-time father and househusband or a career with “something to do with media“.
Is there a part of Berlin you find particularly fascinating, or where you feel especially at ease?
Well, I like the Waldbühne very much, but also our local neighbourhood of Moabit; as somebody who was brought up in a medium-sized German city, the Main Railway Station in Berlin is impressive – at any rate far more so than the airports here.
What surprises you most about Berlin? What wouldn't you have expected in Berlin and what do you miss? What makes Berlin unique for your research?
As far as my research is concerned, Berlin is indeed unique because it fascinates and interconnects people of different cultures like no other city in Germany. What I expected less was that Berlin would turn out to be so “neighbourhoodly“ – namely that many Berliners prefer their own local neighbourhood and that a large part of the social life actually takes place in these local neighbourhoods themselves. The “city centre” as such is a rather strange concept to Berliners and – as a specialist in American Studies – it also reminds me a bit of similarly sized cities in North America. As a scientific location, Berlin is both impressive and a little bit “neighbourhoodly“.