Q-and-A with Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers

We asked Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers about his own academic journey, what interests him about German studies and culture, what makes his students special, and why he’s excited to be a part of the Kalamazoo College community. Here’s what he said.

Question: What sparked your interest in German studies and how has it evolved throughout your academic journey?

Answer: My path to becoming a professor of German studies began unexpectedly. I grew up in an English-Spanish bilingual household, and on a whim, I started taking German in school. I was surprised by how fun the language is, and I quickly developed a passion for it and at the same time a deep interest in German culture and history. The language became my gateway to a host of exciting new worlds and experiences. At first, my studies focused on German literature and film, then later increasingly on philosophy and the intersection of politics and aesthetics. Today my main research interests span critical theory, media studies, and the environmental humanities.

Q: As an assistant professor of German studies, what aspects of German culture or literature do you find most captivating and why?

A: German-speaking writers and thinkers have left an indelible mark on major cultural and intellectual traditions. One of the things I relish most as a professor of German studies is the opportunity to engage with great works of art and influential social movements from a variety of interlinked perspectives: language, art, philosophy and history. Learning to combine these approaches and discover the complex forms of interrelation between them is something that I value immensely.

There’s nothing quite like reading Freud’s cultural theory in the original German, and thus engaging simultaneously with questions of linguistic belonging, psychoanalysis and social theory; or with engaging with Marx’s ideas in the language in which he first expressed them, which affords one insights into the links between power, language and violence.

Q: How would you describe your students and what makes them special?

A: I tremendously enjoy working with the students at K. Their curiosity and interest to learn inspires me and I love sharing my passion for German art, literature and culture with them. In my classroom, students are constantly working actively with one another, engaging with one another in a shared learning community. Learning does not occur from reading or memorizing words or facts, but is actively generated through discussion, debate and deep engagement with texts, works and ideas.

Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers and two students talking
We asked Assistant Professor of German Michael Powers about what sparked his interests in German studies, what he admires about K students and why he appreciates being a part of the College’s community.
Assistant Professor of German Studies Michael Powers at a laptop computer in his office

Q: As a newcomer to Kalamazoo College, what excites you the most about joining our K community, and what unique perspectives do you hope to bring to your students? 

A: I taught previously at K as a visiting professor for two years, and I am very excited to return this year as permanent faculty. My own undergraduate education was at a small liberal arts college, and my scholarly path has been shaped by the liberal arts mission and the dedicated professors I came to know as mentors. I cherish the opportunity to work closely with students both inside and outside the classroom, whether discussing Expressionist art in a film course, or taking students on a tour of the arboretum as part of a unit on environmentalism in Germany.