Susanne Luhmann, PhD, MA, Dipl. Paed.
Pronouns: she, her or they/them
Professor, Faculty of Arts - Womens & Gender Studies
3-70 Assiniboia Hall
9137 116 St NWEdmonton ABT6G 2E7
- by appointment
Area of Study / Keywords
Cultural and familial memory of state-sponsored violence; Queer and feminist pedagogy; Sexuality Studies; the institutionalization of intersectional gender studies research and teaching
I was born and raised in Germany and earned my degrees in Germany, the US, and Canada
- Dipl. Paedagogik mit Schwerpunkt Frauen-und Geschlechterforschung [Social Education with a focus on Women's and Gender Studies] (Technische Universitaet Berlin)
- MA, Women's Studies (University of Alabama)
- PhD, Women's Studies (York University)
I have research interests that traverse a number of topics and fields:
- Cultural and familial memory of state-sponsored violence
- Queer and feminist pedagogy
- Sexuality Studies
- The Institutionalization of intersectional gender studies, research, and teaching
- Epistemologies and Pedagogies of Implication
I am currently working on a number of research projects (details below). While these are seemingly distinct, even distant from each other, they share a research approach. I call this approach "epistemologies and pedagogies of implication." I am interested in how to grapple with the "difficult knowledge" (Britzman 1998) of benefiting (as an individual, a member of a social group, and/or an institution) from the injustices, violences, inequalities, and oppression of others.
•Domesticating the Nazi Past. Gender, Generation and the Familial Turn in Recent German Memory: This book manuscript in process focuses on how descendants of Nazi supporters and perpetrators mine family archives to break family secrets and account publicly for their ancestors' role in Holocaust crimes. My work focuses, for example, on recent memoirs, autobiographical film, and museum exhibits.
•“Un-settling Queer Pedagogy”: This is a series of journal articles that respectively revisits some of my earlier foundational work in queer pedagogy (Luhmann 1998). Across these articles, I grapple with how to engage critically with settler colonial violence when writing about and from within feminist and queer education.
•“Prairie Sexualities: Theories, Archives, Affects, Communities:” with Marie Lovrod ( University of Saskatchewan) will be an essay collection about sexuality studies on, if not necessarily about, the prairies that begin from a place-based analysis.
In the past, besides introductory WGS courses, I have taught upper-year and graduate seminars including: Sexualities: Feminism, Queer and Trans Theories; Queer and Indigenous Theorizing; The Affective Life of Settler Colonialism; Feminist Feelings – Theorizing Affect; Women and the Holocaust; Cultural Memory & Social Justice; On Complicity & Being Implicated: Difficult Questions for Social Justice
Teaching is not just about the transmission of knowledge and learning does not just happen because students are exposed to interesting ideas, good facts, enticing curricula, or inspiring teachers. Instead, I have come to respect that teaching and learning are complex processes demanding a lot from students and teachers. This is particularly true when teaching is committed to social change and justice. In this context, we ask of students not just to learn about something but also to learn from the material studied. Deborah Britzman (1998) offers a lucid explanation of the difference between these two modes of learning when she writes:
"Whereas learning about an event or experience focuses upon the acquisition of qualities, attributes, and facts, so that it presupposes a distance (or, one might even say, a detachment) between learner and what is being learned, learning from an event or experience is of a different order, that of insight … Learning from requires the learner’s attachment to, and implication in, knowledge." (119)
Thus, in the classroom, we are always engaged in at least two learning modes. One concerns the encounter with new knowledges, information, and ideas at the level of comprehension. This learning is important: students need learn critical concepts and theories as tools that can help to rethink the world more critically and complexly. Fostering critical cultural and theoretical literacy, however, requires something else that exceeds comprehension: Learning from requires that students begin to understand their own implication in the material studied.
This second learning mode is very exciting and challenging at the same time. It is exciting for both students and teachers because this is where we make the connection between the knowledges of the course and our own lives. If things work well, the encounter with new ideas and knowledges can feel like what bell hooks (2000: 28) describes as a “liberatory practice,” where new ideas help us “to make sense out of what [is] happening. [And we can] imagine possible futures, a place where life [can] be lived differently.”
The encounter with new ideas, however, can be very difficult. Particularly when the material asks us to reconsider cherished beliefs central to our own sense of self. Given the kinds of counter-knowledges that fields committed to social justice teach, students frequently find ideas not only unfamiliar and intellectually difficult, but, at times, new ideas may also feel like a criticism of their own views or of themselves. Indeed, encounters with new ideas can feel intrusive, punishing, and, even oppressive. Students may experience their encounter with new ideas as a crisis, as conflict, and confusion, accompanied by profound feelings of loss or unbearable uncertainty. These feelings can make it very difficult for students to consider, let alone attach to new ideas and to make them their own. These kinds of feelings also seem to contradict the popular promise that “knowledge is power” and the expectation that that learning will feel empowering.
My task as a teacher involves working with students through the crises and conflicts that new ideas might produce and to get students to be interested in their resistances to knowledge and insights, especially knowledge that makes demands of them, such as considering their own implication in systems of inequality. I want students to come away from my classes with the sense that their lives and the lives of others have become more interesting to them. Thus, my teaching is interested not only in what and how I teach, but also in what my students understand and, particularly, in that which makes their understanding difficult.
Britzman, Deborah P. 1998. Lost Subjects, Contested Objects: Toward a Psychoanalytic Inquiry of Learning. Albany: SUNY Press.
Felman, Shoshana. 1987. Psychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and Interminable. In Jacques Lacan and the Adventure of Insight: Psychoanalysis in Contemporary Culture, 69-98. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
hooks, bell 2000. Theory as Liberatory Practice (1994). Reprinted in Wendy Kolmar and Frances Bartkowski (eds.), Feminist Theory: A Reader, 28-33. Mountain View CA: Mayfield Publishing.
I am available to work with undergraduate and graduate students writing theses and dissertations in the following areas: sexuality studies, gender studies, trauma and cultural memory, pedagogy and social justice.
Memory Studies. 2023 February; 16 (1):32–50 10.1177/17506980221142980
Jahrbuch Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in der Erziehungswissenschaft. 2017 January; 13 (1):31-49
Amber Dean, Jennifer L. Johnson and Susanne Luhmann (eds.)