Beyond Jefferson’s Futures. Developing ideas for the foyer of Leuphana University’s Library Foyer

Summer Semester 2024

“I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past”. – Really?

This quote by Thomas Jefferson is written in the foyer of the library of Leuphana University. It is part of an artwork by Christian Philipp Müller, “Branding the Campus” (1996-98), for which the University of Virginia, designed by Jefferson, was the starting point to think about the “ideal” university. Thomas Jefferson was not only one of the “founding fathers” of the USA, he was also a slave owner - a fact that raises the question of how we deal with the quote from today’s perspective. On day 1 of the workshop researchers – Verena Adamik, Sarah Kreiseler, Jenna Owens, Hannah Spahn, Ruth Stamm – and student groups give insights into multiple histories: Thomas Jefferson’s idea of Enlightenment, campus architectures, archives and silent narratives, North German linen production within the Atlantic slave trade and other topics. On the second day we will develop proposals on how to deal with the quote in the foyer. It will start with a presentation by the poet and researcher Yvette Christiansë reflecting on “Why poetry?” could be an entry into the discussion.


June 7


Introduction & “Branding the Campus”: Susanne Leeb (Professor for Contemporary Art, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)


Transforming Jefferson’s Enlightenment: Hannah Spahn (Visiting Professor for American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin)


History of Leuphana University: Kenny Lühmann, Julia Knapmeyer, Philine Held, Lilli Ritter, Annika Weiß (Students of the seminar Institutional Critique)

Liberal Education at Leuphana: Mika Steffan & Vanessa Spors (Students of the seminar Institutional Critique)




Slavery at Monticello: Recovering Historically Silenced Narratives: Jenna Owens (Oral Historian, Monticello, Virginia)


Campus Architectures: Anna Blecker, Finia Dorenberg, Emil Weber (Students of the seminar Institutional Critique)

Architectures of Libraries: Charlotte Dansberg, Rasmus Gaida, Stina Fisahn (Students of the seminar Institutional Critique)


Black Futures in Jim Crow USA: Verena Adamik (Lecturer and Researcher of American Studies, Universität Potsdam)




Linen Trade and Slavery. Tracing Transcultural Entanglements in the Lüneburg Region: Sarah Kreiseler (Director of Rundlingsmuseum Wendland, Lübeln) and Ruth Stamm (Research Assistant, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg)

June 8


Why Poetry? Yvette Christiansë (Poet and Professor for Africana Studies, Barnard College, New York, Public Fellow at LIAS in Culture and Society, Lüneburg)


Summaries and constitution of working groups


Working groups and plenary discussions