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Heide Fehrenbach
Heide Fehrenbach

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

April 9, 2007

NIU history professor wins Guggenheim Fellowship

DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University’s Heide Fehrenbach—whose books on the social and cultural effects of World War II on post-war Germany are being taught in advanced courses at leading universities worldwide—has been awarded a highly competitive Guggenheim Fellowship for 2007.

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation ran a full-page ad in Friday’s New York Times announcing fellowship recipients. Fehrenbach is among 189 artists, scholars and scientists selected from nearly 2,800 applicants for awards totaling $7.6 million.

Guggenheim Fellows are appointed on the basis of distinguished achievement in the past and exceptional promise for future accomplishment. Award decisions are based on recommendations from hundreds of expert advisers.

Highly regarded books

Fehrenbach, a professor of history, has penned two books and co-edited a third, all of which are highly regarded. Her research has further led to invited lectures at such universities as Cornell, Harvard, Michigan and Ohio State, as well as Trinity College in Dublin, the University of Muenster in Germany and the University of Toronto.

“The Guggenheim is a major award, and the history department is absolutely delighted to see Heide Fehrenbach named as a fellow,” said NIU’s Kenton Clymer, department chair. “She is certainly one of our very best scholars, and her research has been very well received.”

The purpose of the Guggenheim Fellowship program is to help provide fellows with blocks of time in which they can work with as much creative freedom as possible. Fellows can spend their grant funds in any manner they deem necessary for their work.

Fehrenbach said the award was unexpected. “This is wonderful,” she said. “I had applied, but I thought this would be the first of many applications.”

Research on war children

Fehrenbach holds a Ph.D. in modern European history from Rutgers University and is a six-year faculty member at NIU. She teaches courses on the history of modern Germany, Nazi Germany and modern European cultural history. She also has taught courses on World War II, post-1945 Europe and the history of human rights.

The fellowship will provide time off from her teaching responsibilities to work toward the completion of her next book, tentatively titled, “From War Children to Our Children: How World War II Remade the Family and Children’s Rights.” The book delves into the effects of war, military occupation and the rise of international adoption on the notions of family, immigration and citizenship.

Her most recent published book, “Race after Hitler: Black Occupation Children in Postwar Germany and America” (2005), focused on transnational responses to “occupation children” born to German women and African-American soldiers during post-World War II military occupation.

The book looked at the evolution of perceptions and policies regarding race and German-ness after 1945. “It also explored how American military occupation and American racial practices affected postwar German perceptions of race—especially given the sad irony that the American military that came armed to democratize Germans after 1945 was itself racially segregated well into the 1950s, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the Germans,” Fehrenbach said.

Other research areas

Her first book, “Cinema in Democratizing Germany” (1995), explored the role of film and meanings of movie-going in Germany’s transition from fascism to democracy. Fehrenbach argued that cinema played a significant role in the reformulation of postwar German national and gender ideologies. The book won the 1996 Biennial Book Prize of the Conference Group for Central European History.

She also co-edited a volume of essays, titled “Transactions, Transformations” (2000), examining Americanization in Western Europe and Japan; and is collaborating on the forthcoming book, “After the Racial State: Difference and Democracy in Postfascist Germany.”

Prior to coming to NIU, Fehrenbach held tenured positions in history at Colgate University and Emory University. Research on her prior books was funded by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the German Academic Exchange Service.

Since 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation has granted more than $256 million in fellowships to more than 16,250 individuals. Past Guggenheim Fellows include Ansel Adams, Martha Graham, Joyce Carol Oates, Langston Hughes, Henry Kissinger and Eudora Welty.

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