Prof. Dr. Astrid Fellner

Astrid M. Fellner is Chair of North American Literary and Cultural Studies with extensive research and publications in Ethnic Studies, Border Studies, Early American literature, Canadian literature, Gender Studies, and Queer Studies. She is Project Leader at Saarland U of the INTERREG V A project “University of the Greater Region Center for Border Studies” and co-founder of a trilingual and trinational MA program “Border Studies.”

Since the completion of her Ph.D. thesis Articulating Selves: Contemporary Chicana Self-Representation in 1999, which dealt with issues of identity construction in contemporary Chicana self-representation from the multiple viewpoints of Ethnic Studies, Feminist Studies, and Gender Studies, the focus of both her research and teaching has been on North American literatures and cultures. Her Habilitation, entitled Bodily Sensations: The Female Body in Late-Eighteenth-Century American Culture, focused on eighteenth-century Anglo-American culture, paying attention to the diverse cultural processes of transatlantic exchanges and mobilities that contributed to the making of the modern body in the United States. Her understanding of “American culture” has always located “Americanness” in a global context, analyzing the multiple crossroads of cultures in the U.S. from a transnational perspective. From 2008-09 she was Distinguished Visiting Austrian Chair at Stanford University, teaching seminars on “Comparative Border Studies” and the global mobility of “American” Popular Culture in the Comparative Literature Department.

Since she became Full Professor at Saarland University in 2009, her interest in comparative studies with a specific focus on North American border crossings and minor mobilities has intensified. Within the UniGR-Center for Border Studies, she is currently working on a trilingual Glossary in Border Studies. She is also a Member of the Working Group “Border Textures,” in which she develops a theoretical and conceptual model which insists that the formation of territories and bodies are inherently interwoven, thus making “the” border a texture whose analysis necessarily requires a theorization of socioeconomic structures, institutions and flows.

Her most recent publications within the fields of Border Studies, Mobility Studies, and Migration Studies include:


  • Fellner, Astrid M. “Recovering Queequeq’s Body: Alterna(rra)tives in the Borderlands.” Performing Ethnicity, Performing Gender: Transcultural Perspectives. Eds. Bettina Hofmann and Monika Müller. New York: Routledge, 2016. 53-68.

  • Fellner, Astrid M. and Susanne Hamscha. “‘What Goes on in the Coffin’: Border Knowledges in North American Literature.” Critical Epistemologies of Global Politics. Ed. Sebastian Weier and Marc Woons. Bristol: E-International Relations Publishing, 2017. 171-181.

  • Fellner, Astrid M. “‘Hanging on’: Mohawk Sovereignty and the Art of Failure.” The Failed Individual: Amid Exclusion, Resistance, and the Pleasure of Non-Conformity. Ed. Katharina Motyl and Regina Schober. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2017. 182-197.

  • Fellner, Astrid M. “Subaltern Knowledges in the Borderlands: Drawing the Sexual Boundaries of the Early United States.” Hemispheric Encounters: The Early United States in Transnational Perspective. Eds. Markus Heide and Gabriele Pisarz-Ramírez. Peter Lang, 2016. 203-220. 

  • Fellner, Astrid M. “Globale Fluchtgeschichten in transmediterranen und transatlantischen Grenzräume“. Fuga – Confine – Integrazione / Flucht - Grenze – Intergration. Hg. Natalie Roelens, Dieter Heimböckel und Christian Wille. Bielefeld: transcript 2020 (Forthcoming).


Her article “Recovering Queequeq’s Body: Alterna(rra)tives in the Borderlands” is an analysis of the interplay between the performative border epistemologies of two key literary texts: Herman Melville’s Moby-Dickthe Whale and Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water. Subjugated knowledges, as she argues, may resurge as tangible objects, such as coffins and boxes. In her co-written essay, “‘What Goes on in the Coffin’: Border Knowledges in North American Literature,” Suanne Hamscha and Astrid M. Fellner read Cabeza de Vaca’s account of the boxed bodies and Melville’s protagonist Ishmael’s rescue by the coffin as instances of “border thinking,” in order to recover what they call a “cripistemology of the coffin.” The coffin is understood as a metaphor for alterna(rra)tives that have been buried deep down in national cultural imaginaries and that resurge as haunting presences. This resurgence constitutes a crisis of knowledge, a cripistemology (Johnson/Mc Ruer) that builds on alternative forms of knowing, which lurk in canonical cultural texts and sit at the heart of cultural self-definition but are generally disabled by traditional Western paradigms of thought. A similar argument is made in the article “Subaltern Knowledges in the Borderlands: Drawing the Sexual Boundaries of the Early United States,” in which a genealogy of an alternative gender system is carved out. 

“‘Hanging on’: Mohawk Sovereignty and the Art of Failure,” deals with the refusal of the members of the Mohawk nation—primarily the community of Akwesasne and the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke—to become Canadian or American citizens. Reading the Mohawks’ failure to comply with the rules of settler colonialism in terms of productive alternative forms of meaning-making, which she calls “the politics of ‘hanging on,’” she argues that the Mohawks’ insistence upon their sovereignty as well as their failure to act in accordance with normative discourses of citizenship structures possibilities and produces new forms of subjectivity, constituting an important move for decolonialization and self-determination. In this article, she analyzes two artistic expressions that constitute strong statements of the politics of “hanging on”: Mohawk artist Carla Hemlock’s quilt Tribute to the Mohawk Ironworkers and Alan Michelson’s installation piece Third Bank of the River.

“Globale Fluchtgeschichten in transmediterranen und transatlantischen Grenzräume“ also feeds into her project. Here she looks at performances of migrant trajectories and refugee experiences through the lens of bordertexturing in order to show the ways in which oceanic experiences have shaped understandings of flight and migration.     


Using these articles as her starting point, her larger project “Alterna(rra)tives in the Canada-US borderlands”  aims at developing a methodological framework that will allow her to analyze a series of historical and literary texts, images, films, and other cultural texts that function as alterna(rra)tives. Her conceptual and methodological approach—bordertextures—has clear genealogical roots in Chican@ Studies and decolonial thinking and will help her explain in what ways forms of Indigenous knowledge give rise to alternative forms of literacy, which follow a logic of their own.


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