Team (18 May 2017)

Back: Sara Polak, Birte Christ, Greta Olson, Stefanie Rück; middle: Maren Walinski, Madeline Kienzle; front: Lisa Beckmann, Nadia Butt, Burcu Alkan

Kai-Uwe Schmehl (M.A.)

Kai-Uwe Schmehl is a research assistant to Prof. Greta Olson and studied Language, Literature, Culture (MA) at the Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen. He acquired his B.A. in 2018 and his M.A. in 2021, having majored in English and German literature.

He headed the Thesis Support program for Bachelor students from 2019 to 2021 and has taught a course on the history of literary and cultural theory of the 20th century at the JLU’s English department. His interest media criticism and reception, especially applied to the possibilities of our digital era, has lead him to work at the Center for Media and Interactivity at the University of Giessen.

Annabell Ramm

Annabell Ramm is a research assistant to Prof. Greta Olson and currently pursueing a degree in Modern Foreign Languages, Cultures and Business Administration (BA) at the Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen with a major in English and minors in Portuguese and Business Administration.

Within the context of volunteer work, which Annabell is very passionate about, she has been translating and interpreting since 2016.

Dr. Burcu Alkan

Native of Istanbul but wanderer at heart, Dr Burcu Alkan received her PhD in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester in 2009. She wrote her PhD, “Representations of the Intellectual,” under the supervision of Professor Terry Eagleton and Dr Howard Booth. Between 2010 and 2012, she worked on a TÜBITAK-funded research project, “Women’s Writing in Turkey,” supported by the EU/COST Action. She is the co-editor and one of the writers of Dictionary of Literary Biography 373: Turkish Novelists Since 1960 (2013, ISBN: 978-0787696481) and Dictionary of Literary Biography 379: Turkish Novelists Since 1960, Second Series (2016, ISBN: 978-0787696542). After having worked at various universities in Turkey, she came to Justus Liebig University, Giessen on a fellowship supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She is currently a senior research fellow to Professor Greta Olson at the English Department and working on a monograph on suicide in modernist literature.

Dr Alkan’s work covers a diverse range of topics. The cultural materialism of her MA and PhD research, in time, evolved into a broader interest in the concept of the intellectual. This trajectory later branched out to include Faustian narratives and their demonic, magical world of the self and the soul. Meanwhile, the psychoanalytical elements of her research culminated in a greater curiosity about mental pathologies. Consequently, she co-organised the “Trancultural Dialogues in Medical Humanities Workshop,” held in Istanbul, in 2016. She is primarily working within the field of medical humanities with a particular interest in the relationship between psychiatry and literature. This diversity in her work, she says, comprises of the pieces of a puzzle, the complete picture of which she yet discerns only but shall be able to make sense of in many years of research to come.

Leonie Schmidt, M.A.

Dr. Nadia Butt

Lisa Beckmann, M.A.

Lisa Beckmann is a research assistant to Prof. Greta Olson. She aims to integrate her research into a form of activism that explores disability as a lived experience both in- and outside of academia. Her key interest is to bring greater visibility to chronic illness and disability in academia.


  • (2019). “Any person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated: The Production of Ableism at the Intersection of Disability, History and the Law.” Paper presented at the conference “Disability and Disciplines,” Liverpool Hope University, UK, 3-4 July, 2019.
  • (2019). “Borders of Belonging – The Narrativization of Disability and Citizenship in Refugee Memoirs.” Paper presented at the symposium “Citizenship, Law and Literature,“ Villa Vigoni, Menaggio, Italy, 25-28 March 2019.
  • (2018). “The Sexual Politics of Disability in Eugenic Forced Sterilization Laws.” Presentation at the workshop “Histories of Disability: Local, Global, and Colonial Stories,” The University of Sheffield, UK, 7-8 June 2018.
  • (2017). “‘Language without Speech’: The Politics and Poetics of American Sign Language Poetry and Translation Theory.” Presentation at the international conference “Found in Translation: Translation as Cultural Dissemination from the Middle Ages to the New Millenium,” University of Bergamo, Italy, 28-30 September 2017.


  • (Forthcoming). “Borders of Belonging: The Narrativization of Disability and Citizenship in Refugee Memoirs.” Law & Literature. Eds. Klaus v. Stierstorfer and Daniela Carpi. (under review with publisher)
  • (Forthcoming). “Unsightly and Unruly: The Visual and Legal Politics of Disability and Gender in U.S. Ugly Laws.” Disability and Colonialism. Ed. Esme Cleall. (under consideration with publisher)
  • (Forthcoming). “Like Cats and Dogs in the Streets: Disability and Sexuality in the Eugenic Legal Imagination.” Gender Injustice: Theoretical Practices of Intersectional Identity. Ed. Elaine Wood. (under consideration with publisher)
  • (2019). Review: “Broken: Institutions, Families, and the Construction of Intellectual Disability.“ H-Disability Network. <;
  • (2019). Review: “Normality and Disability: Intersections among Norms, Law and Culture (Goggin, Steele, Cadwallader).” H-Disability Network. <;
  • (2017). “Undoing Ableism: Disability as a Category of Historical and Legal Analysis.” On_Culture: The Open Journal for the Study of Culture 1.3. Special Issue on “Law Undone: De humanizing, Queering, and Dis-abling the Law – Further Argument’s for Law’s Pluralities.“ Ed. Greta Olson and Sonja Schillings. 1-28.
  • (2013). Review: „»Mein liebes Ilsekind.« Mit dem Kindertransport nach Schweden — Briefe an eine gerettete Tochter.“ WLA – Wissenschaftlicher Literaturanzeiger. Hrsg. Universität Heidelberg, Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. <;

Teaching (Justus-Liebig-University Gießen, WS 2018/19):

  • BA Seminar: Introduction to Feminist Disability Studies

Following the credo of the disability rights movement “Nothing About Us Without Us,“ this course is based on the assumption that disability is everywhere – once you begin to look for it. However, disability remains overlooked and unseen in the feminist triad gender, race, and class. This course seeks to fill this gap by asking is there a feminist side to being disabled? What does it mean to inject disability into feminist thought? To answer these questions we will discuss key concepts of disability and feminist theory such as the nature and meaning of embodiment, heteronormative and ableist forms of normativity, and the overlap between sexism and ableism. We will explore not only how Disability Studies become feminist, but also how Feminism becomes disabling.

Dr. Sara Polak

Sara Polak is visiting postdoctoral researcher at the GCSC and assistant professor in American studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. At Giessen, she works with Greta Olson on a project that studies the US American ‘Ebola scare’ of 2014-5 on Twitter. This is the beginning of a larger study of the political form and function of online sociality and violence, and cultural memory on social media. At Leiden University, Polak teaches contemporary American culture and literature at BA and MA level, and writes regular newspaper analyses of US politics, history and culture.

Maren Walinski, M.A.

Maren Walinski is a PhD student of Prof. Greta Olson. Her main research interests lie in gender and feminist studies, body studies – fat studies in particular – and critical media studies. Her PhD project, which developed out of her MA thesis on representations of ‘fat’ bodies in the television series Drop Dead Diva and Mike & Molly, combines all of these areas as it investigates representations of ‘fat’ men in US American television series. It shall explore how these representations contribute to or challenge cultural assumptions of what it means to be a ‘fat’ man, and how intersectional categories such as race, class, or sexual orientation affect these notions. The project will also consider the impact of form and genre on the formation of ‘fat’ masculine identity, with objects of investigation ranging from early situation comedies such as The Honeymooners (1952–1957) to recent drama series like The Sopranos (1999–2007) or Daredevil (2015–).

Since January 2016, Ms. Walinski has been working as coordinator of the “Women Students Database for Gender Research,” and has given workshops on academic writing and publishing in academia for participants of the database. Before, she worked as coordinator of the network “Women of FB 05”. As a feminist, she appreciates that both projects allowed her to actively support women in academia and beyond, and to put into practice some of the theory she has been engaging with throughout her academic career.

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