Anja Nowak

Faculty of Arts
Frankfurt am Main
Killam Doctoral Scholarships

Research Topic

The Figure of the Child in Walter Benjamin's Writings

Research Description

The figure of the child is a recurring concept in the writings of German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin. Not only is it the object of many of his texts, it also encodes important core ideas of his philosophy. Working with the material that the new Critical Edition of Benjamin's works makes accessible, I will approach this central concept to investigate its meaning for Benjamin's understanding of history, for his social diagnosis, as well as his particular notion of cultural perception and memory. My research follows the assumption that the critical sharpness and the sensitive awareness of Benjamin's anti-systematic and challenging philosophy are still of importance. His philosophy works as an important advocate for the ulterior elements of culture and history, and for all those things that tend to be excluded and forgotten.

What do you hope to accomplish with your research?

I hope to contribute to a deepened understanding of Benjamin's works by using the newly accessible material and elaborating on my very particular reading of his writings. Furthermore, I would like to highlight the importance of his very cautious and idiosyncratic ideas for contemporary thinking.

What has winning a major award meant to you?

Winning this major award is very motivating. I'm grateful for the support, the recognition and the encouragement this means. The award will open up great possibilities and will make my studies even more enjoyable and prolific. It facilitates the contact to other research institutions and allows the essential study at archives (such as the Walter Benjamin Archive in Berlin or the German Radio Archive in Frankfurt). Also the contact with the academic community will become much easier.

What was the best surprise about UBC or life in Vancouver?

I was amazed by the friendliness, the tolerance and the diversity of the city. It was also great to see how much appreciation and support is to be found at UBC.

Why did you decide to study at UBC?

My decision to study at UBC was mostly influenced by its open-mindedness and its incredibly welcoming atmosphere. Also, my department is amazingly versatile and dedicated. It allows diverse research foci and the pursuit of creative - and also less conventional - questions. Overall, it offers a supportive and inspiring environment and the input of excellent scholars. Last but not least, the beautiful city of Vancouver added a great deal to my decision.


Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

Intensively working with literary and philosophical texts gives me great pleasure. My studies and the following work at the Goethe University Frankfurt led to the realization that my love for theoretical work would be best placed in an academic context. Besides, I am convinced that the study of humanities holds a fundamental value for every society and that critical thought, creativity, as well as cultural and artistic productivity are indispensable.

What advice do you have for new graduate students?

Enjoy the beautiful city and the stunning nature around you. Don't let the rain scare you. Buy waterproof clothes and rubber boots. Enjoy the fantastic food. Make use of the offered support and don't worry too much if you feel lost at times - that's normal and it'll pass. Enjoy your work.