A new German book on gestures and body postures in East German socialist film by Doris Schöps. How is our perception of film characters influenced by their kinesic behaviour? What is the relationship between a character’s body postures and his/her narrative function in the film? The book gives surprising answers to these questions, on the basis of the largest quantitative corpus analysis that has ever been carried out for East German films. The Deutsche Film AG (DEFA) was the East German state-owned film studio that existed from 1946 to 1990. All major film characters in 75 DEFA feature films were annotated for 42 different posture types, and the results were quantitatively evaluated. (I was involved in the statistical analysis of the corpus study.)
The study provides important new insights for DEFA film research, and constitutes a breakthrough for the investigation of body postures, their iconography and their role in contemporary culture. There will be an English-language article summarizing some of the results in the upcoming volume “Body Diagrams” (eds. I. Mittelberg & A. Gerner, published by John Benjamins, 2017). – The cover text [translated from German]:
Body postures are an essential part of human communication: they can express emotions, indicate social hierarchies, and negotiate (sub-)cultural affiliations. This book lays the foundation for a semiotic approach to body postures as part of human kinesic behaviour, and proposes a lexicological description for conventional body postures.
The second part of the book applies the developed approach in a corpus-based study of DEFA films (East German socialist film). The results indicate that the body postures adopted by the film characters depend, to some degree, both on the overall behaviour of the characters, and of their role in the plot. Film characters literally ‘embody’ some of their properties, and of their overall narrative functions. The body behaviour of the characters in DEFA films is connected to the socialist world view, to the ‘official party line’ as well as its contradictions and partial subversions. The results are discussed against the background of political and cultural developments in the GDR from 1946 to 1989. The study contributes to the exploration of the DEFA films, to the iconography of body postures in Western cultures, and to the discussion about embodiment in contemporary cultures. It constitutes a breakthrough for kinesics research, and demonstrates a number of methodological innovations for quantitative approaches in film and multimodal studies.
Doris Schöps studied arts education, German and Italian philology in Dresden, Rome, and Berlin. She received a PhD from the University of Technology Berlin in 2014. Her research focuses on the embodiment of stereotypes, on visual discourses, and on the use of gestures in second and foreign language teaching.
Doris Schöps (2016), Körperhaltungen und Rollenstereotype im DEFA-Film. Eine korpusanalytische Untersuchung. (series Film – Medium – Diskurs, vol. 72.) Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, hardcover, 24,2 x 17 x 4,5 cm, 548 pages, more than 100 illustrations, colour printing, 58,00 €. ISBN 978-3-8260-5977-3
Obtainable from the publisher, buchhandel.de or from amazon.de.
[Update:] A new English-language article on evidence on the genocide question in Spiecker’s diary has recently appeared in the Journal of Namibian Studies.
My new book has been published in June 2013; it focuses on the context of the Herero and Nama uprising and genocide in German South-West Africa (which later became Namibia). It draws mainly from the newly published diary of Johannes Spiecker (see below, next entry). This historical source was previously only available in one archive and more or less overlooked by historians. My book discusses the historically important points of the diary, details its historical context, and compares it to other sources. A series of drawings that were made on the basis of photos from Spiecker, a historical map and an index – indispensable because of the numerous names of places and people – are included.
The cover text:
From 1905 to 1907, in his role as inspector for the Rhenish Missionary Society, Johannes Spiecker traveled through German South-West Africa. At this time, the Herero and Nama uprising was still ongoing. The missionaries urged the insurgents to lay down arms, fully knowing that they would be transported in concentration camps, where many of them died.
Spiecker intervened for a better treatment of the prisoners (with little result) and against the plans of some members of the Schutztruppe who openly spoke about extermination of whole tribes. He proposed Governor Lindequist to abstain from a punishing campaign against the Ovambo. Disregarding directions from headquarters in Barmen, he traveled to Ovamboland where he met Ovambo chief Nechale, whom he pressured to submit to the German colonial government.
Spiecker’s role is ambivalent; his interventions might have influenced some aspects of the war (especially the planned Ovambo campaign). In the present publication, Spiecker’s private 2000-page diary documenting his travels, the colony, and the uprising is evaluated in its historical context; concepts of post-colonial studies and travel writing research are applied for a critical reading. The book offers an inside view on life in the colony, the situation in the war zone, and the involvement of the Rhenish Mission in many aspects of colonization.
Martin Siefkes (2013), Sprache, Glaube und Macht. Die Aufzeichnungen des Johannes Spiecker in Deutsch-Südwestafrika zur Zeit des Herero-Nama-Aufstands. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, soft cover, 23.5 x 15.5 x 2 cm, 202 p. (illustrations, historical map, index), 29.80 €. ISBN: 978-3-8260-5197-5
Obtainable from the publisher, buchhandel.de, or amazon.de.
The volume Johannes Spiecker – Mein Tagebuch. Erfahrungen eines deutschen Missionars in Südwestafrika 1905-1907 has just been published. For more than a century, the diary (based on a manuscript that is more than 2000 pages long) had to wait for publication. Four years in the making, the publication of this important historical source has been made possible by combined efforts from the publisher and the United Evangelical Mission in Wuppertal. I've co-edited this publication, and written the introduction.
The diary is an important source illuminating the war and genocide by the German military in German South West Africa; it highlights the role of the missionaries in the rebellion of the Nama and Herero and its repression by the Germans, which was largely one of mediation. Spiecker opposes a campaign against the previously uninvolved Ovambo planned by the Schutztruppe, and advocates improvements in the prison camps. Many other aspects of the role of the Rhenish Mission in the German colony which later became Namibia are illuminated in this fascinating inside report on the missionaries' work in the colonies. Last but not least, it is an exciting read.
Lisa Kopelmann & Martin Siefkes (eds.) (2012), Johannes Spiecker – Mein Tagebuch. Erfahrungen eines deutschen Missionars in Südwestafrika 1905–1907. With an introduction by M. Siefkes and a short biography of Spiecker by W. Apelt (VEM Wuppertal). Berlin: Simon Verlag für Bibliothekswissen, soft cover, 21.0 x 14.5 x 2.7 cm, 530 p., 28.50 €. ISBN: 978-3-940862-41-9
Obtainable from the publisher, buchhandel.de, or Amazon.de.
Reviews & media reports:
My doctoral dissertation Stil als Zeichenprozess (style as a sign process) was published in August 2012. I'm really happy about how the printed volume turned out: it's hardcover in a large format, has solid thick paper, a nice cover, and it comes at a reasonable price of € 49.80.
So, what's it all about?
Style exists in all areas of life. Works of art and texts, architecture and artefacts, reasoning and sports, and even everyday behavior such as driving or walking: In all these areas, the term “style” is used to describe a specific kind of variation. Style theories, however, usually were created in a specific discipline and therefore confined themselves to specific areas, such as verbal texts, art, or architecture. This study introduces the first truly general and analytically precise theory of style.
The theory models the sign processes that occur when styles are used or perceived, with methods and formalisms of logic and computer science. The assumption is made that behavior, artefacts and texts are based on schemata. It is shown how, by selecting from classes of alternatives that are defined by a schema and context conditions, stylistic features are created. Starting from these features, further inferences can be drawn in a stylistic interpretation. In ch. 2, the theory is presented in its general outlines, without technical details. In the following chapters 4 to 7, the model is presented, with careful explanations of every step ensuring that it can be understood without special background knowledge.
Based on the model, a number of important problems can be analyzed and explained: The difference between transmitted and perceived style; the expression of group identities through style; the role of style in the growing individualization of society; and style as a laboratory for new ideas and ways of doing things. [cover text]
A short English introduction can be found here.
Martin Siefkes (2012), Stil als Zeichenprozess. Wie Variation bei Verhalten, Artefakten und Texten Information erzeugt. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, hardcover, 24.2 x 17 x 4.2 cm, 502 p. (illustrations, index), 49.80 €. ISBN: 978-3-8260-4695-7
Obtainable from the publisher, buchhandel.de, or Amazon.
The extensive volume “Sign Culture – Zeichen Kultur” has just been published. It was edited by Prof. Hess-Lüttich (Bern) and is conceived as a festschrift for Roland Posner, the famous semiotician and theoretician of culture.
The volume (which is mostly written in English) brings together many scholars and scientists from linguistics, semiotics, anthropology, analytic philosophy, and the study of culture, and gives a far-ranging overview on current developments in these fields. I participated with an essay on “unusual cases of communication”.
The book comprises the following chapters:
The table of contents.
The sincere thanks of all semioticians and fans of Roland Posner's work go to Ernest W.B. Hess-Lüttich, for the conception and editing of this volume!
The University of Technology Berlin organized a celebration for Roland Posner at the occasion of this volume’s publication. I've held the laudation [DE] presenting the most important theories and publications of Roland Posner.
Ernest W.B. Hess-Lüttich (ed.), Sign Culture. Zeichen Kultur. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, soft cover, 610 p., 23.5 x 15.5 x 4.5 cm, 58.00 €. ISBN: 978-3-8260-5067-1
Obtainable from the publisher, buchhandel.de, or Amazon.