The essays in this volume are a tribute to and a showpiece of the ascendancy of the American Studies field in post-World War II Germany and Western Europe. Berndt Ostendorf has been a leading figure in that new field in postwar Europe. He does not shy away from making frequent references to his own intellectual autobiography in these essays. His chapter "Growing up in the Fifties: Jazz, the Cold War and the Birth of American Studies" represents a veritable showpiece of postwar intellectual formation of a young German escaping the burdens of German Nazi history by way of total immersion in American popular culture. He demonstrates how the new opportunities offered by student exchange programs – what today we call "international student mobility" – allowed young Germans (and young Austrians like myself) to embark on trajectories of "Westernization" and "Americanization". Such escapes helped mastering difficult pasts and open new windows for post-Nazi intellectual formation. Clearly his visits of the United States as a high school pupil and later as a university student and lecturer offered personal and intellectual windows to a new life. Such a new world, both less stultifying and more inviting to foreigners, put Ostendorf on the path towards becoming a shaper of postwar German and Western European discourses about America.
Ostendorf held the chair of American Studies in Munich for more than 20 years (1981–2005) and produced a steady flow of essays and articles that defined many aspects of American cultural studies in the postwar European American Studies movement. He was a key "translator" and mediator of American academic discourses in Germany and Western Europe and in the process helped shape those debates on the continent. He was one of the first to venture into "black studies" in Europe, thus contributing to the formation of African-American cultural studies discourses in the 1980s. He was a key impresario in grounding the " multi-Kulti "-debate in Germany in the 1990s in the larger American context of that discourse. He contributed to a thorough understanding of American popular music and introduced it to the ethno-musicology discourses in Germany.
As chair of American Studies he regularly invited top-notch and cutting-edge American academics to come as Fulbright guest professor to his " Amerika-Institut " at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. These guests immersed the Munich students in their innovative research interests and thus contributed to uplift them to participate in those innovative discourses. Both Sidney Mintz and the late George McGovern, the 1972 nominee for President of the Democratic Party (who also held a PhD in American History), taught in Munich as Eric Voegelin guest professors. When I served as a visiting guest lecturer in Munich in 1993/1994, David Blight (then Amherst College, now Yale University) was involved in doing his path-breaking research on Civil War memory later published in the prize-winning book Race and Reunion . Through these prominent visitors the Munich students came to inhale and reflect these discourses, at times even before they came to dominate the American intellectual landscape. Munich students often knew about these academic debates before they became popular in the US. So it went with many superstars of American academia who came to the Ostendorf's Amerika Institut in Munich.
Ostendorf's New Orleans essays collected in this volume give a cross-section of his amazingly diverse yet idiosyncratic contributions to the field of American cultural studies as seen through the lens and mirror of the rich cultural history of the Crescent City. Ostendorf penned these