PhD in Cultural Studies

Andrea Zach, 2017

Andrea Zach

Andrea Zach graduated December 2017 with her PhD in Cultural Studies. She first came to Mason as a master’s student in Sociology and joined the Department of Modern and Classical Languages in 2012 to teach 100-, 200-, and 300-level courses in German. While at Mason, she’s taught a variety of undergraduate courses in other disciplines, as well as graduate and undergraduate courses at INTO-Mason. She also serves as a researcher at the Institute for Immigration Research. 

Zach worked on her dissertation, "The Cultural Production of Heimat: Citizenship, Immigration and the Political Economy of Shared Frontiers in Europe," with Prof. Paul Smith, Prof. Peter Mandaville and Prof. Marion Deshmukh. Her research addresses the German idea of heimat (homeland) within the historical context of German reunification—observing how the concept has changed, or not changed. Heimat is not a word directly translatable to English, but essentially reflects a person’s strong sense of belonging. Growing up in Germany, Zach said she has always been interested in German culture, and added that living in the United States for the past 18 years provides the ability to view the culture and politics of Germany from a distance, allowing a broader approach to her research.

The financial crisis of 2008, the more recent refugee crisis, as well as the Pegida movement (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West), are events Zach researched specifically to understand how German patriotism is changing and fill the gaps found in her research on heimat from the past ten years. She is currently using her dissertation and other research to write a book on the topic.

Zach became interested in heimat as an area of research after witnessing the United States’ reaction to the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City. The discussions surrounding “homeland security” and increased patriotism brought her back to heimat and the factors that do, or don’t influence it. As a professor within the German program, her research and findings are incorporated within her upper-level courses.  

Zach chose to remain at Mason after earning her master’s degree and pursue a PhD in cultural studies in part because of the faculty. Zach said she appreciated the opportunity to use her background in sociology while branching out to other disciplines. The interdisciplinary nature, she said, helped her to find a more in-depth perspective regarding the condition of cultural objects constrained by conflict and change and could apply those lessons to her dissertation research. With her diploma in hand, Zach said she plans to continue teaching.