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US Fulbright Scholar Rebecca Rovit Speaks at Vienna Mayor's Reception

Professor Rebecca Rovit (University of Kansas), the current Fulbright-Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften Senior Visiting Fellow, was invited to speak during the opening of a reception Dr. Michael Häupl, the Mayor of Vienna,  hosted for international scholars and scientists at Vienna's City Hall on December 5.  Andreas Mailath-Porkorny, the Executive City Councillor for Cultural Affairs (and a Fulbright alumnus of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Bologna), welcomed over 630 members of Vienna's current scientific community. He underlined the role of Vienna as a science and research hub in Central Europe before Professor Rovit reflected on the personal and professional opportunities associated with living and working in Vienna.  During her tenure as a Fulbright-IFK Senior Visiting Fellow she is  doing comparative research on the post-World War II theater scenes in Vienna and Berlin. The Vienna City Hall has also reported about the event on its website.

Remarks by Prof. Rovit

Good evening! Thank you, Claudia, for your kind introduction. Herr Stadtrat Mailath-Pokorny: Ladies and Gentlemen; Fellow colleagues: It is a signal pleasure to be here as a representative of several international research institutions. I am a theatre historian from the University of Kansas in the United States. I am also privileged to be a Fulbright Scholar to Austria and a Fellow at the Institute for Cultural Studies, the IFK. The Fulbright, with its Austrian-American Educational Commission, was founded to foster international education and to encourage intellectual and cultural exchange. The IFK prides itself on its interdisciplinary center for research and its link to the Kunstuniversität Linz. And I can’t tell you what a fruitful opportunity it is for Fulbrighters like me to immerse ourselves in a new culture, to exchange ideas, and to collaborate with other scholars. We are also here to pursue our own specialized research; and I am delighted to have access to this city’s vast archival collections. Some of those most helpful to my work are housed inside this extraordinary building, in the Wienbibliothek. On a personal level, it has been an ongoing pleasure for me to live and learn, on a daily basis, something of Austria’s storied history and Vienna’s place in it.

Further, I truly believe it is crucial for us to develop an intercultural sensitivity to events around us, especially in light of the recent elections in the US, and in Austria. The results in yesterday’s election here suggest a division that mirrors the rupture we are seeing in the US electorate. Perhaps we may take some comfort in Austria’s long history which demonstrates that a population with multiple identities and languages can live together, establish coalitions, and cooperate through mutual respect and political plurality. If we can be sympathetic to cultural differences, we may better gauge what is happening in Europe, and beyond, with the global challenges we face as an international community. From the extensive university networks, lecture series and symposia, to publicly-funded cultural venues, and institutions like the Austrian Academy of Sciences and the TU, Vienna offers us many forums within which to learn about these challenges,—and test our responses to them. In terms of geopolitics, it is not by chance that Vienna was chosen as a UN city and the site of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As a cultural historian, I cannot think of a more suitable "temporary home" for me to pursue my research. I have access to national, municipal, and university libraries. Documentation centers for Austrian resistance, exile literature, and Holocaust remembrance exist—alongside the Diplomatic Academy, the Theatermuseum, and the Arnold Schönberg Center. I have delighted in visits to the MuseumsQuartier and the Burgtheater, seen plays at the Volkstheater and the Theater in der Josefstadt, and taken lovely walks in the Prater under the chestnut trees. Just yesterday I attended a concert in an elegant hall inside the State Opera. Unique opportunities are at our disposal to hear world-class music, see diverse performance, and view grand architecture and exhibitions of fine arts.

This city is a veritable hive of cultural exchange for those of us fortunate enough to be here—where we may advance our work, meet and work with new colleagues, and enrich our personal lives through this experience. Let us take a moment together this evening to raise our glasses in a toast of appreciation of both this glorious city, and our most gracious hosts.

Photo credit Alexandra Kromus (www.alexandra-kromus.at/alexandra@alexandra-kromus.at);
l. to r., Mailath-Porkorny, Rovit, Johnson