What’s next, Carolin Herzog?
She discovered the great variety of Burundian literature and put it down on paper in her dissertation. Carolin Herzog is now alumna of BIGSAS, after having delivered a successful defence in February 2020. We are interested: what has driven her ahead and what will happen next.
The journey to Bayreuth was more a coincidence than an active decision. During an internship in Brussels she heard about the TGCL – Tanzanian-German Centre for Eastern African Legal Studies in Bayreuth. The joint project between the University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Bayreuth was founded in 2008 and offers Master’s and PhD scholarships for ambitious students of the East African Community. When support was needed in 2013, Carolin applied and soon became part of the team.
Coming from the field of German, French and Spanish literature and linguistics, the environment of the University of Bayreuth invited her to become a part of the Africa research. While working at the TGCL, she thought about a research with a regional focus on East Africa. She contacted Professor Ute Fendler, with whom she regularly exchanged ideas in the decision-making process. Initially, Carolin focused on Rwandan literature, but soon realised that there is little research on Burundian literature.
“I was completely not aware of Burundi at that time, I have to admit. But this research topic caught me, because I could be one of the first in this field.”
After carrying out the necessary preparatory research and writing an exposé, Carolin became part of BIGSAS where she particularly appreciated the “powerful community” with which she was able to interact over the years. One of the highlights were the many conversations that provided an opportunity for exchange as well as the self-organised “writing ashrams”. The work groups also proved to be enriching; they offered a way to reflect on a topic from different angles. Other BIGSAS workshops such as a consulting workshop created room for additional interactions.
Surely there must have been a special experience during the doctoral training period? Yes – the Annual Conference of the African Literature Association which was hosted by Yale University in New Haven in 2017. While around 600 people come together for a whole week and one can choose from seven panels taking place at the same time, this either ends in a complete overwhelming or exciting experience. For Carolin it was the latter: “I was so impressed by the gathering of international experts on African literature. It was hard to choose what presentations to attend”.
At the conference she gave one of her first presentations in French. She mastered this challenge and was rewarded with positive feedback.
“I don’t like to hold presentations so much, but it was good and so motivating. That is what strikes me the most – the questions and the critique was always good for my work and dissertation”.
Of course, there were also a few downsides during the PhD. A big challenge was the selection process of the novels. But here too, discussions with colleagues and mentors helped.
“Literature is so plenty, there are so many angles to look at it.”
The writing process also proved to be difficult at times. But participation in external and self-organised writing camps ultimately spurred the writing process and the majority of the writing part could be completed within twelve months.
Although Carolin officially completed her doctorate in less than two years, she stresses the long preparatory work she put into it. It’s important to research and explore a topic thoroughly. To do this, she attended seminars at the Romance Studies chair and read many books in advance. Ultimately, all the work has paid off: she is now Dr Carolin Herzog.
What is next?
In addition to her doctorate she has also remained loyal to the TGCL. Through her commitment she now continues to be part of the team as the TGCL project manager at the University of Bayreuth. She is responsible for financial monitoring as well as project and strategic management to make the centre sustainable, shifting the responsibility from UBT and DAR – as the responsibility in the future will fall solely to the University of Dar es Salaam.
But there are other ideas and projects that she is now tackling after her doctorate. Her dissertation which is already available online may also be printed by a publishing house. She is also writing an article for a book chapter on the literary field in Burundi. She is also collecting ideas for her own literary book project. Finally, her love for reading novels continues and many Burundian works are still on her bookshelf – passion doesn’t stop with the dissertation.