News posted on behalf of Professor Bishnupriya Ghosh, UCSB Department of English and Global Studies:
Giles, Sabine, and I congratulate Katja Siepmann on successfully defending her dissertation on September 3, 2021.
Titled, Empire of Toys: The Global History of a German Industry, Katja’s dissertation traces the history of German toys made in two regions (Sonneburg/Coburg and Nuremberg) that dominated the transatlantic toy trade before World War I. These toys were intertwined with “making men,” as they invited young boys, in particular, to make worlds with military games. The story Katja tells is of the cross-border mobility of these global commodities from the late nineteenth century, and their consequent disappearance as “German-made” toys after World War I when British and American competitors pitched their wares.
The dissertation is eight chapters in length, draws on multilingual sources, and is richly visual in its image archives. Katja's archive spans trade journals and newspapers, toy museums and catalogs, to articulate a material history of objects that change value in their circulation even as they animate and shape the worlds through which they pass.
Giles Gunn and I co-directed the dissertation with Sabine Frühstück as the third member and our resident expert on war, masculinities, and play. All three committee members agreed that Empire of Toys was one of the best we have ever directed (and there are many dissertations between us) in the originality and depth of scholarship.
This is a dissertation of true distinction. Please join me in congratulating Katja!