Can Shrinking Be Good for Japan? A Marxist Best Seller Makes the Case.

Associated Professor Kohei Saito ’09 teaches philosophy at Tokyo University. He received his BA from Wesleyan University where he also studied German. He did his PhD in philosophy at Humboldt Universität in Berlin, Germany. His Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2017) was awarded the most prestigious academic award for Marxian studies, the Isaac Deutscher Memorial Prize, in 2018. This makes him the youngest recipient of that honor. The book has been published in eight languages. 

Saito’s “Capital” in the Anthropocene (Tokyo: Shueisha, 2020) opened up a pathbreaking interpretation of Marx’s theory of postcapitalism in the age of climate crisis, selling 500,000 copies in Japan. His introduction to Marx’s Capital that was utilized as a textbook for a TV program on the NHK network has sold more than 100,000 copies to date. 

Capital in the Anthropocene received “Best Asian Books of the Year” from the Asia Book Awards 2021 Committee.

His book was recently also reviewed in the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

On September 5th, 2023 the NYT published the following article by Ben Dooley and Hisako Ueno.

German Studies Majors and Minors

Anna Tjeltveit ‘23

In May, Anna graduated with a degree in English and German Studies. She received high honors for her joint thesis, which is a novella about environmental destruction in East Germany, titled “Our Future Has Already Begun.” This summer, Anna is teaching Norwegian at Concordia Language Villages, the summer camp program where she has been teaching German for the last few summers. After the summer ends, Anna will be moving to Bremen, Germany, to take a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. She can’t wait for her Fulbright year to start and to see what the rest of the future holds!

Linus Mao ’23

After finishing up a busy senior year at Wesleyan as a COL and GRST major, during which Linus was awarded a DAAD master’s stipendium for Media Studies in Germany and wrote an Honors Thesis titled “‘Tiger’s Leap into the Past’: Cinema, Auteurs, and Time in Fassbinder and Godard,” they will spend their two-month summer break back at home with their family in Shanghai, China. Linus plans to mostly study German, read books and watch films in preparation for doctoral work in German studies at UC Berkeley starting this Fall. Currently, Linus’ project seems to have taken an unexpected Russian turn, as they are watching films directed by Kirill Serebrennikov and enjoying books by Vladimir Nabokov. Linus does hope that this small detour will eventually contribute to their research of German author W.G. Sebald, which Linus is determined to continue in their graduate studies

Miles Cohen ’23

Miles left Wesleyan with a triple major in Government, COL, and GRST. He wrote the following to Professor Bork about his summer plan: “I was very happy to graduate Wesleyan as a triple major in the College of Letters, German Studies, and Government. I received High Honors in the COL and German Studies and Honors in Government. I wrote a senior thesis titled ‘Symbols of Hate: The History of White Supremacy Through Symbolic Representation’ and was awarded the White Fellowship from the Government Department and the Blankenagel Prize from the German Studies Department. I am currently living in Washington D.C. and working as a Research Analyst intern for the political and economic development firm Just Results. After the summer I will either stay in D.C. or move to New York City with some lovely friends, I have yet to decide. However, the future is bright! Huzzah!” 

The honors theses will become available on Wesleyan’s website Digital Collection.

Yasemin Schmitt ‘24

This summer, Yasemin will be attending a six-week-long study abroad program in Berlin at Freie Universität through FUBiS. She will be taking an intensive advanced German language class. Through her course and personal excursions, she is excited to be learning about Berlin’s history and what daily life is like. Yasemin is also planning to travel to southern Germany and Turkey until the end of July to see relatives. Upon her return, Yasemin will spend time with family and friends and get ready for the fall semester.

On June 14th, I received the following email and photos from Yasemin and Spencer Klink ‘25 , who are both studying in Berlin:

Liebe Frau Bork, 

es ist wirklich toll, dass ich in Berlin wohne und studiere. (…) Ich finde die Stadt so schön und man kann hier so viel tun. Es ist schwierig Berlin zu beschreiben, weil jeder Ort anders ist. Der Sprachkurs ist auch toll und ich habe viel Übung beim Lesen, Sprechen und Hören. Ich habe das Gefühl, dass ich nach nur einer Woche freier sprechen kann. Ich mache wenige Pausen und Fehler und kann auch schnelles Deutsch besser verstehen. Gestern habe ich ein Referat über Gedächtnisforschung ohne Notizen gegeben. Jeden Tag lerne ich so vielen Wörter und auch verschiedenen Arten von Sprachen. 

Dieses Wochenende haben Spencer und ich Sarah und Elia gesehen. Wir sind zum Prenzlauer  Berg und Mauerpark gegangen und haben zusammen deutsches Frühstück gegessen. Gestern haben wir uns für das Abendessen getroffen und gehen in ein Freiluftkino in der Stadt. Am Freitag fahre ich mit der Zug nach Heidelberg, um Lena zu besuchen.”

Teaching Assistant Sarah and Yasemin

Morgan Shaw ‘25

This summer Morgan will be staying in his hometown, Chattanooga, Tennessee, waiting tables. 

Daniel Holt ‘25

In late May and early June, Daniel worked as Professor Bork’s research assistant and translated a film script of the documentary by Tilman Bünz, Der SS-Mann und das Mädchen. Der Aufstand im Warschauer Ghetto 1943. (The SS Man and the Girl. The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 1943.) The documentary aired on Germany’s TV station ARD in early May and will be made available with English subtitles to the Wesleyan community in the fall.

This summer, Daniel will also be working at a summer day camp before returning to Wesleyan.

Film Event: TV Series Doppelhaushälfte

Wesleyan is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in April, so come and join us this Wednesday, April 26 at 6pm in Fisk 413 for the last screening of our “Asian German FilmSeries” and pizza!

We’ll be showing some episodes of the 2022 TV series Doppelhaushälfte (Semi-Detached), with Iranian and Vietnamese diasporic characters in the main cast. 

The Kröger-Sawadi family from hip Berlin has just settled down in a suburban duplex home, right next door to the Knuppes. Their idyllic house in the countryside may not be what they imagined… Come see how the neighbors get along in this fresh and subversive take on the German “culture-clash comedy”!


Wensinger and Lensing on Enzensberger

In memory of poet and essayist Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who recently passed away at the age of 93, retired German Studies professors Jerry Wensinger and Leo Lensing published commemorative articles in the “Geisteswissenschaften” section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on February 15, 2023. For historical background, Enzensberger had been offered a yearlong fellowship at Wesleyan’s Institute for Advanced Studies (now the Center for the Humanities), but in January 1968 resigned after only a semester to move to Cuba “to work there for a substantial period of time,” as he explained in his resignation letter to Wesleyan president Etherington. On campus, he had been disturbed by the quiescent attitude towards the militarism of the Johnson administration, an attitude he found reflected in how people talked about US politics: “a new crop of words has been banished, by common consent, from polite society: words like “exploitation”  and “imperialism.” They have acquired a touch of obscenity. Political scientists have taken to paraphrases and circumlocution which sound like the neurotic euphemisms of the Victorians. Some sociologists have gone so far as to deny the very existence of a ruling class. Obviously, it is easier to abolish the word “exploitation” than the thing it designates; but then, to do away with the term is not to do away with the problem.”

Asian German Film Series

These contemporary German productions represent diasporic characters of Central, West, South, Southeast, and East Asian descent in a variety of genres and intersecting themes including stereotypes, gender, generation, mixed race identity, class, disability, and more.


(1) Get Up (Steh auf!), a 2019 short drama, directed by Seung-Hyun Chong. Taeshik, a German-born 26-year-old of Korean descent is torn between his Korean upbringing and his life in Germany. (2) Fruits & Vegetables (Obst und Gemüse), a 2017 short comedy-drama by Vietnamese director Duc Ngo Ngoc. At first glance, the Vietnamese greengrocer and his employee, who is as attached to the Berlin soccer team FC Union as he is to alcohol, have little in common. At second glance…

Tschick (Goodbye Berlin), a 2016 coming of age film, directed by Fatih Akin, based on Wolfgang Herrndorf’s bestselling novel Tschick. The film depicts two teenage outsiders from Berlin who steal a car and go on an eccentric roadtrip through Germany that will probably change their lives.

My Blind Date with Life (Mein Blind Date mit dem Leben), a 2017 biopic, directed by Marc Rothemund, based on the autobiographical book by Saliya Kahawatte. An ambitious young man struggles to achieve his dream of becoming an employee in a Munich luxury hotel despite being strongly visually impaired.

Semi-Detached (Doppelhaushälfte), a 2022 German TV comedy series. A family moves from hip Berlin to a semi-detached house in the idyllic countryside and gets to know their very different neighbors…

Online German 101 Superintensive with the Goethe-Institut

  • January 2-9: Preparatory asynchronous modules to be completed
  • January 10-23: Mondays-Saturdays 10am-11:30am (Eastern Time)
  • January 25: Final Exam

This 3-week superintensive online course allows students who were not able to attend GRST 101 this fall, to enroll in GRST 102 this spring. German 101 Superintensive is an introduction to German and leads to communicative competence in German by building on the four primary skills–speaking, listening, reading, and writing–while developing participants’ awareness of life and culture of German-speaking countries.

The German language opens vistas into a world of ideas that is as complex as it is elemental. It provides access to many fields, from philosophy to the natural sciences and many disciplines between: history, musicology, art history, and environmental studies. The course sequence 101/102/211 prepares students to study abroad in Germany, on one of the two Wesleyan-approved programs in Berlin and Hamburg or continue with GRST212 here at Wesleyan.

The cost of this non-credit course, offered by the Goethe-Institut – worldwide leader in German Language education – is $1350 but offered to all members of the Wesleyan community at a 20% discount. Registration is open through December 23 by emailing Learn more about the Goethe-Institut online. Students with additional questions are welcome to contact Professor Bork-Goldfield in Wesleyan’s German Studies Department.