Assistant Professor of History and German
Kira Thurman is an assistant professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and History at the University of Michigan. A classically-trained pianist who grew up in Vienna, Austria, Thurman earned her PhD in history from the University of Rochester with a minor field in musicology from the Eastman School of Music. Her research, which has appeared in German Studies Review, Journal of the American Musicological Society (JAMS), Opera Quarterly, and Journal of World History, focuses on two topics that occasionally converge: the relationship between music and German national identity, and Central Europe's historical and contemporary relationship with the Black diaspora.
She is the recipient of many awards and fellowships, including a Fulbright fellowship to Germany, the Berlin Prize from the American Academy of Berlin, and a residential fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Her article, "Black Venus, White Bayreuth: Race, Sexuality, and the De-Politicization of Wagner" won the German Studies Association's DAAD prize for best article on German history in 2014. Her book, Singing Like Germans: Black Musicians in the Land of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, is forthcoming with Cornell University Press.
Thurman teaches courses on a wide variety of subjects, including Music and German National Identity; Germany and the Black Diaspora; Global Cultural Encounters Since 1800; Global Migration; and Performing Race, Gender, Nation (grad seminar).
A firm believer in public engagement, Thurman has published articles in magazines such as The New Yorker, served as a consultant for PBS documentaries and public radio projects, and has worked with different orchestras, opera houses, and music ensembles on programming and public education. Together with colleagues across the United States and Europe and with the support of the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., she runs the public history website, blackcentraleurope.com.