Welcome

My name is Pia Banzhaf.  I am an assistant professor (fixed-term) with the German program in the Department of Linguistics and Languages at Michigan State University where I teach German language at the beginning intermediate level. I have 12 years of experience teaching German in the North American classroom. I am affiliated with the Residential College of Arts and Humanities (RCAH) and teach a Creative Process course in Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities (IAH).

I hold a PhD from the Cultural Studies Program at Queen’s University in Kingston. During my time at Queen’s, I researched storytelling with puppets from a cognitive perspective. I am especially interested in the emergence of percepts of animacy through the direction and quality of the manipulators’ movements and gaze, what joint attention brings to this and why granting agency to inanimate objects is-oddly enough-the most natural thing for humans to do.I adapted Tinbergen’s Four Questions, as a framework this transdisciplinary and autoethnographical exploration. My research project received funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

My interest in the perception of puppets reawakened my passion for puppetry practice and in 2010, I immersed myself into the study of puppetry arts as a puppeteer. I am co-founder of the Newfoundland Puppet Collective, a group best known for developing a new form of story-theatre with innovative illuminated lantern puppets and traditional stories. The Newfoundland Puppet Collective is comprised of artists working towards community development through the arts.

I also hold an M.A. in German Studies from Memorial University in Newfoundland. My M.A. thesis from Memorial University of Newfoundland on “Das Streben nach Erkenntnis als Weg zur Selbsterlösung in Hermann Brochs Tierkreis-Erzählungen” (supervisor Prof. Jean Snook) employed Wassily Kandinsky’s Über das Geistige in der Kunst as a key to unlock the gnostic undercurrents in Broch’s work. Understanding the connection between the gnostic, the animistic and the grotesque has proven helpful in looking into the origins of puppetry as well.

In addition, I completed the Erstes Staatsexamen (M.A. equivalent) at the University of Dortmund, Germany, where I majored in German linguistics and comparative cultural anthropology of textiles with a minor in psychology.My thesis for the Erstes Staatsexamen on Schreiben in der Zweitsprache−Kontrastive Fehleranalyse in Schülertexten (Italienisch-Deutsch) (supervisor Prof. Dr. Ludger Hoffmann) examined possible interferences between first and second language in written student texts. I graduated from the two-year teacher training college in Bochum, Germany, with the Zweites Staatsexamen (Teaching Certification).

Pia Banzhaf CV 

You can read my bio for the MSU German Program Spotlight here and see profiles of students and faculty of MSU German Program here.


A while ago I was an avid blogger, chronicling my life on a remote island off of the coast of Canada. But graduate school put an end to that particular project. So, now, that my roles have evolved, I hope that this website will be a point of contact for scholars and artists who are interested in similar questions as I am. I may even look into the possibilities of blogging again. So, while I am wearing several hats, I am putting all of these into one big hatbox: Kaleidoscopia.