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uni'wissen 1-2013_ENG

Ahouse is ablaze. Flames leap out of the win­ dows, smoke billows into the air. A firefighter charges into the burning house and emerges from it again shortly afterwards: behind him the flames, his face covered in soot, in his arms a rescued child. Scenes like these are familiar to us from countless films, television series, and other media. “They convey the image of a fear­ less hero,” says Wolfgang Hochbruck, professor of North American studies at the Department of English of the University of Freiburg. “The ste­ reotypical firefighter in American films pays no heed to safety regulations, is selfless and pre­ pared to put his life on the line for others.” How­ ever, Hochbruck stresses that firefighters are not heroes in a modern sense. Rather, their behavior corresponds more closely to a medieval image of chivalry. “You don’t see anything more closely resembling swords and plate armor today than the heavy protective equipment and the axes always carried by the Americans.” Hochbruck is conducting research into the various images and cultural backgrounds of firefighters. The cultural studies and literary scholar is studying how the media portrays firefighters, how the public per­ ceives them, what role their profession plays in society, and how the situation in Germany differs from that in the USA. From April to September 2011 he worked on the project as a fellow at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS) of the University of Freiburg. He came upon the idea for this research topic because he has been a firefighter himself for around eleven years, currently in the towns of Denzlingen and Waldkirch near Freiburg. He became a volunteer firefighter after 11 Septem­ ber 2001, at the age of 42. “This gives me a com­ pletely different appreciation for the topic and for the people I interview,” says Hochbruck. He is especially interested in fire prevention education for children. In 2009 he visited the New York City Fire Department’s (FDNY) renowned elite unit Rescue Company 1. During a research trip to Oregon in 2012, he observed the training com­ pany of the professional firefighters of Spring­ field and Eugene and studied the volunteer fire American studies professor Wolfgang Hochbruck is studying the behavior of firefighters during operations by Katrin Albaum Wolfgang Hochbruck is studying the behavior of firefighters during operations by Katrin Albaum “There is something of an international firefighter habitus” 21