Human-Doll/Puppet Discourses as a Viable Research Topic?

Human-doll/puppet discourses as a subject of a science-based journal – is that possible? Dolls in all their manifestations and diverse materials, as anthropomorphic figures with human features, as toys, literary and medial products, hand puppets, marionettes, robots, etc., made of wood, plush, plastic, metal, paper and above all: created from imagination and fantasy, dolls rarely are and have been the subject of scientific questioning. Although existing as long as can be remembered and being “deeply integrated into the fabric of human life” (Mattenklott 2014, 29), dolls, these ancient and ubiquitous “pilgrims” (Gross 2009, 187) from the world of things and artifacts are, in a peculiar way, pejoratively connoted with an aura of childlike and trivial qualities. It is not without reason that Yoko Tawada (2000, 5) points to a striking “gap in the academic discourse”.
A first successful attempt to fill this gap was the interdisciplinary and international doll conference held at the University of Siegen in 2013 entitled Puppen – Menschheitsbegleiter in Kinderwelten und imaginären Räumen (“Dolls – Human Companions in the World of Children and Imaginary Realms“; Fooken and Mikota 2014). The particular ambiguity of dolls is generated by their anthropomorphic nature, their ‚existence’ between dead matter and animated liveliness, and not least their vicissitude between inferior (play) stuff and high symbolic meaning – all these ambiguous features established ‚dolls/puppets’ as a topic worthy of discourse in the academic field. Dolls are more than just ‘dolls’ – they are mirrors and projection surfaces of human life contexts (Fritz 1992).
These ideas were the starting point for initiating “denkste: puppe / just a bit of: doll” (acronym: de:do). The journal is designed as an open platform for theoretical and applied research based on texts, images, essays or scene sequences related to dolls, figures and anthropomorphic figures. With dolls or puppets, respectively, as ‘object of knowledge’ – be it as a material artifact, literary narrative, figure of thought, medium and media expression – they are conceived as a referential meta-framework for different scientific and research fields. The journal addresses various scientific disciplines such as literary, art, cultural, theatre, film, media studies, social sciences, psychology, pedagogy, ethnology, anthropology, design and material sciences, robotics, including all kinds of applied aspects and practices. In addition to a particular topic focus, free articles are taken into account as well as other categories (miscellaneous, interviews, discussion forums, essays, artistic works, reviews, etc.), each with doll-related contributions.
The topic focus of the first issue of de:do deals with dolls/puppets in threat scenarios. The starting point was the assumption that in times of existential threat dolls and other anthropomorphic artifacts can become significant (transitional) objects that can provide psychological security and attachment as well as (inner) autonomy and agency. The first part of the topic focus deals with external threats and losses in the face of war, flight and experiences of persecution in times of political uncertainty. A second emphasis is on the importance of doll/puppets in aversive contexts and times of internal and intrapsychic forms of disquiet and irritation. The contributions cover a broad disciplinary spectrum: theatre studies, psychology, general as well as child and youth literature, art, film, media and cultural studies, psychotherapy, and puppet theatre.


  • Fooken, Insa, Mikota, Jana (Hg.) (2014). Puppen – Menschenbegleiter in Kinderwelten und imaginären Räumen. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  • Fritz, Jürgen (1992). Spiele als Spiegel ihrer Zeit: Glücksspiele, Tarot, Puppen, Videospiele. Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald.
  • Gross, Kenneth (2009). The Madness of Puppets. The Hopkins Review, 2 (2), 182-205.
  • Mattenklott, Gundel (2014). Heimlich-unheimliche Puppe: Ein Kapitel zur Beseelung der Dinge. In Insa Fooken, Jana Mikota (Hg.), Puppen – Menschenbegleiter in Kinderwelten und imaginären Räumen (S. 29-42). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.
  • Tawada, Yoko (2000). Spielzeug und Sprachmagie in der europäischen Literatur. Eine ethnologische Poetologie. Tübingen: Konkursbuch Verlag.


  • Editorial (Insa Fooken / Jana Mikota)
    War, Flight and Persecution in Times of Political Uncertainty
  • “This is an Anti-War Play” – Artistic Approaches to War in Plastic Heroes (Ariel Doron)
    and Count to One (Yase Tamam) (Franziska Burger)
  • Dolls – Transitional Objects in Times of Radical Change, War and Violence (Insa Fooken)
  • Ursula Fuchs: Emma oder die unruhige Zeit (1979): A (Doll’s) Love in Times of War
    (Magali Nieradka-Steiner)
  • Fictional Journeys becoming true –  Narrative Functions of the Motivating Figure in Gerd
    Schneider´s Youth Novel “Kafkas Puppe” (Julia von Dall’Armi)
  • Dolls and Teddy Bears in Austrian Children’s Magazines during Troubled Times (Susanne
    Aversive Contexts and Times of Psychic Irritation
  • Dolls and Toy Soldiers in E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Nussknacker und Mausekönig: the Secret
    Life Unseen (Brooke Shafar)
  • Sorceress and Martyr’s Body. The life of the Doll in Gottfried Keller’s Novella Romeo und
    Julia auf dem Dorfe and the Episteme of Ritual and Pictorial Acting in Poetic Realism (Nils
    C. Ritter)
  • The Doll’s Shell. Inflatable Dolls in Film and Art (Jana Scholz)
  • Multiple Doll Personalities – Tony Oursler’s Projected Traumas (Anna Friesen)
  • Doing Gender – Doing Human (Natascha Compes)
  • Anthropomorphic Figures in Identity Crisis and their Aesthetic Design Exemplified by the
    Picture Books Das kleine Ich bin ich (Mira Lobe / Susi Weigel) and Pezzettino (Leo Lionni)
    (Juliane Noack Napoles)
    Free Contribution
  • Puppetry as a Structured Therapy Offer in Child Psychotherapy – An Overview with
    Practical Examples for the Development and Implementation of Puppet Therapy (Gudrun
  • “A film star in his own right” – Marlene Dietrich’s Dolls as Props, Talisman and Fetish (Lin
  • Finding Life in a Cold Place – a Reminiscence (Robin Lohmann)
  • Dolls can “open ‘long-locked doors’ in the hearts of many people”. Seven questions to
    Shlomit Tulgan on founding the Jewish puppet theatre Berlin – bubales / Insights into
    Shlomit Tulgan’s Book “The Smart Esther” (Gudrun Schulz)
    Discussion Forum
  • Barbie as a Discourse Machine. Three Sketches (Alexander Wagner)
  • The Uncanny Puppet Gang. Review Ydessa Hendels: From Her Wooden Sleep (Uta
  • Citizen’s Initiative for Puppet Theater Hans Wurst Nachfahren (Hans-Wolfgang Nickel)
  • International Symposium Puppet Therapy (DGTP)