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More Atlantic Crossings? Europe’s Role in an Entangled History of the Atlantic World, 1950s-1970s

June 7-9, 2012

Conveners: Jan Logemann (GHI), Mary Nolan (NYU), Daniel Rodgers (Princeton)

Fifteen years ago Daniel Rodgers’ Atlantic Crossings marked a milestone in the transnational history of the twentieth century Atlantic world. It not only put the American Progressive Era within a broader Atlantic framework, but also highlighted a myriad of transnational exchanges and networks among professionals, civil society organizations, policy-makers and intellectuals during the first half of the twentieth century. The study, however, ends during the 1940s, as the increase in U.S. power fundamentally altered the dynamics of transatlantic relations. This workshop will explore the degree to which we can still trace these reciprocal “Atlantic Crossings” into the postwar decades. In what ways and areas, specifically, did Europeans and European social, economic, and cultural models continue to shape transatlantic debates despite the seemingly overwhelming role played by the United States?
 
We are interested in taking stock of ongoing research on transnational transatlantic exchanges since the middle of the twentieth century.  In a recent essay on the field of transnational history, Ian Tyrell singled out the postwar decades as a period in order to illustrate the impact of asymmetrical power relationships on transnational exchange processes. To him and many others, the era was one of unidirectional transatlantic flows and of “Americanization.”  Despite such imbalances, Americans did not cease to look to Europe after World War II in search of alternative solutions, inspirations or challenges. Postwar development was in many areas more entangled than linear narratives of Americanization suggest. While the social question dominated the Atlantic Crossings of the early part of the twentieth century, issues of social modernization and mass consumer affluence were of special significance in the decades under consideration here. These were, to be sure, trademark issues of the “American century,” but at the same time, they were subject to competing visions of modernity.
 
The impact of European impulses on the American social landscape has not yet received systematic consideration from historians of the postwar period.  As Americans recognized the limitations of the American Dream, what elements of European social policy did they consider? As the death of the American city became an issue of debate, how did American perspectives on European cities change? While Europeans were discussing the “American challenge,” how did American society react to the increasing global competitiveness of European economies? As American commercial culture became ubiquitous, did European notions of culture and style disappear completely from the transatlantic scene? In many areas, European social or economic models failed to gain traction and cases of outright imports are far and few between. Still, such exchanges should be considered a vital element of the entangled history of the postwar Atlantic world, complementing our increasingly refined understanding of European reflections about and adaptations of American models.  
 

This workshop will focus on concrete exchanges and actors; and it will investigate the relative importance of transatlantic networks of policy makers and professionals, of civil society organizations and of business
managers, artists, intellectuals, and cultural entrepreneurs. Their world was often one that transcended binary oppositions between Europe and America. It was, however, also shaped by larger dynamics of the era – most importantly Cold War divisions, perceptions of crisis during the 1970s, and a new era of globalization. Thus, understanding the entangled history of the postwar Atlantic world also means considering its place within a broader global framework.          

To explore postwar American perspectives on Europe, as well as the degree of and limitations to postwar “Transatlantic Crossings,” we are soliciting submissions from historians and scholars in related fields working on post World-War II transatlantic exchanges in (among others) the following areas:
 
  • Public policy
  • Social movements (environmentalism, feminism, peace movement) and ideology
  • Urban planning and architecture
  • Management studies, labor relations and human resources
  • Science and technology
  • Arts and popular culture
  • Gender and the family
  • Transatlantic networks and elite migrants

Please send a paper title, a 500 word abstract, and a CV to Jan Logemann (logemann@ghi-dc.org) by December 1, 2011. Expenses for travel (economy class) and accommodation will be covered, though you may defray organizing costs by soliciting funds from your home institution.

Date: 2011-10-25