Genders, Societies, and Cultures after World War II

Genders, Societies, and Cultures after World War II

Jürgen Martschukat, Universität Erfurt, und James Gilbert, University of Maryland/Universität Erfurt
Kleine Synagoge, An der Stadtmünze 5, 99084 Erfurt
Vom - Bis
22.06.2007 - 23.06.2007
Juergen Martschukat, Universität Erfurt

At first glance, with the end of World War II, after fifteen years of depression and war, the United States began to gravitate headlong toward a heteronormative social and gender order with male breadwinner and female homemaker in its center. American cold war society was “Homeward Bound,“ to refer to Elaine Tyler May’s pathbreaking book from 1988, and, as Stephanie Coontz stressed in „The Way We Never Were“ (1992), if there ever was a pro-family period in American history, it was the “long” 1950s.

Fitting as this interpretation is, numerous studies since Joanne Meyerowitz’ “Not June Cleaver” (1994) have revealed the diversity and multiplicity of women’s and men’s roles in postwar America. Obviously, a woman’s life extended beyond that of the quintessential TV-mom June Cleaver, and there was also a male existence different from that of her husband and role-model-father Ward Cleaver. Without a doubt, the 1950s urge to conformity was powerful, and still, gendered lives had many more shades than appeared on the surface. To state the obvious: Not all Americans were white and heterosexual, and even those who were did not necessarily adjust to the focus on the family. Recent and most significant books by Joanne Meyerowitz (“How Sex Changed,” 2002), Steve Estes (“I Am A Man,” 2005), and James Gilbert (“Men in the Middle,” 2005) have shown the diversity and multiplicity of the postwar world, and they have stressed the interrelatedness of gender orders with other categories, such as ethnicity or sexuality.

The workshop on “Genders, Societies, and Cultures after World War II” will take this diversity as its focal point and explore how life was structured by a powerful and gendered socio-cultural matrix which was highly normative on the one hand, but on the other hand opened up spaces for alternative concepts of and approaches to human existence. We will discuss how people coped with the gender system, the cultural and social order and its forces after World War II, and to what extent they shaped, reiterated, or modified its norms.

In addition, we will undertake an international perspective on the re/formation of postwar worlds. While a major focus of the workshop will be laid on U.S. history, at the same time the picture will be broadened by taking the histories of both German societies after World War II into account. Issues raised by talks dealing primarily with the U.S., will be discussed by commentators with reference to the postwar history of either East or West Germany. This conceptual framework will widen the geographical scope of the conference, at the same time as it is meant to sharpen the analytical perspective on how social and cultural categories such as gender, ethnicity, sexuality, or family function, and to what extent they might be understood as being in transition.

Participants are very welcome (limited to 50), please, feel invited to register for the conference with



Friday, 22 June 2007

2:30-3:00 pm
Welcome and Introduction
Jürgen Martschukat, Erfurt University, and James Gilbert, University of Maryland/Erfurt University

3:00-5:00 pm
Session 1: Returning Veterans
Chair: Sebastian Jobs, Erfurt University

Mr. Jones Comes Home. U.S. Veterans and the Postwar Body Politic
Christina Jarvis, SUNY Fredonia

Comment: The War in Their Minds. War Veterans, “Mental Politics,” and Postwar Regeneration in Europe
Svenja Goltermann, Bremen University

7:00 pm

Saturday, 23 June 2007

9.00-11.00 am
Session 2: Sexuality
Chair: Sabine Sielke, University of Bonn

Sex Wars of the 1950s: A Reconsideration
Joanne Meyerowitz, Yale University

Comment: The Fifties In-between: Forgotten Weimar, Repressive Third Reich, and Liberated Sixties? Another Reconsideration
Heiko Stoff, Braunschweig University

11.00-11.30 am: Coffee

11.30 am-1.30 pm
Session 3: Ethnicity
Chair: Olaf Stieglitz, Cologne University

On Being and Becoming: Race and Gender in Modern America
Steve Estes, Sonoma State University

Comment: Postwar Reformulations of Race and/or Ethnicity in a Transnational Perspective
Maren Möhring, Cologne University

1.30-3.30 pm

3.30-5.30 pm
Session 4: Family
Chair: Isabel Heinemann, Freiburg University

The “Inexpressive Male” of the 1950s and “Outsider” Movie Roles
James Gilbert, University of Maryland

Comment: Domesticating the Wild One. Post War Males in Post War Families
Dorothee Wierling, Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte, Hamburg

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