“End of Empire”. The British World after 1945

“End of Empire”. The British World after 1945

CRC 923 "Threatened Order. Societies under Stress", University of Tuebingen Project G04 "End of Empire. Re-Ordering in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, 1960- 1980" Prof. Dr. Ewald Frie Clara-Maria Seltmann Sebastian Koch Maike Hausen
University of Tuebingen, Neue Aula, Geschwister Scholl Platz; Alte Aula, Muenzgasse 30
Vom - Bis
10.10.2018 - 12.10.2018
Sebastian Koch, Maike Hausen, Clara-Maria Seltmann

The research project End of Empire. Re-ordering in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, 1960-1980, which is part of the Collaborative Research Centre 923 Threatened Order. Societies under Stress in Tuebingen, follows calls to comparatively integrate former (white) settler colonies into the field of decolonization studies (A. G. Hopkins 2008). While the self-governing Dominions Australia, New Zealand, and Canada were not as dependent on the British ‘motherland’ as colonies such as India, Nigeria, and Jamaica, that does not mean that they should not be considered postcolonial at all, particularly “in terms of their relation to the imperial centre, and the ways in which […] they are ‘in but not of the West’” as sociologist Stuart Hall once wrote. From this perspective, both the colonies as well as the Dominions were ‘colonial’, and both can thus be described as ‘postcolonial’. At the same time, their respective paths to postcolonialism were accompanied by different fears and hopes. The project in Tuebingen is underpinned by the thesis that the gradual disengagement by the British Empire from its former Dominions was seen as a threat by prominent actors. As a result, these actors were put under pressure. Within this context, the proper courses of action became unclear, behavioural expectations and routines were called into question, and Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand actors no longer knew if they could rely on one another, or if they could continue to rely on one another in the near future (Boris Nieswand/ Ewald Frie 2017). Against this backdrop, the actors found themselves compelled to reconceptualize foreign, economic, and cultural policies, ideas, and standards.

The conference “End of Empire. The British World After 1945” seeks productive exchange with other scholars that are interested in transnational and global processes of disintegration and reordering in the postcolonial world following the Second World War. The conference represents an opportunity to present topics and case studies that either attempt to analytically test the categories of decolonization studies or that seek to illustrate the way in which British decolonization was embedded in broader global processes. The conference is structured in the following three panels, that were developed in reference to the main approaches and questions of the Tuebingen based End of Empire project.

Panel I: Conceptions of Identity in the Postcolonial Era

After the End of Empire a cultural reorientation became necessary in the former white settler colonies. Older concepts of identity based on Whiteness and Britishness came under threat from multicultural concepts of society and, over the course of the long 1960s, from the indigenous renaissance. This ‘identity crisis’ (which was often attributed to ‘national inferiority’) made it necessary to reorient national identity politics and led to a realignment among intellectuals, artists, cultural institutions, national symbols, and even holidays in order to be able to articulate their ‘own’ identities independently from the old concept of Britishness. After the concept of a Greater Britain – understood as a global British community – was called into question, spatial aspects such as regionalism and (cultural) relationships to neighbouring countries played a completely different role than they had before the End of Empire. Even (old) systems of knowledge had to be reconsidered in light of the identity crisis, and the concept of one’s ‘own’ space and nation had to be adjusted with a contrasting gaze towards neighbouring countries. Within this context, it was also necessary to re-negotiate how to view the British history of the settler colonies, because this history no longer represented a reliable point of reference for a successful national narrative. That which some actors perceived as a crisis of identity was seen by others – especially formerly marginalized groups such as indigenous peoples – as a chance to highlight injustices, win recognition, and to play their part in the development of ‘new’ identity constructs. The project hopes that interaction with other scholars will allow for a transnational perspective on global discourses about identity and strategies for creating identity, both of which seem to fluctuate between opportunity and threat during periods of social unrest. This approach seeks to uncover differences, commonalities, and (new) interconnections that have often been neglected in prior research.
Against this backdrop, relevant central questions for this panel include (but are not limited to) the following:
1. Which solutions and strategies have been conceived by actors in transnational contexts to cope with identity crises, and what role have comparisons with neighbouring countries played?
2. Which memoria and “truths” have been recognized and accepted by postcolonial nations, and which have been deconstructed or repressed?
3. What role did the spatial (‘re-’)localization within a framework of proximity and regionalism play for concepts of identity after the End of Empire?

Panel II: Spaces of Commonwealth. Foreign Policy and the End of Empire

The Tuebingen based project End of Empire is dedicated to an explicitly transnational focus that critically examines the categories of empire and centre/periphery, and which seeks to investigate the extent to which categories of space have influenced the perceptions and actions of actors during periods of threatened order. As part of the current debate surrounding area studies and global history, this analysis of the concept of ‘space’ is not limited to relationships within the British Empire, but rather also seeks to identify practices and the production of knowledge during the Cold War and the era of decolonization. With the dissolution of the former colonial empires and the dynamics of the Cold War, new spatial dimensions developed that questioned previous traditional attributions and undermined the divisions between ‘East’ and ‘West’. The spaces and regions that emerged were not only an expression of shifts in the global self-images of individual nations and actors. They were also a sign of shifting power constellations and relationships between one another. By addressing the concept of space, the project seeks to analyse structural changes that occurred after 1945 which may provide insight into both national and transnational conceptions of order as well as the threat scenarios that were associated with such conceptions. The following central questions are relevant for this section:
1. How did individual and collective actors position themselves in the international space following the Second World War, and how were spatial categories used to describe their own position within the new world order?
2. To what extent did spatial attributions and shifts determine national and transnational opportunities for action, and to what extent were these spatial changes associated with a phase of globalization?
3. How were perceptions of space connected to questions of identity and nation-building?

Panel III: Economy and New Cultural History at the End of Empire

The approaches found in Clifford Geertz’s new cultural history are essential for the End of Empire project. Accordingly, the project seeks to investigate and interpret the culturally influenced rules that underlay different connections within the empire, such as trade relationships and foreign policies within the Commonwealth. At the centre of the project are the emotional frames under which actors made decisions and implemented changes in the era of decolonialization and the Cold War. The cultural-historical analysis of topics from economic and trade policy provides insight into how actors reflected upon their own systems of economic order, and which concepts of reform they contemplated. In this respect, the project heeds the call laid out in Hartmut Berghoff’s and Jakob Vogel’s Wirtschaftsgeschichte als Kulturgeschichte – Dimensionen eines Perspektivenwechsels, and seeks to provide a transnational and cultural-historical analysis of empire relationships after 1945. In doing so, the project seeks to identify patterns of meaning and concepts of order behind subject areas that have until now often only been investigated from the perspective of economic history. Scholars that work with approaches from new cultural history will present their projects in this section, which will further promote the exchange of concepts and methods associated with new cultural history. This panel will focus on the following central questions:
1. Which meaningful frames can be identified that underlay the economic and foreign-political decisions made by actors in the Commonwealth?
2. What relationships existed between nations’ connections to the empire and national conceptions of economic order after 1945?
3. What was the relationship between nation-building processes in Commonwealth countries and economic reconceptualization?

The End of Empire project has invited historians from other fields of research to present work on transnational shifts after 1945 that are connected to the above-mentioned questions regarding postcolonial changes and processes of decolonization. The conference does not merely seek to point out comparisons and interconnections between the former settler colonies. In fact, the focus on the entanglements between these spaces makes an important contribution that accounts for transnational processes of negotiation in moments of threatened order. On the one hand, the project places the dissolution of the British Empire within the broader context of global processes of transformation that occurred after the Second World War. And on the other, this project seeks to continue the development of theoretical approaches such as postcolonial studies and new cultural history.
Anyone who is interested in attending the conference as a guest is very welcome. If you want to attend the conference, please register in advance.


Mi 10.10.2018
Location: Neue Aula, Großer Senat, Geschwister-Scholl-Platz, Tuebingen

18:00 Keynote 1 - Stuart Ward (University of Copenhagen, Denmark): Distempers of Decline: The Identity Pandemic at Empire’s End

19:30 Dinner

Do 11.10.2018
Location: Alte Aula, Muenzgasse 30, Tuebingen

9:00-9:20 Ewald Frie (University of Tuebingen, Germany): Opening Remarks

9:20-12:00 Panel I: Conceptions of Identity in the Postcolonial Era

9:20-9:40 Sebastian Koch (University of Tuebingen, Germany): Breaking the Conspiracy of Silence after Empire? Biculturalism, Multiculturalism and Indigeneity as a Strategy of Identity Practices in Canada and Australia

9:40-10:00 Jatinder Mann (Hong Kong Baptist University): The End of the British World and the Redefinition of Citizenship in Canada and Aotearoa New Zealand, 1950s–1970s: Comparisons

10:00-10:20 Discussion

10:20-10:40 Coffee break

10:40-11:00 Eva Bischoff (University of Trier, Germany): “Your Rent is Pass Due”: Decolonizing the British World

11:00-11:20 Almuth Ebke (University of Mannheim, Germany): Social Belonging in a Post-Colonial Age: National Identity, „Britishness”, and the Internal Decolonisation of Great Britain

11:20-12:00 Discussion

12:00-13:30 Lunch

13:30- 17:00 Panel II: Spaces of Commonwealth. Foreign Policy at the End of Empire

13:30-13:50 Martin Deuerlein (University of Tuebingen, Germany): End of Empire ‒ Rise of the Nation State? The Dissolution of the British Empire and the Debate on the Fate of the Nation State after the Second World War

13:50-14:10 Maike Hausen (University of Tuebingen, Germany): The British Decision ‘East of Suez’ in Australian, Canadian and New Zealand Reflections, 1965-1970

14:10-14:30 Sarah Stockwell (King’s College London, United Kingdom): ‘Old Boys’ Networks, British Institutions and the Persistence of a British Sphere in an Era of Globalisation

14:30-15:00 Discussion

15:00-15:30 Coffee Break

15:30-15:50 Christian Damm Pedersen (University of Southern Denmark, Denmark): The African End of Empire and the British World after 1945

15:50-16:10 James Curran (University of Sydney, Australia): No More ‘Lifeline’: The End of Empire, ANZUS and the Collapse of Australia’s Cold War Policy

16:10-16:50 Discussion

18:00 Keynote 2 - Graeme Davison (Monash University Melbourne, Australia): On a Personal Note: Reflections and Thoughts on the End of Empire

19:30 Dinner

Fr. 12.10.2018 (Location: Alte Aula, Muenzgasse 30, Tuebingen)

9:00-12:15 Panel III: Economy and New Cultural History at the End of Empire

9:00-9:20 Clara Seltmann (University of Tuebingen, Germany): Australia, Canada and New Zealand during Britain’s Turn to Europe, 1958-1973

9:20-9:40 David Hall: A Brutal Snapping of the Anglo-New Zealand Nexus?

9:40-10:00 Discussion

10:00-10:20 Coffee break

10:20-10:40 Philippa Mein-Smith (University of Tasmania & University of Canterbury, Australia, New Zealand): John McEwen and the Reordering of Australasian Trade Relations in Response to Britain's Retreat from Empire, 1949-1971

10:40-11:20 Discussion

11:20-11:40 Jan Eckel (University of Tuebingen, Germany): Commentary

11:40-12:40 General Discussion

13:00-14:00 Lunch


CRC 923, Project G 04 "End of Empire. Re-Ordering in Australia, New Zealand and Canada, 1960- 1980"
Keplerstraße 2
72074 Tuebingen
Tel.: 07071 29 77 342