“The personal is political”: The interfaces between Politics and Culture across Europe in the 1970s

Cambridge, U.K.
Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge
Erato Basea (University of Oxford) Kathrin Fahlenbrach (University of Halle-Wittenberg) Sebastian Gehrig (University of Heidelberg) Martin Klimke (German Historical Institute and University of Heidelberg) Christiana Mygdali (University of Oxford) Nikolaos Papadogiannis (University of Cambridge) Joachim Scharloth (University of Zurich)
26.08.2009 - 27.08.2009
Gehrig, Sebastian

Aims and scope: The collapse of the dictatorial regimes in Spain, Portugal and Greece, the Charter ´77, the activities of the second-wave feminist and of the ecologist movement and the emergence of Interrail train program are some of the multiple facets of the 1970s. The dynamics generated during this period have had an impact on theoretical endeavours, political activism as well as a plethora of social and cultural patterns. Still, to this day the academic treatment of the 1970s in the domain of social sciences in general and historiography in particular remains somewhat modest. As historians Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried argue, the historiography of the 1970s basically constitutes a “no-man´s land” suffering from two major deficits: Most works consist of national case-studies (mainly of the Federal Republic of Germany, France and Italy), and are predicated on the assumption that politicization in the 1970s should be judged solely against the metaphorical “1968,” either as an “afterlive” or its “discontinuity”- with the latter mainly understood as a “retreat to the private”. In this vein, the analysis of particular political and social subjects, namely radical left-wing organizations, terrorist groups and “counter-cultural” actors, such as rock music bands, is prioritized, even though there are still many lacunae in the examination of these actors as well.

This conference aims to offer a different exploration of the 1970s, without neglecting the aforementioned actors. First, it attempts to widen the perspective to include previously neglected countries, such as Spain, Portugal, Finland, Denmark, Greece, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, thereby seeking to encompass developments across all of Europe and avoiding any isolated examinations of individual countries. Second, the conference will regard “1968” as just one parameter from which to analyze the following decade and will equally focus on the impact of developments such as the collapse of militaristic regimes, the “normalization” period in Czechoslovakia, or, for example, the prospective or potential entry of a number of Southern European countries, such as Greece, Portugal and Spain, to the EEC. Third, the conference will look at a broad spectrum of political actors, including those often dismissed as “dogmatic” or “Old Left,” from Maoist groups, Eurocommunist parties, which flourished in Italy and Spain in this period, to pro-USSR Western Communist Parties, such as KKE in Greece and PCP in Portugal. It will give equal attention to conservative or right-wing movements, organizations and parties, which emerged stronger in many European countries from the late 1960s, for example in Denmark. Fourth, the conference will explore the various forms of domestic and transnational interactions among these actors. Finally, the conference will put the very definition of “political protest” under scrutiny with regard to the 1970s by taking into account the (often seemingly “apolitical”) self-representations of social groups and organizations, such as transcendental groups or punk bands, in order arrive at a new understanding of how they conceptualized their protest and dissent.

The conference will therefore not be confined to mapping the political topography of the 1970s: it will expand its focus to the everyday life practices in an increasingly globalized world. The “time-space compression” through the expanding youth tourism, the emergence of Interrail and the dissemination of television across Europe will be reflected upon in terms of their impact on processes of transnational diffusion and networks. Furthermore, the conference will examine the tension between these global interconnections as expressed, for example, in the growing influence and spread of “American” culture, and the notion of a specifically European cultural patterns and practices, as well as “traditions.” Moreover, we will seek to clarify whether a single “transnational civil society” arose in this period or whether the transnational flows among various politicized actors took place in a framework of multiple transnational publics, relatively detached from each other.

The areas of particular interest are, for example:
- How useful is the concept of “generation” as an analytical tool for the examination of the 1970s?
- Rise of countercultural spaces and textual production (eg Sponti-Szene in the Federal Republic of Germany, Re Nudo magazine and theatre plays by Dario Fo and Franka Rame in Italy): experienced as continuity or rupture with the 1960s? The emergence of “Eurocommunism” and the interactions of organizations that described themselves as “Eurocommunist” (the dissemination and appropriations of their theoretical texts, youth festivals organized by eurocommunist parties and youth organizations, etc.).
- Pro-Soviet communist organizations in Eastern and Western European countries
- Feminist and homosexual liberation movements and activities across Europe
- “Diverse Maoisms”, “Maoism as a European phenomenon”: Comparative and Transfer history approaches. Lifestyle of members of Maoist groups: their taste in music, cinema, theatre and literature and potential interaction with counter-cultural actors
- Networks and cultural practices among right-wing organizations.
- Transcendental movements and religious cults
- The impact of globalisation on everyday life: guest workers, youth tourism, student migration.
- Translation of literary and political works among social and political actors in Europe
- (Reciprocal) influences in the production and reception of European films

The conference aims at combining an in-depth analysis of concrete case-studies with reflection on theoretical concepts and methodological tools from various disciplines. The participants are warmly encouraged to elaborate on issues of methodology and to examine the merits of state-of-art relevant approaches (e.g. “histoire croisee,” (Werner/Zimmermann), “processual geography” and “life of things” (Appadurai), as well as “global history”). The conference will attempt to illuminate the advantages and disadvantages of various concepts with respect to an analysis of the relationship the “political” sphere and various lifestyles, particularly regarding concepts such as “sub-” and “counterculture.”

The purpose of the conference is to promote an interdisciplinary dialogue. Thus, we aim at attracting scholars from the entire range of social sciences and humanities, including political science, history, social/cultural anthropology, media studies, history of art, linguistics, literature, sociology and geography. Actually, the fact that the conveners specialize in a variety of fields (History, Linguistics, Media Studies, Literature) reflects our endorsement of an inter-disciplinary approach. The organizing committee welcomes applications from both more advanced scholars and early stage researchers, namely PhD students and post-doctoral researchers. In order to achieve the best possible osmosis with the academic community of the University of Cambridge and to encourage participation, we do not intend to charge a registration fee.

Abstracts not exceeding 400 words should be submitted by 15 May to one of the following organizers: Nikos Papadogiannis (np308@cam.ac.uk), Erato Basea (erato.basea@stx.ox.ac.uk), Christiana Mygdali (christiana.mygdali@chch.ox.ac.uk) or Sebastian Gehrig (sebastian.gehrig@gmx.net).


Sebastian Gehrig

Historisches Seminar, Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg


“The personal is political”: The interfaces between Politics and Culture across Europe in the 1970s, 26.08.2009 – 27.08.2009 Cambridge, U.K., in: H-Soz-Kult, 23.03.2009, <www.hsozkult.de/event/id/termine-11104>.