Reeducation Revisited

Strategies, Actors, Institutions in Transnational and Comparative Perspective


September 28-30, 2017
Conference at the GHI
Conveners: Katharina Gerund (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg), Heike Paul (FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg), Tomoyuki Sasaki (College of William & Mary, Williamsburg), and Anne Schenderlein (GHI Washington)

The program of “reeducation” the United States pursued in the wake of World War II was both locally specific and global. Reeducation initiatives aimed at defeated/liberated populations were carried out on the national and subnational level. At the same time, U.S. reeducation policies, serving as site-specific laboratories for reform, contributed toward the creation of transatlantic and transpacific spheres of American influence. This conference seeks to bring a comparative perspective to reeducation studies. It will explore (1) how U.S. reeducation policies were designed and implemented with different target groups and societies in mind; (2) how those policies were received and reworked by those targeted; and (3) the repercussions of reeducation policy on American discourses of democracy, war, and militarism as well as on constructions of victimhood, cultural imaginaries, and long-term historical developments. We want to look beyond the dominant interpretation of the reeducation program as essentially a prelude to Cold War cultural diplomacy and invite proposals that consider reeducation as a project in its own right. With this conference, we want to lay the groundwork for cross-cultural and transnational comparisons and thus welcome proposals that suggest connections between reeducation policies and concurrent American efforts at cultural diplomacy in other places (e.g., Italy, Korea, Latin America). Following the transnational turn in the field of American studies, we seek proposals that address the phenomenon of reeducation, broadly conceived, in relation to international networks and interdependencies. 

Possible topics include but are not limited to: 

  • Reeducation and Gender: women as a focus group of reeducation; the changing of gender roles in postwar Japanese, German, and American society; representations of Japanese and German women in in U.S. media; constructions of femininity and masculinity in Japan and Germany; the emergence of new women’s consumer culture in Japan and Germany; historicizing the sexual politics of reeducation in comparative perspective
  • Reeducation and Race: wartime and postwar discourses of racial difference in the U.S., Japan, and Germany in comparative perspective and in light of postwar encounters; strategies of racial othering – or the opposite thereof – in reeducation policies; anti-Semitism and racism in comparative perspective
  • Reeducation and Youth: children and adolescents as a focus group of reeducation; metaphors of childhood (Germans as “bad” or “sick” children who need to be ‘taught’; infantilization of the Ger¬man adult population); ambiguous constructions of childhood and questions of responsibility and guilt; generational affiliations and generation gap in responses to reeducation
  • Institutions and Reeducation: strategies of demilitarization and remilitarization; the making of the German “citizen in uniform (Staatsbürger in Uniform) and the Japanese Self-Defense Forces”; Okinawa’s “state of exception,” educational reform, the democratic curriculum, and the origins of political education; new popular culture of empiricism (e.g., market research, quizzes for enter-tainment, statistics)
  • Intellectual History and Reeducation: historicizing theories of reform, therapy, social engineering, and cultural mobility, revisiting Brickner’s Is Germany Incurable? in light of dis-courses of reform in the U.S. and elsewhere; progressivism and reeducation; reeducation and empire; “comparative reeducation studies” 

To apply, please send short proposals (750 words max.) and a one-page CV to Susanne Fabricius at fabricius@ghi-dc.org no later than March 15, 2017. Successful applicants will be notified by April 15, 2017.