Gender and the Long Postwar: Reconsiderations of the United States and the Two Germanys, 1945-1989
May 29, 2008 - May 31, 2008
Conference at the GHI | Convener: Karen Hagemann (University of North Carolina), Sonya Michel (University of Maryland), Corinna Unger (GHI)
Historians have long understood that wars can serve as a catalyst for change. In his recent book Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, Tony Judt, for example, argues that “World War II created the conditions for a new Europe.” The possibilities for change during this period were, we contend, especially apparent in terms of gender relations. In Europe, the immediate aftermath of the war brought with it the need to confront massive death and destruction, continuing privations, dislocations, and, for women, the risk of rape. But at the same time, peace offered the prospect of new opportunities. Both communism and liberal democracy held out the promise of equality for women and wellbeing for them and their families. Yet the demands of rebuilding nations and restoring social order took immediate precedence. The tensions between the political and economic needs of nations, the promises of new social orders, women’s ongoing struggle for recognition, autonomy, and equality, and men’s efforts to recast masculinity in the wake of unprecedented violence—these constitute the major themes of this conference.
Judt’s study implies that conditions for creating “the new” were greater in Europe than in the United States. Was this in fact the case? From the perspective of gender, we would argue, the war opened up possibilities for women and men on both sides of the Atlantic. But the extent to which those possibilities were realized varied considerably across societies. This conference will bring together a group of scholars to explore why this was so. Comparing gender developments in the United States and the two Germanys during “the long postwar” will allow us to examine these variations and, in particular, to see how gender developments intersected and were affected by the trajectories of market democratic and communist regimes as well as the impact of idiosyncratic cultural continuities. By extending the investigation to 1989, we will be able to trace both continuities and change over a long expanse of gender relations, sorting out the impact of the war itself from other factors that came into play during the period.
Panels will be organized around the following themes:
- War, Memory and the (Re)construction of Gender
- Migration, Immigration and Changing Gender and Sexual Identities
- Education, Employment, Consumerism: New Roles for Women
- Social Citizenship and the Gendering of Welfare States
- Politics, Protest and Civil Society
- New Sexualities
- Gender, Postwar, and German and U.S. Historiography
The conference will be held in English and focus on the discussion of precirculated papers of about 7,000 to 8,000 words (due by April 15, 2008).
Please send a one-page proposal, short CV, and list of relevant publications by e-mail to Bärbel Thomas of the GHI by October 1, 2007.
The cost of travel and accommodations will be covered by the sponsors.
For further information, please contact the conveners by e-mail