Between the ‘Prague Spring’ and the ‘French May’: Transnational Exchange and National Recontextualization of Protest Cultures in 1960/70s Europe

Between the ‘Prague Spring’ and the ‘French May’: Transnational Exchange and National Recontextualization of Protest Cultures in 1960/70s Europe

Martin Klimke, History Department, University of Heidelberg, Germany Joachim Scharloth, German Department, University of Zurich, Switzerland
3rd Conference of the Interdisciplinary Research Forum Protest Movements (IFK), Heidelberg Center for American Studies, University of Heidelberg, Germany
From - Until
25.08.2006 - 27.08.2006
Martin Klimke / Joachim Scharloth

Research on both the domestic dissent and social unrest in the U.S. and on the transatlantic nature of political protest has been blossoming for several years. However, despite significant advances with regard to the analysis of local movements, the specific European dimension of protest movements and their subcultures during the Cold War has hitherto only been analyzed marginally and within closed national contexts. This extensive gap in historical research is all the more regrettable since Europe at the time of the Cold War can be considered a microcosm for global political events. It was here that the geopolitical faultline between East and West was most visible, with the Berlin Wall as its symbolic embodiment. Consequently, not only the unique geopolitical environment but also the variety of national experience ranging from the Communist East European states of the Warsaw Pact to the democratic nations of Western Europe, as well as the dictatorships of Spain, Portugal and Greece, warrant a more thorough examination with respect to border transcending cultures of domestic dissent.

Despite similar political concerns and international counter-cultural inspirations, national variants of what was perceived as a worldwide generational revolt were often strikingly different. Whereas activists in Western Europe frequently attacked the United States for its imperialist interventions, most notably in Vietnam, dissenters in Eastern Europe often utilized American cultural items such as music or clothing to voice their grievances. International encounters or meetings such as the World Youth Festival in Sofia 1968 occasionally illustrated the distance of political concepts and intellectual sources between the two: while the young generation in Eastern Europe, for example, welcomed efforts such as the Prague Spring, the same was often enounced as reformist by their Western counterparts.

However, not only the “First World” of Western capitalism, but also the “Second World” of the Communist bloc, and the “Third World” were shattered by largely unexpected internal ruptures in particular in the late 1960s. One outstanding common characteristic of these movements was thus the goal of transgressing the ideological fronts of the Cold War, which threatened the existing geopolitical division of the world, especially on the European scene. Regardless of different national consequences, these networks of protest and their antecedents in the 1950s spurred each other’s activism, and through their cooperation and mutual inspiration contributed to far-reaching internal and international changes. The conference will therefore aim at tracing these long-term socio-political transformations with a focus on Europe and a particular emphasis on processes of transnational exchange.

Possible topics include:

-cultural transfer
-languages of dissent
-protest and foreign policy
-violence and terrorism
-the transformation of the public sphere
-the rise of a transnational civil society
-constructions of class and race
-sexual politics
-art, literature and music
-transnational networks

We especially welcome comparative approaches and papers dealing with transnational phenomena.

Conference proceedings will be in English. Preference will be given to young scholars (PhD-candidates or Post-doctoral students).

Those interested in presenting a paper should send an abstract of no more than 250 words, plus a short resume of no more than 2 pages, including a list of relevant publications.


Selections will be made by: January 31, 2006

Completed papers must reach the conference organizers by: June 15, 2006



or contact the organizers at:
Martin Klimke (
Joachim Scharloth (


Contact (announcement)

Martin Klimke
History Department
University of Heidelberg

Joachim Scharloth
Department of German
University of Zurich