UNSETTLED 1968: ORIGINS - MYTH - IMPACT 14-16.06.2018, Tuebingen (Germany)

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Call for Papers
June 14, 2018 to June 16, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Eastern Europe History / Studies, European History / Studies, Oral History, Sociology, World History / Studies

14-16.06.2018, Tuebingen (Germany)


International Workshop for Graduate Students, within the Institutional Strategy (Exzellenzinitiative) of the Graduate Academy, University of Tübingen


Keynote Speakers:

Irena Grudzińska-Gross, University of Princeton (USA)

Victoria Harms, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe (DE)

Michal Mrugalski, Humboldt University Berlin (DE)


The Institute of Slavic Languages and Literatures and the Graduate Academy at University of Tübingen are pleased to announce “Unsettled 1968. Origins – Myth – Impact”, an interdisciplinary workshop for graduate students.


In 2018, we will have the 50th anniversary of “1968” – the year which witnessed simultaneous revolts, protests, and turmoil all over the world. In addition to Paris May Revolution and the Prague Spring, or the series of student protests in the United States and elsewhere, we faced the burgeoning of new generations coming into play, and the ending of old hegemonies. Since then, 1968 has not only produced various patterns of “myth” of the era that had attracted various authors but also a firm research topic that sociologists, historians, and literary theorists had been investigating.


The year 1968 tends to be seen as a crucial turning point in postwar history, and, for a matter of convenience or for more substantial reasons, researchers either start or end narratives around 1968, as the year was just in the middle of the Cold War and symbolic enough to make it a marker that separates before from after. With the arrival of the 68ers, the old world in which the historical consciousness of modernity shaped epistemic communities ceased to exist, and had been renewed by means of revolving old social structures from the bottom. It is true that “without 1968” we would not see a detour from Soviet-style Marxism, the developments of various dissent movements and underground activities in East Central Europe, the strong awareness of the other parts of the world (South Asia, Latin America included), and the rise of radical fundamentalism collided with terrorism. Its ephemera leaves a lot of questions and mythical arguments (the singular sujet of the “68ers”, for instance) to this day. Did it really change the world? If so, what was the locomotive of the change? How much were the movements localized, or globally resonated? What were the basis of myths around the year? To whom does it matter to discuss 1968 today?


We intend to take this time of commemoration as the opportunity for opening our discussion on 1968, once again, in order to re-evaluate its impact to this day. We will collect opinions from different generations, and revisit the boundary of experiences, testimonies, and reflections in an inter-disciplinary manner. Combining scholarly conversations with a site-specific knowledge, we wish to enhance international cooperation and build the basis for mutual understanding of our recent common past.


In the workshop, we would like to address these questions with the following four research topics.


Panel I: Modernities of 1968

This panel aims to explore the historiography of 1968, by focusing on the idea of modernity that paves theoretical backgrounds for analysing the events which took place that year, such as the March Events of Poland, Paris May, and the Prague Spring. The term "modernities" here suggest various ways to understand the modern world. The year 1968 was indeed the important turning point from modern to post-modern society, and the events then reorganized socio-economic structures as well as cultural hierarchies. Since then, there have been much-used arguments like “1968 would be equivalent to 1848”, or “1968 was the end of the modern system”.


Issues: What kinds of modern society the participants of the events tried to deconstruct and then reconstruct? Is the modernity of 1960s comparable to that of the mid-19th century, or the 1930s? How could we make sense of the 1968 in historical contexts in each local setting? How could we identify the roles of particular generations in those events? Would it be better to assume a singular modernity or modernities that vary from one country to another?


Panel II: 1968 between East and West and North and South

The point of departure here is Marxism understood as a world-spread political agenda. First, we want to investigate its various forms in the late 60s, e.g. by contrasting Marxism that represented Czechoslovak national interests with Marxism that was used as anti-Semitic tool in the Middle East. Second, we want to focus on dynamics of „travelling” revolution(s) of 1968 and the role of the “mental maps” in those processes.


Issues: Were Eastern Europe and Third World movements engaged with seriously by the young Western Marxists, or were they just used naively and instrumentally to push forward their critique of Western capitalist societies? Why was Rudi Dutschke, himself on exile from GDR, more interested in China or African revolutionary movements than he was in the communist experiment right next to him? Was it possible to bridge the gap between activists in Eastern and Western Europe, or would have that required a critical reappraisal of the Soviet sphere that Westerners in 1968 were not yet ready for?


Panel III: Negotiating Revolution of 1968?

Social and sociocultural change usually takes place as the effect of an informal negotiations between main groups within society. The case of 1968 is a unique one, because claiming to be a peaceful change, it actually became a violent one. The point here is to reveal hidden violence (also symbolic and discursive) that constituted deep foundation of the change embodied by the events of 1968. Concurring narratives are to be presented: hegemonic ones together with those constructed by minorities (social, national, political etc.). Another question here is to analyse the intentionality of political involvement.


Issues: What was the nature of violence that may have been observed in 1968? To what extent 1968 was meant to be a political manifestation or rather a non-political (anti-political)? (Cross-national analysis, particularly combining the cases from East and West, are especially welcomed at this point.) 


Panel IV: 1968, Today

Since the world today is based on the rudiments of 1968, one should explore its long-lasting consequences. The first issue in this panel would be thus the universal paradox of every successful revolution, i.e. the mechanisms according to which the former activists become the elite members, whereas their initial ideals are adopted by the mainstream worldview. In case of 1968 one can also ask whether anti-establishment movements can be seen as a marketing tool, and revolution as another product in the disenchanted, consumerist world. The second question is the legacy of the 1968.


Issues: Were the events in Paris or California a destroying force paving way for populism and reviving some elements of 1930s? Or was it rather a neoliberal ideology that profited from the culture of individualism and the right to self-expression and protest against such institutions as state or traditional nuclear family?


Organization Details

PhD and M.A. students will be given priority to participate in the workshop. We would be eager to work with the representatives of history, philosophy, literature, politics and visual and cultural studies. The participants will be asked to prepare a working paper (5-10 pages, font 12, space 2.0) that will be submitted to all participants in advance and discussed during the workshop, as the long-term goal is to prepare a volume that would consist of the workshop contributions.


The official start (opening + keynote lecture I + panel I) will take place in the Thursday evening, which will make an immediate start the next morning (Friday) possible. The last panel and the final discussion are planned for Saturday morning.


The participation in the workshop is free of charge. The accommodation (2 nights) and catering in Tübingen for the workshop time is provided by the workshop organizers.





Please submit a 300-word abstract (+ panel you are interested in) and a brief bio to

< 1968tuebingen [at] gmail.com> by March 31st, 2018. Replies will be sent out by mid-April, 2018. The deadline for working papers will be May 31st, 2018.



Contact Info: 

Workshop organizers: Aleksandra Konarzewska (Tübingen), Anna Nakai (CEU, Budapest), Michał Przeperski (IPN/PAN, Warsaw), Miłosz Wiatrowski (Yale)

Contact Email: