Research Areas “The Challenges of Freedom” (2006-2011)

Globalization and the emergence of new transnational dependencies and threats are challenging traditional interpretations of freedom and democracy and are transforming the role and function of the United States as an exemplary modern democratic society. Because of America’s unrivalled superpower status, the debates on American values and the mission of American democracy have become a matter of global concern. Changes in American society and the international system have significant consequences for the rest of the world, including Germany and the European community. To understand the historical foundations and possible future developments of the social, economic and cultural changes facing North America at the beginning of the new century call for a broadly designed cross-disciplinary analysis. The following eight research areas are designed to provide a comprehensive and systematic framework for the analysis of developments and changes in post-9/11 American society.

I.          American Exceptionalism in a Changing World

II.         Nation, Ethnicity, Diaspora, Borderlands

III.        The Conservative Revolution and New Social Movements

IV.       The Role of Religion in American Public Life

V.        Art, Aesthetics, and American Culture

VI.       The Struggle Over the Public Sphere: Media and Cultural Narratives

VII.      Neoliberalism as an Economic and Cultural Paradigm

VIII.     Globalization and the “American Centuries”

All research areas will study the historical contexts of contemporary developments. None can be pursued from the perspective of a single discipline. All require analysis from an interdisciplinary perspective. Our research framework is therefore defined in cluster-fashion and designed to combine the expertise of the different disciplines represented at the Kennedy Institute. Research areas I. and II. deal with competing conceptualizations of North American societies. Research areas III., IV., and V. describe current conflicts in a strongly divided American society and identify three realms in which these conflicts are especially pronounced. Research areas VII. and VIII. highlight the internationalization of economic and political principles shaped by the United States.[1]

RA I

 

Culture

History

Literature

Political Science

American Exceptionalism in a Changing World

Focal Points:

  • Current reconceptualizations of the idea of American exceptionalism;
  • Transnational challenges to American exceptionalism;
  • Recent intellectual and political realignments;
  • Theories of American culture and narratives of American history;
  • Studies of changing rationales for American foreign policy

 

RA II

 

Literature

Culture

Sociology

Political Science

 

Nation, Ethnicity, Diaspora, Borderlands

Focal Points:

  • Multiculturalist aesthetics, ethnic identities, cultural sovereignty
  • Contemporary social dynamics of migration
  • Intermestic politics in the Mexican-American borderlands
  • The role of media in (trans)national imaginaries
  • Urban ethnic politics in the United States and Canada

 

RA III

 

Political Science

Sociology

Culture

History

 

The Conservative Revolution and New Social Movements

Focal Points:

  • The social conservative agenda: from the “new federalism” of the Nixon era to the devolution of social and regulatory policies.
  • Rising inequalities and racial segregation: new labor-community immigrant coalitions, movements for social justice.
  • Erosion of civil liberties: tensions between security interests and the political value of freedom; consequences for U.S. governance.

 

RA IV

 

Culture

Sociology

Political Science

History

 

Religion in Public Life

Focal Points:

  • The political impact of evangelical religions
  • The role of the Christian media
  • The history of religious ideas and their current reconceptualization
  • Theories of secularization and religious revivalism in a comparative perspective
  • Christian popular culture

 

 

RA V

 

Literature

Culture

Sociology

History

 

Arts, Aesthetics and American Culture

Focal Points:

  • Historically competing concepts of a democratic art;
  • The American sublime and the aesthetics of immersion;
  • Conservative vs. liberal theories of American art and culture;
  • New directions in American literature after the postmodern experiment;
  • The pragmatist current in American art, aesthetics, and culture

 

RA VI

 

Sociology

Culture

Literature

History

 

The Struggle over the Public Sphere: Media and Cultural Narratives

Focal Points:

  • The conservative critique of "liberal bias"
  • The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine
  • The conservative critique of American popular culture
  • New political radio and television formats
  • Political blogs and their impact

 

RA VII

 

Economics

History

Political Science

Culture

Neo-Liberalism as an Economic and Cultural Paradigm

Focal Points:

  • Neoliberalism as an “American” concept
  • The globalization of neoliberalism
  • Income inequality and poverty in North America
  • Regional common market or free-trade agreements and domestic economic policy
  • NGOs and (global) resistance against neoliberal economic policy
  • Neoliberalism and international competition policy

 

RA VIII

 

History

Culture

Political Science

Economics

 

Globalization and the "American Centuries"

Focal Points:

  • Globalization and the American Empire
  • Americanization and the Foreign Politics of American Popular Culture
  • Multilateralism and Global Governance
  • Migration and Intermestic Politics in North America
  • Transnational Urbanism in North America
  • American History in a Global Age

 

 


[1]    An interdisciplinary bibliography of pertinent literature on all eight research areas is provided in 7.2. All references in the following outlines of our eight research areas are to this bibliography.

Dahlem Research School
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
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