The research group "Contested Democracy. Gender, race and sex in US-American contemporary history" at the Chair of North American History at the University of Erfurt will begin its work on February 1st, 2021. The focus will be on struggles for hegemony and democracy along the lines of gender, race and sex in the United States in the second half of the 20th century and in the beginning of the 21st century. Equal life chances, access to social resources and democratic participation were never taken for granted, but were always based on collective struggles and the personal commitment of individual persons. To show this for US history from the middle of the 20th to the early 21st century will be one of the main achievements of the research group.
The topic will be dealt with in two subprojects:
Subproject A, edited by Dr. Vera Kallenberg at Bielefeld University, deals with the Jewish and emigrant Gerda Lerner who fled Vienna and was a left-wing activist, feminist writer, public intellectual and American history professor. Lerner's way of working and thinking was characterized by an eye for the connection between different forms of power relations - race, ethnicity, gender, class and global inequality - on the level of academic knowledge production as well as political engagement. SP A analyzes how Lerners' knowledge of her experiences as a left-wing Jewish migrant from Nazi-occupied Europe and as a Jewish woman shaped her professional, political, and artistic career and her self-image as an agent of democratic politics. Her influence on the study of history and feminist knowledge production as a whole is examined as well. The aim of the subproject is to produce the first scholarly monograph based on archival materials and Gerda Lerner's printed work.
The dissertation project "Identity Politics as a Decisive Political Form" is conducted by Alexander Obermüller and takes recent political debates on identity politics in the USA as an opportunity to examine the formation of white, male, and gender-conservative heteronormative forces that began in the 1970s. These forces emerged in opposition to identity politics being used as a political instrument by subaltern groups in the struggle for emancipation. TP B asks how "reactionary" forces appropriated the identity politics strategy of democratic reform forces in the 1970s and 1980s. With Mark Lilla (2016), we use the term "reactionary" to describe a form of politics that, with recourse to the past and tradition, shapes the sociopolitical process and the future. Like TP A, TP B will conduct actor-centered research in order to do justice to the interweaving of human thought and action with discursive patterns and social structures.
The associated subproject "'Let's Make America Great Again': A History of Nostalgia as a United States Identity Ideology in the 1980s", edited as a dissertation project by Lisa Patt at the University of Erfurt, deals with nostalgic rhetoric as a discursive strategy during the presidency of Ronald Reagan in the USA.
For the history PhD project "It's Not Enough to Believe in Justice", Melina Morr de Pérez explores the Black lesbian poet, feminist, and civil rights activist Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Lorde is considered one of the founders of U.S. Black feminism, the Afro-German movement, and the lesbian women's movement (Lorde 2015) - social movements that interacted thanks to Lorde's transatlantic work. The focus of the dissertation is on Lorde's political work.