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Tagung "Heroism and the Heroic in American History"

Tagung "Heroism and the Heroic in American History"

Ludovic Bertron (USA), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Superman_artwork?uselang=de#/media/File:Super_Man_(3321014936).jpg


Annual Conference of the Historians in the German Association for American Studies


February 9-11, 2018
Akademie für Politische Bildung, Tutzing

Conference organizers:
Dr. Michael Mayer (Akademie für Politische Bildung, Tutzing)
Michael Butter (University of Tübingen)
Simon Wendt (Goethe University of Frankfurt)

The conference aims to critically reconsider the history of heroism in the United States from the American Revolution to the present, taking seriously the constructed nature of heroism and the myriad functions its serves in U.S. society. Heroes do not simply exist; they are created through practices of representation, and especially narration. Without a story, there is no hero. Nevertheless, the effects of heroism are real and palpable. As a social and cultural construct, it serves important functions in human societies. Heroes and heroines embody the norms, values, and beliefs of social groups. They also serve as role models whose behavior people seek to emulate. As symbols of dominant norms and identities, they become sources of authority and are frequently used to legitimize social, cultural, and racial hierarchies. Heroism thus tends to be a stabilizing force in society, but it is constantly debated, reevaluated, and revised. Consequently, it is also historically contingent.

While historians have devoted thousands of pages to heroism, only few studies do justice to the topic’s complexities. Too often, scholars still imply that heroism is “real,” ignoring the fact that heroes are the product of intricate heroization processes that elevate real or imagined people to heroic status through reoccurring iterations about what is believed to be heroic at a certain point in time. Since this communication process is primarily a media discourse, studying heroism requires a thorough analysis of heroic narratives and representations of heroism in various forms of media. However, historians also need to take into account the multitude of actors that are involved in this process, as well as their motivations to construct some people as heroic while ignoring others.

The conference will shed fresh light on the various ways in which heroism has been constructed, while also probing its social, cultural, and political functions in U.S. history. Speakers will critically examine the existing scholarship on American heroism, before presenting case studies that might offer new trajectories for future research. In their papers, they will answer questions as to how, in which contexts, and for which groups processes of heroization legitimized or delegitimized social, cultural, and political norms and values; how they created, affirmed, or challenged social hierarchies and collective identities; and how they differed from or were similar to other forms of perceived extraordinariness.

Conference Program

Friday, February 9, 2018

3:00 PM
Arrival and Registration
4:15 PM Welcome Address and Introduction
Michael Mayer (Akademie für Politische Bildung
Michael Butter (University of Tübingen)
Simon Wendt (Goethe University of Frankfurt)
5:00 PM

Panel 1: Gender, Race, and the Uses of Heroism in the 20th Century
Chair: Michael Butter

Gender, Race, and Everyday Heroism in the Progressive Era
Simon Wendt

Women as Murderers, Victims, and (Anti)Heroines in the National Abortion Debate, 1970s-1990s
Isabel Heinemann (University of Münster)
6:30 PM Dinner
8:00 PM Keynote Address
Our American Heroes: Themes in the Early Historiography of Superheroism
Michael Goodrum (Canterbury Christ Church University)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

9:00 AM Workshops on Current Ph.D. Projects
10:30 AM Tea and Coffee
11:00 AM Keynote Address
New Directions in Heroism Research: The Perspective of Political Science
Bruce Peabody and Krista Jenkins (Fairleigh Dickinson University)
12:30 PM Lunch
3:00 PM

Panel 2: Heroism and War
Chair: Isabel Heinemann  

The War of 1812 and the Changing Heroization of American Presidents
Michael Butter (University of Tübingen)

Heroes Beyond the Color Line? The Harlem Hellfighters on Parade
Sebastian Jobs (Free University of Berlin)

4:30 PM Tea and Coffee
5:00 PM Keynote Address
‘Life is at Stake:’ Acts and Arts of Black Heroism in a Transatlantic Imaginary
Celeste-Marie Bernier (University of Edinburgh)
6:30 PM Dinner

Sunday, February 11, 2018

9:00 AM

Panel 3: Television and American Heroism
Chair: Sebastian Jobs

Heroes for the Small Screen: Constructions of Heroism in Western Television Series of the 1950s and 1960s
Brigitte Georgi-Findlay (University of Dresden)

Happy Home Front Heroines? Army Wives in Post-9/11 American Culture
Katharina Gerund (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg)

10:30 AM Tea and Coffee
10:45 AM

Panel 4: A Case Study in Popular Culture: The Musical Hamilton
Chair: Simon Wendt

The Heroism of Knowledge and Wit: Representing the American Revolution in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton
Nassim Balestrini (University of Graz)

The Heroization of Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton: An American Musical
Svenja Hohenstein and Katharina Thalmann (University of Tübingen)

12:00 PM Lunch and Departure


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