James PEROSI-DOUGHTY (Université de Bordeaux-Montaigne), “Pragmatism and Christian Realism in the Political Thought of Reinhold Niebuhr and John Dewey”

In a 2007 interview with David Brooks, then-Senator Barack Obama confessed that Reinhold Niebuhr, a relatively obscure reference for the average citizen, was one of his “favorite philosophers.” Thanks to this interview, and to Obama’s popularity, there has been a renewed interest in Niebuhrian thought. New research is shining light on Niebuhr’s Christian realism and how it can be applied to a 21st -century world.

Rather than specifically focusing on Niebuhr’s Christian realism however, the goal here is to delve into Niebuhr’s intellectual and philosophical influences, primarily the influences of John Dewey, as Niebuhr was often critical of Dewey and his liberal Pragmatism. By analyzing Niebuhr’s criticisms of Dewey, it will be demonstrated that Niebuhr was nevertheless shaped by Dewey’s thought. Therefore, this study will review the political works of both in order to highlight the link between Dewey and Niebuhr. Such an association will ultimately establish that though Niebuhr was often extremely critical of America’s liberalism and Pragmatism, he nevertheless was an intermediary and vital step in both pragmatic and liberal philosophical development in the United States.  

Colin BOSSEN (Université de Harvard), “Onward, Christian Soldiers’: American Social Movements and the Religious Imagination in the Wake of World War I”

In this paper I examine the relationship between the religious and political imaginations of non-elite actors in the early twentieth-century United States. Through a study of three ideologically opposed, but sometimes overlapping social movements, I explore how religious narratives, rituals, and symbols were used to mobilize and recruit members for economic and political action. In the years surrounding World War I, catastrophic violence inspired the radical labor union the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Pan-African Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA), and the Protestant white supremacist fraternal and terrorist organization the Ku Klux Klan to develop political narratives drawn from the apocalyptic rhetoric of Protestant Christian revivalism.

Carolin GORGEN (Université Paris VII / École du Louvre, Paris) Regional Esthetics for National Legitimization: Amateur Photography in California, 1890-1915”

This paper seeks to re-consider the practices of amateur photography in the American West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By focusing on a corpus of rich primary sources including albums and photo club journals, I seek to re-evaluate the role of amateur photographers in forging an idiosyncratic image of the West Coast and its most popular state California. Founded in 1890, the California Camera Club would become the mouthpiece of Western American photography and strive to promote the photographic achievements of the region. Considering photography as a useful social practice, the amateurs set out to document California’s cities and landscape. They sought to highlight a picturesque dimension while at the same time focusing on the historical and cultural importance for the country. This dual approach to amateur photography served in the process of acknowledging the state and its cultural relevance on a broader scale. Amateur photography is taken here as a means to establish a meaningful visual history and culture made accessible to the public. The hereby created photographic inventory of California served as a historical tool in order to forge, promote, and legitimize a collective memory of the region on a national level.

Pavlos MOULIOS (Panteion University, Athens), “Presenting the New Free World: the Role of the Greek Postwar Magazines in the Promotion of a New Model of Life and their Contribution to the Formation of the Consumer Citizen in the 1950’s

The second half of the 20th century is characterized by “groundbreaking” changes in cultural life of the western societies. In the case of Europe the end of the Second World War inaugurates a new era for people’s daily life and the Europeans, including Greeks, are called to replace the experience of the war with images and imaginations of a peaceful and progressive future. In the case of the post-war Greece, the systematic cultural “campaign” of the U.S. begins after 1952, while the U.S. economic assistance to Greece ends. In that way, the “American Dream” leaves the field of imagination and turns into images and ideas at social categories, such as intellectuals, youth, women, etc., introducing to Greek people a new democratic ethos in which consumerism becomes the core of the new free world. In these historical terms, the pre-existing political and theoretical vocabulary for the definition of society and self are revised while a new one is invented to describe the “new Greek world” in the “American century”. In my presentation I will try to present the central pillars of a PhD. research which focuses on the cultural influences of Americanism in the early post-war Greece (1950’s) in the field of popular culture and the impact of American culture to the formation of consumer-citizens in post-war Greece. My ambition is to show how the ‘images’ of a new model of life were «born» and subsequently reproduced in the pages of the postwar popular culture magazines during the transitional decade of the 1950’s. In these terms, while my central presentation will focus on the promotion of American life in postwar Greece, I will also try to investigate a theoretical axis (e.g democracy and consumerism) and furthermore to analyze some «antithetic» pairs which are part and parcel of his process, such as tradition and modernity, Greekness and Americanness, urban life and traditional life.