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Keynote Abstracts

  • Paul Gilroy  

1968 and Postcolonial England: Enoch Powell, Martin Luther King, Rivers of Blood and ‘Fanon's New Man’


  • Patricia Hill Collins

Freedom Now!  1968 as a Turning Point for Black American Student Activism 

Because white, middle class university students’ opposition to the War in Vietnam is often treated as the most significant form of student activism of the 1960s, this particular case often serves as the standard-bearer for conceptualizing political activism among youth. However, by underemphasizing African American youth’s ideas and actions during this same period, many accounts of 1960s’ student activism overlook characteristic forms of student activism that by African American student leaders and their constituencies. On college and university campuses, white and black American students may have engaged in similar behaviors, but may have done so for very different reasons and toward very different ends.  

In my presentation, I investigate how African American student activism in the 1960s was catalyzed by the contradictory social movement politics of the civil rights and black nationalist movements, and not solely student-based activism within university settings. I suggest this activism took broader form than protesting university politics and/or using universities as sites for staging protests about American public policy. Devoted to the construct of freedom, such activism invoked a historically developed conception of praxis, one grounded in African American social and political thought’s adaptation of democratic aspirations of broader traditions of American pragmatism. I suggest that the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. catalyzed a distinctive turning point in black intellectual and political history, one witnessed by African American youth, and that had special meaning for their subsequent activism. 

  • Juliet Mitchell

Women's Liberation; Feminism; Gender Studies - 1968 Lives On

In 1966 I published 'Women:the Longest Revolution' - unfortunately a rather good title! Through the shift from women's liberation to feminism to Gender analyses, my talk will look at 1968 as a 'spot of time' when an evolution becomes a revolution.

  • William Outhwaite

When Did 1968 End?

The 1968 movements in the ‘West’ had few immediate and substantial results.  Their effects have to be seen in their impact on longer-term cultural and generational trends. In one sense, ‘1968’ was over by the end of the calendar year. The oil shock of 1973 was another milestone or tombstone for optimistic projections, as was 1989.  Longer-term effects however persist, as the ‘1968 generation’ slides into retirement. 

  • Ken Plummer

Outsiders, Deviants and Countercultures: Subterranean Tribes and Queer Imaginations in 1968

1968 was a spectacularly symbolic year. From a critical humanist perspective, I plan to interconnect (auto/ethnographically) my personal life (being a Community Service Volunteer, coming out as gay, starting a PhD on gay life in London at the LSE, starting teaching at a soon-to-be Poly, and becoming a sociologist) with wider cultural changes. My argument will locate my life dually in long term ‘subterranean traditions’ (in sexual, gender, ethnic, welfare, crime, political, recreational, artistic, intellectual and other social worlds) as it confronted broader and wider social processes: the market, the media, individualism, informalism.  I hope to suggest the impact on sociology and criminology (partly through the emergence of The National Deviancy Conference NDC in 1968), as well as the putative development of a  gay and lesbian studies suggesting  a ‘deviant imagination’ which anticipated ‘queer theory’ twenty years later.

  • Lynne Segal

She’s Leaving Home!  Repositioning Women in Narratives  of the Sixties 

Arguing against the grain of much subsequent reappraisal, which dismisses the individualism and braggadocio of May ’68, I will suggest that women, paradoxically,  emerged as the one of its main beneficiaries. As it progressed, the Sixties would decisively crystallize so many of the contradictions around womanhood, domesticity, and the ‘feminine’. Moreover, out of the diverse cultural, political and social currents at the close of the Sixties, the eruption of Women’s Liberation at that moment was as much an expression of Sixties utopianism, as a critique of  it.