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10th Transatlantic Students Symposium

Rural Frontier Communities, Global Challenges?
The American West, the European East, and the Resurgence of National Mythologies

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Oregon State University,
University of Warsaw
Oregon, March 23-April 1, 2012


Program Description

The American Frontier has been a place both of promise and loss; a loss of life and land for the Native population, but a promise to those who have come to colonize these lands. What could be called the European frontier is a possible or recent region of EU expansion into former territories controlled by the Soviet Union.

Today, the American frontier is both "closed" and ubiquitous. Celebrations of frontier life can be seen throughout the United States, manifested in the continued affirmation of the so-called pioneer spirit, of rugged individualism and self-reliance as demonstrated by the Tea Party movement and its political representatives. Consequences of frontier ideology can also be seen in the persistent challenges for Native cultures and economies. In rural, frontier America, however, both Native and non-Native communities ideologically and culturally have become part of the national mythology of Cowboys and Indians: The frontier has always been defined as a "meeting place," however euphemistically phrased by Frederick Jackson Turner.

In the aftermath of the recent economic downturn, but already following an intensive economic globalization, rural, frontier America has felt the consequences of the economic downturn and a change in industrial and labor structures. What has this meant for the cultural legacy of the pioneer spirit and the "winning" of the West?

On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union has developed a mythology of community and progress, of peace and prosperity after World War II, a movement that has been rejuvenated by the end of the Cold War. This "winning" of the East had been interpreted also as an ideological victory for democracy and post-nationalism. However, following initial euphoria, the fall of the Soviet Union has enabled economic globalization to an unprecedented degree. Rural communities in Europe have been hit hard by the ensuing deindustrialization. Furthermore, in some former Communist states, the ideological push towards neo-liberal policies stands in stark contrast to established welfare states and state-mandated solidarity in the former Western Europe. These processes are also questioning national mythologies and borders, for instance in the border regions of Germany and Poland, but also with respect of resurging nationalism in Hungary, Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy.

Thus in a critical comparison, the Tenth Transatlantic Students Symposium will investigate in how far the impact of both the intensified globalization and the economic crisis has affected rural communities in the United States and the European Union, and how this has translated into a reexamination of national mythologies based on the respective frontiers, in the American case towards the West, in the European case towards the East.

Symposium Week Field Trips

Workshops: in Portland

Site Visits: Portland: Japanese Memorial Plaza; Multnomah Falls; Pendleton; Umatilla Indian Reservation, Warm Springs Indian Reservation; John Day Fossil Beds, Painted Hills Unit; Bend; High Desert Museum; Sisters; Corvallis; Newport; Grand Ronde Indian Reservation: Spirit Mountain Casino

Institutional Visits: Umatilla Indian Reservation: Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, Board of Trustees; Pendleton: Mayor, OSU Extension; Port of Morrow: Field Workers; Warm Springs Indian Reservation: Radio Station, Old Agency, Education Board; Newport: Hatfield Research Site and Aquarium

Total participants: 27


Dr. Philipp Kneis, Allison Davis-White Eyes,
Dr. Brent Steel, Mario Magaña (OSU),
PD Dr. Reinhard Isensee (Humboldt),
Dr. Tomasz Basiuk (Warsaw)

Student Organizers

Mirza Besirovic, Nadine Birner, Jiann-Chyng Tu (Humboldt), Hillary Fishler, Chrysanthemum Mattison, Lauren Plaza (OSU)

Student Participants (not organizers)

15 (Humboldt: 8, OSU: 5, Warsaw: 2)

Conference Program

Conference Program Flyer
Conference Program Flyer, Symposium II at Humboldt-Universität

Syllabus for Preparatory Class at OSU

Partners and Supporters

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin: International Office,
Humboldt-Universität, Philosophical Faculty II,
American Studies Program,
Humboldt-Universität, Students Union English and American Studies

Oregon State University:
Public Policy Graduate Program,
Diversity & Cultural Engagement (Intercultural Student Services)

University of Warsaw, American Studies Center

Max Kade Foundation

Holiday Land Richter Reisen, Berlin

see also: Latest Program Report

back to: Symposia

Fort Vancouver

Japanese Memorial Plaza, Portland

Workshop at Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, Umatilla Indian Reservation

Meeting with Board of Trustees, Umatilla Indian Reservation

John Day Fossil Beds, Painted Hills Unit

Symposium Conference at OSU

Transatlantic Students Symposia