1968 across the Iron Curtain

Research Seminar

Organised by Prof Alexander Etkind and Prof Luisa Passerini
Registration code: HEC-RS-1968-16
Block Seminar: 22, 23 and 24 February, Sala del Consiglio, Villa Salviati
Admin. Assistant: Laura Borgese, Fabrizio Borchi

Seminar description

This workshop is a case study of simultaneous events that shaped our world in entangled ways. While we remember 1968 as the moment of liberating, though non-accomplished, student revolutions in France and the US, this year also saw the Soviet invasion in Czechoslovakia. The year marked the turning point in the Vietnam war and, arguably, in the Cold War as well. Richard Nixon was elected the president of the US, and Leonid Brezhnev consolidated his power over the USSR. Martin Luther King was shot dead in Memphis, and Andrej Siniavsky was serving in a forced labor camp in Mordovia. Yale University announced it was going to admit women. Using the new language of human rights, Russian and Ukrainian dissidents started their struggle with the Soviet regime. From Brazil to Italy, protest movements shook the world but mostly failed to change the governments. Led Zeppelin started performances, and the Beatles sang “Back in the USSR” and became popular there. On the both sides of the Iron Curtain, the enthusiasm and disappointments of 1968 transformed philosophy, political thought, literature and cinema of the subsequent era. The best-known French philosophers, Italian film-makers, American politicians, Polish dissidents all came from the generation that shaped 1968 and were shaped by this historical moment. After 1968, the crucial concepts of human existence – sex, power, gender, class, race – have never been the same, and their tectonic shifts also occurred across the Iron Curtain. In this workshop, we will explore various dimensions of this transnational change. We will complement case studies from countries of Western, Central and Eastern European with broader speculations on issues of history and memory, generations and revolutions, subjectivity and power.


22 February, Sala del Consiglio (Villa Salviati)

Session 1, 14:00-15:00 - Alexander Etkind (European University Institute): 1968, the Cold War, and the Dissident Movement in Russia  
  • Andrei Sakharov; (22 July 1968). "Thoughts on progress, peaceful coexistence and intellectual freedom". The New York Times. Archived from the original on January 13, 2013.
  • Hannah Arendt. On Violence. New York: Harcourt 1969
  • Michel Foucault, Politics and the Study of Discourse” (1968) -  The Foucault effect. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1991, pp. 53-72. Translated by Colin Gordon.
  • Recommended readings:
  1. Daniel J. Sherman, Ruud van Dijk, Jasmine Alinder, and A. Aneesh (eds.), The Long 1968. Revisions and New Perspectives. Indiana University Press 2013
  2. Ingrid Gilcher-Holtey (ed.), A revolution of perception? : consequences and echoes of 1968. New York: Berghan 2014
  3. Luisa Passerini, Autobiography of a Generation: Italy, 1968.  Wesleyan University Press 1996
Session 2, 15:00-16:00 - Angela Romano (European University Institute): 1968, the Prague events, and East - West relations  
  • John G. McGinn, 'The Politics of Collective Inaction: NATO’s Response to the Prague Spring’, Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 1, No. 3, Fall 1999, pp. 111–138
  • Cezar Stanciu (2013) Crisis management in the Communist bloc: Romania’s policy towards the USSR in the aftermath of the Prague Spring, in Cold War History, 13:3, 353-372
  • Students are warmly invited to select one reading amog the following, which focus on national case studies: 
  1. Gottfried Niedhart, ‘Ostpolitik: Transformation through Communicationand the Quest for Peaceful Change’, Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 2016, pp. 14–59
  2. Dockrill, Saki Ruth. ‘Defense and Détente: Britain, the Soviet Union, and the 1968 Czech Crisis’, in Gunter Bischof, Stefan Karner and Peter Ruggenthaler (eds.), The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (Lexington Books, 2009), 249-70
  3. George-Henri Soutou, ‘Paris and the Prague Spring’, in Gunter Bischof, Stefan Karner and Peter Ruggenthaler (eds.), The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (Lexington Books, 2009), 271-82
  4. Stefan Karner and Peter Ruggenthaler, ‘Austria and the End of the Prague Spring: Neutrality in the Crucible?’, in Gunter Bischof, Stefan Karner and Peter Ruggenthaler (eds.), The Prague Spring and the Warsaw Pact Invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 (Lexington Books, 2009), 419-39. 

Session 3, 16:30-18:00 - Guido Panvini (LUISS, Rome): 1968 and Political Violence in Europe  

  • G. Panvini, “The Legitimization of Latin-American guerrilla warfare in the Italian Radical Catholicism”, in Alberto Martín Álvarez and Eduardo Rey Tristán (eds.), Revolutionary Violence and the New Left. Transnational Perspectives, Routeldge, New York, 2016, pp. 110-125.
  • G. Panvini, “Terrorisme noir et terrorisme rouge durante le années de plomb: la guerre n’aura pas lieu”, in Marc Lazar, Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci (eds.), L’Italie des années de plomb, Autrement, 2010, pp. 50-63.
  • G. Panvini, "The Clash between Neo-Fascism and the Extraparliamentary Left-Wing and the Birth of Italian Terrorism", in Karen Dubinsky, Catherine Krull, Susan Lord & Scott Rutherford (eds.), New World Coming: The Sixties and the Shaping of Global Consciousness, Between the Lines, Toronto, 2009, pp. 87-96.
Session 4, 18.00-19:30 - James Renton (Edge Hill University, UK): 1968, Middle Eastern Terrorism, and Global Politics 
  • E. W. Said, Orientalism, London : Penguin Books, 2003 (Originally published: New York: Pantheon, 1978)


23 February, Sala del Consiglio (Villa Salviati)


Session 5, 14:00-19:30 - Eckart J. Gillen (BOZAR, Brussels): 1968 in Visual Art  

No reading required



24 February, Sala del Consiglio (Villa Salviati)


Session 6, 09:30-09:5- Luisa Passerini and Milica Trakilovic (European University Institute): Visual Memory of the 1960s and beyond          

No reading required

Session 7, 09:50-10:40 - Pablo La Parra- Pérez (New York University): The Internationalized Gaze: Approching Helena Lumbreras’s Militant Factory Films      

  • Stark, Trevor. "“Cinema in the Hands of the People”: Chris Marker, the Medvedkin Group, and the Potential of Militant Film." October 139 (2012): 227-242.
  • Labayen, Miguel Fernández, and Xose Prieto Souto. "Film workshops in Spain: Oppositional practices, alternative film cultures and the transition to democracy.", Studies in European Cinema, 8.3 (2012): 227-242.
  • Fragments from the resolutions included in the Newsletter #01 issued by The European Meeting For a New Film (Stockholm, 1977).

Session 8, 10:40-11:3- Annelis Kuhlmann (Aarhus University): The world as stage in the perspective of the post 68-era, as encountered in selected contemporary theatre performances by Odin Theater, Denmark 

  • Christoffersen, E. E. Theatrum Mundi. Odin Teatret’s Ur-Hamlet. New Theatre Quarterly, 28:2, May 2008. p. 107-125.
  • Kuhlmann, A. The Iron Curtain, the Wall and Performative Verfremdung. IN Barta, Peter I. (ed.). The Fall of the Iron Curtain and the Culture of Europe. London: Routledge (2013) (Routledge Contemporary Russia and Eastern Europe Series, Vol. 44). pp. 58-69.
  • Kuhlmann, A. Odin’s Blind Eye. North-West Passage. Vol. 9 (2012). pp. 49-63.

Session 9, 11:50-13:00 - Almira Ousmanova (European Humanities University, Lithuania): Soviet Cinema of the late 1960s in Search of “Socialism with a Human Face”         

  • Marcuse Herbert, Soviet Marxism: A Critical Analysis.  New York: Columbia University Press, 1958 (chapters TBA)
  • Anne E. Gorsuch and Diane P. Koenker, The Socialist Sixties: Crossing Borders in the Second World, Bloomington and. Indianapolis: Indiana University, 2013 (chapters TBA)
  • Prokhorov, Alexander. “The Unknown New Wave: Soviet Cinema of the Sixties.” Springtime for Soviet Cinema: Re/Viewing the 1960's.  Pittsburgh Russian Film Symposium, 2001. 7-28.        

Session 10, 14:00-15:00 - Pavel Kolář (European University Institute): 1968 and Communism in Eastern Europe  

  • Pavel Kolář, Post-Stalinist Reformism and the Prague Spring, in Norman Naimark, Silvio Pons and Sophie Quinn-Judge (eds), The Cambridge History of Communism, volume two: The Socialist Camp and World Power (1941-1968) (draft manuscript)
  • Peter Bugge, Swinging Sixties made in Czechoslovakia: The adaptation of western impulses in Czechoslovak youth culture, In: Pražské jaro 1968: Občanská společnost - média - přenos politických a kulturních procesů, Praha 2011, pp. 143-157
  • Milan Šimečka, The restoration of order: the normalization of Czechoslovakia, 1969-1976, London: Verso, 1984, pp. 13-27, 72-79.
  • Supplementary readings:
  1. Geoff Eley, Forging democracy. The history of the Left in Europe, 1850–2000, Oxford 2002, pp. 341-365.
  2. M. A. Bracke, 1968, in: S. A. Smith (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of the History of Communism, Oxford University Press: Oxford 2014, pp. 156-170.

Session 11, 15:00-16:0- Andrej Milivojevic (European University Institute): 1968, New Marxism and its Opponents in Yugoslavia  

  • Fichter, Madigan. “Yugoslav Protest: Student Rebellion in Belgrade, Zagreb, and Sarajevo in 1968.” Slavic Review 75. 1 (2016): 99–121.
  • Gruenwald, Oskar, Praxis and democratization in Yugoslavia : from critical marxism to democratic socialism?", in Taras, Ray. The Road to Disillusion: From Critical Marxism to Post-Communism in Eastern Europe. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 1992: 175-195.
  • Miller, Nick, "Yugoslavia's 1968 : the Great Surrender", in Tismaneanu, Vladimir. Promises of 1968: Crisis, Illusion, and Utopia. Budapest: Central European University Press, 2011: 227-240.

Session 12, 16:00-17:0- Bohdan Shumylovych (European University Institute): After 1968: between Music Underground, Pop-Socialism and Political Dissent  

  • William Jay Risch, Soviet 'Flower Children'. Hippies and the Youth Counter-Culture in 1970s L'viv // Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 40, issue 3, July 1, 2005
  • Bren Paulina, The quiet life versus the life in truth, in: P. Bren, The Greengrocer and His TV: The Culture of Communism After the 1968 Prague Spring, Cornell University Press, 2010
  • Bolton J., Legends of the Underground, in: J. Bolton, Worlds of dissent: Charter 77, the Plastic People of the Universe, and Czech culture under communism, Harvard University Press, 2012

Session 13, 17:00-18:0- Dieter Reinisch (European University Institute): 1968 and the Civil Rights Movement in Ireland

Readings TBD

Session 14, 18:00-19:00 - Wrap-Up Discussion and Conclusions



Sessions 6, 7, 8 and 9 are financed by the BABE project.The BABE project is receiving funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007-2013) / ERC Grant Agreement n. 295854.


Page last updated on 18 August 2017

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