urnal of Social Sciences February 2011
Antony Hegarty: A transgender voice - Kathleen A. Stephenson Biographical representations of Reagan's childhood - Roger Johnson Biography: Anarchist theorist Gustav Landauer - Oscar Broughton Work in Progress: Explaining media personalization of politics - Lutz Hofer Book & Author: Josje Damsma on Dutch National Socialism
Antony Hegarty: A transgender voice Kathleen A. Stephenson
Biographical representations of Reagan's Childhood Roger Johnson
Anarchist theorist Gustav Landauer Oscar Broughton
WORK IN PROGRESS
Explaining media personalization of politics Lutz Hofer
BOOK & AUTHOR
Dutch National Socialism Josje Damsma
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We wish to emphasize that the United Academics Journal for Social Sciences publishes work of post-graduate and postdoctoral researchers. To encourage the cross-fertilization of disciplines we have chosen a plurality of fields and facilitate a productive interaction between the widest possible range of post-graduate authors and the public. The Social Sciences are the disciplines that explore aspects of human society. This term includes anthropology, archeology, geography, history, law, linguistics, psychology, political science and sociology. To maintain a high academic standard, articles submitted should be based on research undertaken during post-graduate or post-doctoral studies. Articles should be original in approach and subject matter. Each month the journal is dedicated to a specific topic, but we also encourage academics to submit on any facet of Social Sciences. Articles should be sent as an email attachment to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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elcome to the first issue of the United Academics Journal of Social Sciences (UAJSS). For this inaugural issue we have chosen a very broad theme to encourage academics from various disciplinary backgrounds to contribute. ‘One’ can be interpreted in many different ways, both negative as well as positive. This number can be associated with greatness, uniqueness, dominance or ego but also with peculiarity, separation, solitude or isolation. Kathleen Stephenson’s article discusses the uniqueness of Antony Hegarty’s vocal ability Hegarty’s voice, often described as in between a man, woman, and child’s, is a phenomenon of confusion and bewilderment. As a transgender vocal performer, Hegarty’s work focuses on and complicates constructed gender categories. By calling on both queer and poststructuralist theories, Stephenson investigates how Hegarty’s voice disrupts gender binaries. She shows that his voice takes on an abject position and beyond this, argues that the disembodiment of Hegarty’s voice allows him to slip into an object position, and his popularity and success have allowed him to function as a subject. As such Hegarty is an example of the abject which permeates the boundaries, disrupts, and is an example of how Western hegemonic identity categories can be overcome.
In his article on Ronald Reagan, Roger Johnson, explains how biographers tend to understand and represent Reagan’s childhood in terms of his presidency and its significance to American history. He argues how the former US president is intimately connected to the themes and substance of American myth and its symbolic representation. According to Johnson, this mythic nature of biography as well as the mythic understanding of Reagan are most vivid in the treatment of his childhood. Reagan’s young life is recounted, remembered and revised as a prologue to the twentieth century. Whereas Stephenson associated ‘One’ with uniqueness and peculiarity and Johnson with leading and greatness, Lutz Hofer emphasises the purity of this number. In his contribution to this journal’s ‘Work-in-Progress’ section he introduces his PhD project in which he focuses on the description and explanation of media personalisation of politics in order to shine a light on its potential impacts on the legitimacy of modern multiparty democracies. This month’s ‘Book & Author’ features the historian Josje Damsma who, together with Erik Schumacher, researched the Dutch National Socialist Movement (NSB). Their book, Hier woont een NSB’er, Nationaalsocialisten in bezet Amsterdam (Here lives a NSB member, National Socialism in occupied Amsterdam) gives an illuminating insight into many aspects of the NSB. This study explores the extent of social isolation experienced by this movement’s members and within this context the authors draw some interesting conclusions. In a Q & A, Damsma explains the challenges both authors faced during their research and why an interdisciplinary approach was required for this type of project. Oscar Broughton wrote this issue’s biography on Gustav Landauer, who was one of the leading theorists on anarchism in Germany at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Landauer’s life, which tragically ended in 1919, was characterized by popularity as well as isolation and persecution. His biography, with all its variations on themes of being separate, unique and somehow peculiar, in many ways embodies the negative and positive associations of being ‘One’
CALL FOR ARTICLES April 2011: ‘Students in Revolt’ Deadline: 28th of March
urnal of Social Sciences February 2011
United Academics Journal of Social Sciences is a refereed online journal which publishes new research by post-graduate and post-doctoral academics.
Antony Hegarty: A transgender voice - Kathleen A. Stephenson Biographical representations of Reagan's childhood - Roger Johnson Work in Progress: Explaining media personalization of politics - Lutz Hofer Biography: Anarchist theorist Gustav Landauer - Oscar Broughton Interview: Josje Damsma on Dutch National Socialism
We welcome articles, biographies, book reviews and contributions to our ‘work-in-progress’ section. See our journal for submission guidelines.
Kathleen A. Stephenson University of Amsterdam
Antony Hegarty’s Vocality:
How Materiality, Technology, and Symbolic Systems are Entwined needs to be identified, but by only interrogating symbolic systems there are significant limits for new identifiers to be introduced. Instead, by thinking with theorist Katherine Hayles, I argue that by considering materiality identifiers as stable and dualistic cannot work because of materiality’s constant flux and the emergence of technologies extending our bodies to incorporate inanimate technology thus disrupting our understanding of where a subject ends here was a moment of stalling for and begins. I argue that Hegarty is capable of skipme like the small jerk you feel when ping a performative failure when I listened to my you shift too quickly from the clutch mp3 player because his voice split from his body into to the gas the first time I watched another materiality, and finally I argue that Hegarty is a video of Antony Hegarty and his capable of disrupting symbolic systems both because band Antony and the Johnsons. I had of his vocal resistance to dualistic vocality and the heard his1 music on my mp3 player extension of his body through technological developbefore and missed this feeling, but as I watched him ments. for the first time I could not place any identifiers to In what follows I will first introduce Antony him immediately. This moment, which theorist Judith Hegarty. Then I will define what Butler means by Butler calls a performative failure, was curious to me, ‘performative failure’ and how she has been critiand led me to ask the questions: Why are identificized for privileging discursive systems over materialers so important, and if they are obligatory are there ity. Following this move I will draw on scholar Milla ways to think of identifiers other than a dualistic sysTiainen’s writing and discuss how we can conceptualtem? How can Hegarty sometimes skip the performize identifiers in a different way, which can be more ative failure and sometimes not? How can materialdynamic. I will then think with Katherine Hayles’s noity—both animate and inanimate—open up ways for understanding vocality, and finally can someone like tion of embodiment and ‘the body’ to discuss how Hegarty help us disrupt symbolic systems and live dif- their relationship can influence one another and allow for openness and change that postmodernism ferently? By using a methodology of literature review sought to explain just through discourse. Finally, I will I argue that in order to speak, act, or be seen, one discuss how Hegarty is capable of resisting dualistic identifiers yet is given a space to speak with the help 1 I use the pronouns he, him, and his because this is how of technological devices. I found Hegarty represented on the Antony and the Johnson’s
Antony Hegarty: Blurring Boundaries
aspects dualistically, Grant Olwage explains that we could consider the grain as ‘the encounter between a Antony Hegarty is a musician who has been on the voice and language.’viii Vocality then is distinctive to a radar in the last decade with his band Antony and singular body, yet dependent on the space and time the Johnsons. In 2005, Antony and the Johnsons won in which a body is living. Hegarty’s vocality is distinct because he sings the British Mercury Award for their album I Am a Bird Now, that is awarded for originality and creativ- in a liminal position; he blurs what Wayne Koestenity of an album rather than sales success.i The lead baum calls the ‘il ponticello,’ or ‘little bridge’ where singer’s, Hegarty, vocailty is one that New York Times ‘the split between male and female occurs…’ Koestenjournalist John Hodgman calls, ‘somewhere between baum explains: ‘the register line, the color line, the male and female, between childish innocence and gender line, or the hetero/homo line, can be crossed wary adulthood, at once ethereal and earthy.’ii His la- only if the transgressor pretends that no journey has bel, Secretly Canadian, describes his music as: ‘To be taken place…by revealing the register break, a singer sure, with his androgynous features, the singularly exposes the fault lines inside a body that pretends to named Antony is an original. You have never heard a be only masculine or feminine.’ix Naomi André exvoice like this, imbued with the transcendental emo- plains that visually the throat is marked by an Adam’s tion of the blues, yet deployed with an unadorned apple on a male’s throat and physically the larynx simplicity reminiscent of medieval music practice, changes in size at puberty—temporally significant— and aurally a males’ voice drops an octave in pitch and graced with a top note of childlike wonder.’iii Hegarty, who identifies as transgender, trans- and the timbre or done color deepens.x In his argresses many boundaries. First, Hegarty is not from ticle, “The Changing Female-to-Male (FTM) Voice,” just one place; his Mercury award, for example, was Alexandros N. Constansis explains that scientifically, controversial because many people disagreed on his when measured by hertz and millimeters, the noralbum being British or American.iv Hegarty was born malized man’s vocal flaps are generally five millimein the UK, lived in Holland, grew up in California, and ters longer than the normalized woman’s vocal flaps, lives in New York; these temporal and spatial aspects and that while the normalized man’s voice can create shaped Hegarty’s vocality in a way that is still distinctive.v For example, journalist Grason Currin describes Hegarty as having British undertones in his voice.vi In addition, journalist Peter Conrad describes Hegarty’s as ‘a white man who sounds like a black woman.’vii Hegarty sings in borderlands. If we think about vocality, we know that voices are distinguishable and almost function like a fingerprint. Specifically Ro- frequencies ranging from 20-120 hertz fewer than a land Barthes, in his chapter, “The Grain of Voice” woman. These lines are imagined scientifically, mupioneered a way of thinking about vocality that took sically, and physically, but they are based on normalinto account materiality and its relationship with ized bodies not individual ones, and this is why an discursive systems. Instead of thinking of these two individual, Hegarty, is capable of disrupting them.
Vocality is bound up with complex matrices between bodies; time periods; locations; sounds; perceptions; and performances, and is constantly being demarcated into gender; vocal singing parts (tenor, baritone, bass, etc.); race; nation; class; and much more. Although these markers have been imagined and understood as fixed, vocality changes throughout time for every embodied being as their own materiality shifts. Each moment has a way of shaping vocality just as vocal performances shape discourse. In what follows I will reference Butler who explains how these divisions are constructed through performances with citationality.
Butler and Performatives There are two things that I would like to note from Butler’s paradigmatic work, ‘Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex”’ and they are: the performativity of sex—and gender—and the importance (namely politically) of adhering to normalized acts and having a normalized body. Butler argues that sex is performed through actions which are citational. By citational she means that they have been done before (to cite) and can be reiterated (cited again). Construction then is ‘a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixity, and the surface we call matter.’xii Not only are our actions supposed to fit a normalized system, but also our body fits these normalized boundaries because of the repetition of certain actions shapes materiality in this way. In performative failure—when a body fails to adhere to these imagined normalizations—we can see what it means when one does not fit within these boundaries. Butler explains that ‘the limits of constructivism are exposed at those boundaries of bodily life where abjected or delegitimated bodies fail to count as “bodies.”xiii If a body cannot fulfill the performative binary then it is washed to the margins, and is incapable of having agency. She explains, ‘it will be as important to think about how and to what end bodies are constructed as is it will be to think about how and to what end bodies are not constructed and, further, to ask after how bodies which fail to materialize provide the necessary “outside,” if not the necessary support, for the bodies which, in materializing the norm, qualify as bodies that matter.’xiv Bodies that do not fit into this system are outside, and cannot be represented, and politically this has consequences. I think, however, some of the critics of Butler, who consider materiality’s capacity of pushing back on discursive systems provide some methods of how to think about normalized bodies,
discursive systems, and even power relations. Critics of Butler generally find her to be too committed to writing about discursive systems, and while she considers materiality she does not think about the dynamism of matter. Patricia Clough explains, ‘Such questioning not only opens to the thought of matter as dynamic or alive, necessarily reconfiguring the relationship of bodies, matter, and technology. It also opens to rethinking the form of the human body, the relationship of the human body to the environment.’xv Questioning the extensions of bodies and subjectivity, in her book, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, Katherine Hayles explains that the liberal humanist subject—one of individuality and as proprietor of his or her own capacities—have been disrupted by the post human, a figure that should not be thought of as without human, but departing from a human centered understanding of materiality, subjectivity, and considers the extension of human bodies to the environment and other objects.xvi This figure can open up the possibilities of dominate symbolic systems to new possibilities of the extension of bodies that can shape dominate categories.1 1 I do not wish to make it sound like these possibilities are utopic, or riddled with power relations, but rather that dynamisms are ontological happenings.
baums’s race line, the sexuality line, the colour line, or the nationality line never is stagnate (a postmodern promise) and with this theoretical understanding we can open up vocality to include more dimensions than just the singer to a temporal understanding of subjectivity and even include more materialities. Hayle’s expands on just how to conceptualize the relationship between materialities and discursive systems by considering discussing the tensions of embodiment and the normalized body.
Embodiment: Materialities’ Fluctuation Can Shift Symbolic Systems
To understand this better I will explain Tiainen’s uderstanding of dichotomies from her article “Corporeal Voices, Sexual Differentiation: New Materialist Perspective on Music, Singing and Subjectivities.”
A Way of Thinking About Identifiers that are Open to Movement Butler established why identifiers are important, that is to have a space to speak both politically and in daily life. Tiainen knows this, but explores how we can think of identifiers and materiality differently. Drawing on authors Gilles Deleuze and Elizabeth Grosz, Tianen calls for a new materialist way of thinking about subjectivity. When she denotes ‘difference’ she highlights that it ‘does not refer to differences between entities that are supposedly performed, such as men and women… but rather in the positive sense of “incessantly different in and of itself.”xvii Tiainen continues, that materiality should be considered as open materiality always multiple and interconnected with outer forces of the world. Thus, bodies and symbolic systems are capable of change and recognizable vocality is constantly under construction.xviii If we think about vocality being affected by materiality and discursive systems, our understandings of Koesten-
In her book Hayles is critical of the postmodernism epoch that pronounces that bodies are a linguistic and discursive construct.xix Instead, referencing philosopher Elizabeth Grosz, Hayles argues that ‘bodily practices have a physical reality that can never be fully assimilated into discourse.’xx In her book, she establishes two tensions one being between embodiment and body, in order to give materiality more importance when it comes to critical theories. Embodiment, for Hayles, is a contextual way of conceptualizing bodies as being “imbricated within” culture, and taking on a performative way of shaping itself.xxi The body, on the other hand is the normative based to a set of criteria.xxii This tension goes back and forth, for example, there are normalizing discourses yet the specific embodied person can never fulfill the normalized requirements because it is individually articulated, thus, there is always a tension between individual beings and hegemonic constructs.xxiii An example of the normalized ‘body’ being intertwined with individual embodiments is evident in how vocality develops. As children grow they can make sounds based on the capacity of their bodies; however while they incorporate the symbolic system certain vocal sounds remain while others disappear. In addition, certain muscles or even ways to hold muscles become automatic and habitual. Just as an athlete uses repetitive weight exercises to shape her body, the repetitions in creating sounds shape the diaphragm, trigging of lungs, and muscles in the throat. This vocality is still dependent upon what individual bodies can do, but what individual bodies can do is based on spatial and temporal aspects of where someone is. With the notion of embodiment I discussed how individual bodies produce different performances, all of which vary from body to body and performance to performance.
But if these variations in movement are momentarily and different from person to person how can they change living? Hayles cites Mark Johnson’s The Body in the Mind and explains that he demonstrates how the body writes discourse.xxiv He explains that because a common experience between humans is walking upright the metaphorical networks are affected by this.xxv Words and metaphors are implicated with our bodily experience such as up/down, in/ out, and front/back. Johnson’s example of the metaphors derived from our specific embodied experience includes hierarchical systems tied to our vertical stance.xxvi If we lived in different bodies, ones of exoskeletons or unilateral bodies, then our metaphorical networks would be altered too.xxvii From her experience with Johnson’s writing Hayles points out: ‘when people begin using their bodies in significantly different ways, either because of technological innovations or other cultural shifts changing experiences of embodiment bubble up into language, affecting the metaphoric networks at play within culture.’xviii Discourse, then, can be changed and is not just reiterated because of the material that is often overlooked. Although individual embodied experience allows bodily difference to bubble up into discourse, I think emergent technologies—which often act as an extension of the body—are currently in the spotlight for altering discursive systems than evolution or learning new discursive systems for difference in ways of living. French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues that if we wanted to make a “new man” we would have to go through a “deculturalization” and “reculturalization” process that focused on bodily practices.xxix This is because our movements and our habits are entwined with perception, nothing how much movement is caught up with our consciousness. If we think of emergent technologies as extensions of bodies (see Donna Haraway’s cyborg), then we can consider how inanimate materiality can change the way we think about identity categories.
Skipping Performative Failure: Recording Devices as Extension of Materiality As I introduced before, Butler’s description of performative failure references a moment in which an embodied being acts and if his or her action does not coincide with the normalized body he or she is perceived as unintelligible because he or she cannot be identified to any identifier. This does not mean that this embodied being acted as the opposite normalized body, but rather to slip into a space that is uni-
dentifiable. Butler finds drag to be a parody that disrupts dominant norms yet is not enough to replace them. She writes: ‘At best, it seems, drag is a site of a certain ambivalence, one which reflects the more general situation of being implicated in the regimes of power by which one is constituted and, hence, of being implicated in the very regimes of power that one opposes.’xxx An example of this in gendered vocality could be singing in falsetto—the false voice, or head voice—a moment of spectacle or parody that upsets the normalized masculine range yet reaffirms gender binaries. Hegarty, who sings in a liminal space somewhere between resisting normalized categories, slips into this space of unintelligibility. This liminality resists binaried systems, and allows for what Tiainen calls for, a multiplicity and assemblage of genders (positive difference). But if hegemonic norms are so pervasive how can Hegarty be recognized and become so popular? I argue that Hegarty is able to skip the performative failure in some performances because his voice is carried through technologies. In his 1887 article, “The Phonograph and Its Future,” Thomas Edison explains how the phonograph would allow vocality to be recorded at a specific moment and listened to in different spaces and at different times.xxxi This technology opened up the capacity for vocality to be separated from individualized people and emitted from a non-human material. Although at first this was notably uncanny, the onward pressures of time and usage of the technology made recorded vocality familiar in which we no longer are surprised when there is no human body to refer to when we listen to an audio recording. This piece of technology has done three things (1) it has allowed audio perception to be separated from its visual referents, (2) it disrupts the idea of what subjectivity is and (3) it has begun to disrupt symbolic systems. When discussing race and the acceptance of what was classified as ‘black music’ Michael Thomas Carroll explains in his book Popular Modernity in America: Experience, Technology, Mythohistory: ‘In spite of this, there has on the whole been greater representation of blacks in sound (rather than in image), perhaps because disembodied black voice is more tolerable in a racist society than a black image. Thus peculiar daily occurrence during the days of legally sanctioned apartheid in America was the presence of (disembodied) black recorded music in places where (embodied) black people were not permitted.’xxxii This passage highlights volumes about
a society in which identifiers play so much as to who can speak, when and how. The disembodiment of voices, however, helped black artists to be accepted on a public scale. Although I do not wish to say that this overturned power matrices, I do think this example shows how technological devices can function as an extension of bodies that can skip performative failures and allow a racist, homophobic, sexist, xenophobic society to become accustomed to a specific vocality, and thus adds more identifiable vocalities into what can be recognized. I also think that Hegarty momentarily skips the performative failure because his voice is emitted through another material; a voice is heard without referring to a body or referent,
which emits the voice. To turn back to Hayles, we can consider technological devices as incorporated to the body which allows voices to be heard, but not seen. No longer does this function as the uncanniness as the first experience of the phonograph functioned, but rather an everyday experience. The next question is, does this skipping of the performative failure allow for a disruption of identifier or material binaries? By drawing on Joseph Auner’s article, “‘Sing it for Me’: Posthuman Ventriloquism in Recent Popular Music,” the capacity to use technologies and to have disembodied voices play through another material disrupts the liberal humanist subject in which binaried understandings of subjectivity is based. He writes, ‘The productive power of the idea of the posthuman for critics and musicians reflects to a large degree its ability both to expose and to suggest ways of reformulating a naturalized conception of the “liberal humanist subject”; thus in [Susana] Loza’s terms the extension of vocality ‘ends a dualistic system that celebrated the corporeal coordinates of the white heterosexual middle class.”xxxiii Technological extensions of bodies disrupt what is a subject, and thus the privileged body. But what about when we listen to Hegarty without the extension of technological devices? Performative failure will still occur similarly to the experience I opened this essay in which I had a moment where I could not make sense of what I saw and heard. But maybe, because of technological devices, we can become more familiar with these liminal vocalities and eventually have a positive difference understanding of vocal boundaries.
In my research, for example, I found journalist after journalist questioning how to define Hegarty’s voice. They would try to explain Hegarty’s voice and could not do so in under a sentence. These efforts show that words might not exist yet to identify him, but they may develop in the future. This moment of crafting words shows that because of technology ‘others’ can be recognized, but it will take a while before they can be represented.
Conclusion The combination of Hegarty’s liminal voice, and the emergence of recording technologies have disrupted the way we can think about identity categories towards a positive difference model in which materialities and categories are in constant flux. The disruption of our senses and the extensions of materialities can help skip some performative failures by separat-
‘Antony and Johnsons win Mercury’, BBC i. News, 2005, retrieved 2 January 2011 <http://news.bbc. co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/entertainment/4217140.stm> Hodgeman, J., Antony Finds His Voice, ii. New York Times, 4 September 2005, retrieved 2 January 2011 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/04/ magazine/04ANTONY.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all ‘Antony and the Johnsons,’ Secretly Canadian, iii. retrieved 2 January 2011 http://www.secretlycanadian. com/artist.php?name=antony Fryer, P. ‘Antony and the Johnsons bag UK’s iv. Mercury Prize amid controversy’, Earth Times. 8 September 2005, retrieved 2 January 2011 <http://www.earthtimes. org/articles/news/3981.html#> Dalton, S., ‘Antony Hegarty exposes Another v. World with his London homecoming’, (London: The Sunday Times). <http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ arts_and_entertainment/music/article5001752.ece> Currin, G., ‘Another World’, Pitchfork. 4 August vi. 2009., retrieved 2 January 2011. http://pitchfork.com/features/articles/7634-another-world/ Conrad, P. ‘The Interview: Antony Hegarty’, vii. The Observer.17 May 2009, retrieved 2 January 2011.
ing what is heard and what is seen, disrupt our understanding of subjectivity and thus identifiers and boundaries, and finally the extensions of technological developments can bubble into discourse and maybe influence power relations
http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/may/17/antonyhegarty-interview Olwage, G., ‘The class and colour of tone: An viii. essay on the social history of vocal timbre’, Ethnomusicology Forum Vol. 13 No. 2 (2004). pp 203-226 Koestenbaum, W., The Queen’s Throat: Opera, ix. Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, (Cambridge: De Capo Press, 1993) p. 166-167. André, N., Voicing gender: Castrati, Travesti, x. and the second woman in early-nineteenth century opera. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006) p. 30 Constansis, A., ‘The Changing Female-To-Male xi. (FTM) Voice’, Radical Musicology, Vol. 3, 2008, http://www. radical-musicology.org.uk Butler, p. 9 xii. Butler, p. 15 xiii. Butler, p. 16 xiv. Clough, P., The Affective Turn: Theorizing the xv. Social (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007) p. 8 Hayles, K., How We became Posthuman: xvi. Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics (Chicago: Chicago University Press,1999) p. 3 Tiainen, M., ‘Corporeal Voices, Sexual Differxvii.
entiations: New Materialist Perspectives on Music, Singing and Subjectivity’, Thamyris No. 18 (2007). p.147- 160 Tiainen p. 156 xviii. Hayles, p. 192 xix. Hayles, p. 195 xx. Hayles, p. 196-197 xxi. Hayles, p. 196 xxii. Hayles, p. 197 xxiii. Hayles, p. 205 xxiv. Hayles, p. 205 xxv. Hayles, p. 205 xxvi. Hayles, p. 206 xxvii. Hayles, p. 207 xxviii. Hayles, p. 204 xxix. Butler, p. 125 xxx. Ames, E. ‘the Sound of Evolution’, Modernxxxi. ism/Modernity Vol. 10, No. 2 (April 2003). p. 297-325 Carroll, M., Popular Modernity in America: Exxxxii. perience, Technology, and Mythohistory. (New York: State University of New York Press: 2000). p. 148 Auner, J., ‘”Sing it for Me”: Posthuman Venxxxiii. triloquism in Recent Popular Music’ Journal of the Royal Musical Association No. 128 (2008) p. 105-106
Kathleen A. Stephenson has her B.A. from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa in English and the Study of Culture and Society (2010). She is currently a first year research master’s student at the University of Amsterdam in Cultural Analysis. Her interests include: critical theories, documentary film, cartography and technoscientific studies.
Communism and Youth in the Twentieth Century One-day conference 5 April 2011 Old Whiteknights House, Seminar Room Graduate School in Arts and Humanities University of Reading Programme 9.30-10: Registration 10-11: Opening address: Kevin Morgan (University of Manchester): From Infantile Disorders to the Fathers of the People: Youth and Generation in the Study of International Communism. 11-11.15: Coffee break 11.15-13.15: Morning Session: Communist education (Chair: Matthew Worley, University of Reading) Guillaume Quashie-Vauclin (Université Paris-1 Panthéon-Sorbonne): Between Dance and Demonstration: the Union of the Republican Youth of France. 1945-1956; Elke Weesjes (University of Sussex – United Academics): Communist Identity: the Public vs. the Private Sphere; Leo Goretti (University of Reading): Irma Bandiera and Maria Goretti: Gender Role Models for Communist Girls in the Early Cold War Years (1945-1956). 13-15-14: Lunch 14-14.30: Screening of the trailer of the movie The Train to Moscow (Kiné-Vez Film); 14.30-17.00: Afternoon Session: Communism, Consumerism and Mass Culture (Chair: tba) Pia Koivunen (University of Tampere): A Dream Come True: Experiencing Socialism at the World Youth Festivals in the 1940s-1950s; Mark Fenemore (Manchester Metropolitan University): Glossy Socialism: the Youth Magazine Neues Leben, 1954-1969; Matthew Worley (University of Reading): Shot By Both Sides: Punk, Politics and the End of Consensus in Britain.
This event is funded by the Royal Historical Society and the Economic History Society. Attendance is free but registration is required. For any additional information please contact the organisers: Matthew Worley (email@example.com); Leo Goretti (firstname.lastname@example.org).
University of Sussex
Myth, History and
Ronald Reagan’s Childhood in Presidential Biography
riod most distant in time and consequence from his presidency, the mythic nature of biography and the mythic understanding of Ronald Reagan are most vivid.
Biography & Defining National Identity
onald Reagan’s childhood is a story both within and about American mythology. Reagan’s biographers understand and represent his childhood in terms of his presidency, and its significance to American history. His childhood is functionally a symbolic story, as it might be for any president or biographical subject. As a specific subject, however, Reagan is intimately connected to the themes and substance of American myth and its symbolic representation. From Hollywood to the White House, spoke to America about its stories and identity. His presidency, from Star Wars to Iran/Contra, from Ponte du Hoc to Liberty Island, from John Hinckley Jr. to John Winthrop, was defined by its persistent celebration, manipulation, affirmation and confusion of American memory and identity. The broad themes of myth continue in the interpretation of President Reagan, in his representation and commemoration, extending to the understanding of his erai. Reagan’s biographies, however, do not focus directly on the era of his presidency, instead finding their roots and reflections in his earlier life. Politcal and historical analysis is contained by symbolic and commemorative narrative. In the treatment of his childhood, the pe-
The representation of Reagan’s childhood is shaped by form and convention. Primarily, it is biography, a literary and historiographical craft which both contends with and incorporates myth. The biographer Ira Bruce Nadel has described this tension, writing of the “corrective impulse” of life-writers to expose and level their subject’s mythology, both personal and external. For him, this was biography’s first activity, but the second was “its own unconscious creation of new myths.”ii This creation is the result of the narrative demands of writing a life story, the need to fill it with plot and coherent meaning, and the essential didactic purpose of biography. Presidential biography has its roots in a nineteenth century tradition where lives were written and read for improvement, as instruction or caution. The historian Scott Casper studied this early American culture of biography, showing it to be “part of a multifaceted effort to create a national identity and culture”.iii This moral tradition faltered and diversified in the twentieth century under the varied influences of professional history, psychology and celebrity culture, but in presidential biography the function of defining national identity around the subject persists – even if the author’s intent is not as civic-minded as that of Parson Weems in his writings of George Washington.iv The symbolism of the presidency as the representation of the nation acts upon the life-story of the individual president. In campaigns, biography is employed to advance a candidate’s qualification for office, frequently relying on
iconic conventions about presidential origins, both common and extraordinary.v In the historiography and remembrance of a a, his representation of America carries back to his earlier life, and his biography becomes national history. Prominent amongst the biographers who have sought to define and defend their craft as a distinct literary form, Leon Edel claimed it was the biographer’s duty to seek out and unlock the “inner” or “covert myth” of their subject: “a part of the hidden dreams of our biographical subjects…lodged in the unconscious.”vi When the subject symbolises the nation, his inner myths are the reflection and catalyst of America’s. Reagan’s childhood has been retold several times, in several forms, long before his presidency. I will refer specifically, however, to the work of four authors whose biographical interpretations of Reagan have been amongst the most influential literature on the president, and which represent a broad spectrum of purpose and method. Garry Wills’ Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home (1987) is a cultural history of Reagan’s life and his relationship with the country that elected him president. It is a journalistic response to the ideas and attitudes of that time period, as much as a study of the president. Similarly, Michael Rogin’s essay, “Ronald Reagan: The Movie” (1987), was a contemporary analysis, seeking answers to Reagan’s presidency in his self-imagined life-story. An innovative political scientist at UC, Berkeley, Rogin was damning of Reagan and the political tradition he represented. His analysis continues to inform criticism of Reagan and his ideology. Both Wills and Rogin placed emphasis on Reagan’s Hollywood identity, the former to describe his cultural significance, the latter to uncover his psychological defects. Edmund Morris went further in his authorised biography, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan (1999), by incorporating the themes of cinema into his dramatic, fictionalised account of Reagan’s life. The influence of Wills and Rogin on the interpretation of Reagan is demonstrable, while that of Dutch
is less so. Widely read for its official status, it was also widely rejected for its unorthodox methods. Though indulgent and oddly personal, Morris’ book has an ambitious and sincere commitment to the purposes of presidential biography and is, as yet, unmatched in the scope of its account of Reagan’s life. The unique nature of the book may stem from the fact that the author was tasked with the project, rather than choosing it himself. Describing himself as “for better or worse, simply a narrative biographer,” rather than a historian, Morris approached Reagan’s life as a problem to solve, and found his solution in literary craft. These three authors are critical of Reagan to varying extents. Paul Kengor and his biography, God and Ronald Reagan (2004), might represent here the distinct trend within Reagan literature of conservative defence. Kengor is unabashedly supportive of Reagan, undoubting of his greatness or goodness. His biography, intended to demonstrate the consistency and relevance of Reagan’s Christian faith, was an offshoot of a larger project, later published as The Crusader (2007), made the case for Reagan’s personal role in winning the Cold War.vii God and Ronald
Reagan is an extension of this argument, stressing the spiritual nature of his anti-communism, as well as Reagan’s belief in the divine influence over the course of both his life, and his country. Though disparate in their positions and purposes, each author seeks to uncover Reagan’s inner myth and find in it America’s twentieth century.
For Garry Wills, Ronald Reagan was the “Great American Synecdoche”, a “durable daylight ‘bundle of meanings’” whose experiences, imagination and ideas reflected those of the nation, and provided the nation with an aspiration and iconic example – with a myth.viii The example and symbol he offers, however, is ambiguous. Reagan’s America is one of contradictions, caught between the celebration of the individual and the reliance on collective effort and government, between conservative attitudes and rapid development. Reagan’s belief in America does not reconcile its contradictions, or its divisions, so much as elide them through nostalgic re-imagination of the past, and a visionary imaginating of the future. ix This is an argument about Reagan’s presidency, the nature of his leadership and performance, and of its appeal and resonance. Wills makes it, though, in relation to all aspects of Reagan’s life and his presence within American culture. Reagan’s adult life was consistently public and involved in the communication of American iconography and myth, from baseball announcing to Hollywood stardom, from World War II propagandist to spokesman for General Electric, from political activist to governor. Wills’ narration and interpretation of Reagan’s youth (which garners
as many pages as the presidency) is entirely in reference to his later public personae, and is necessarily symbolic. The narrative is structured around a critical analysis of Reagan’s own account of his childhood in Where’s the Rest of Me?, his first autobiography, published in 1965. Wills tells us this is “a political campaign waiting to happen” and “a piece of rhetoric, to be analyzed as such; something designed to make an effect on an audience”, thus approaching Reagan’s youth with the biographer’s corrective impulse. Later, Wills is able to compare Reagan’s account with the historical record, but childhood memories must be treated creatively. The author takes his cue from Reagan’s description of his childhood as “one of those rare Huck Finn-Tom Sawyer idylls”. In the first instance, this is an indication of a sanitised historical memory. Wills reminds the reader of the nature of Mark Twain’s world, represented in his “chronicles of superstition, racism and crime,” by using a local newspaper reference to a lynching in Tampico, Illinois, just five years before Reagan was born there, reporting: “New century or old, the country was still living through Huck Finn-Tom Sawyer dreams, which were never as idyllic as Reagan remembers”.
Wills does not simply accuse Reagan of nostalgia, but aligns him with the blindness and self-delusion of turn-of-thecentury America.
“A Fantasy Life for Millions” The point that Reagan misremembers and romanticises both his own and America’s past, is immediate and consistent throughout the book, but Wills takes his commentary further, there is, he says, “a special poignancy in his superficial gesture toward Huck Finn, since there is much of Twain’s Mississippi in Reagan’s background.” What follows in these opening pages is a portrait of nineteenth-century Midwestern life, as experienced by Reagan’s father and grandfather, and as understood by Mark Twain. Wills turns to Twain’s Life on the Mississippi and its twin expressions of nostalgia for the simplicity of the past and yearning optimism in the rapid technological expansion of river life; its promise of civilisational progress. The comparison with Reagan is implicit, but ever clearer with Wills’ representation of his subject as a man similarly affected by both dreamy fondness for the past and confidence in the future. The difference is also implicit. Twain, we are reminded, was disillusioned with American progress and power by the end of his life, and fearful of the twentieth century. Reagan, born a year after Twain’s death, and going strong in 1986, suffers few doubts about America’s nature or destiny. This introductory association of Reagan with Twain, however, locates Reagan within an American iconography, one of fable and national identity. Even as he seeks to deconstruct and debunk them, Wills portrays Reagan as born to the stories and symbols of America and makes him, like Twain, the storyteller of his age. x This theme persists throughout the narrative in Wills’ continual reference to movies, often Reagan’s own, and their illustration and invocation of American myth. Indeed, the first chapter opens by recounting a scene from King’s Row (1942), where Reagan’s character celebrates the turn of the century, symbolically ushering in his own age. Wills identified Hollywood cinema and its stories as influences on and expressions of the mythology of Reagan’s America. Michael Rogin went further, arguing that
Reagan’s inner myth was a cinematic narrative, that the movies had consumed his memory. For Rogin, Reagan’s life was defined by “an uncanny slippage between life and film”, his confusion of movies and reality extending to his own identity. Like Wills, Rogin turns to Where’s the Rest of Me? (whose title was taken from a line in King’s Row) and Reagan’s account of his childhood. Unlike Wills, he found psychological significance in the related episodes, in particular the incident where the 9-year-old future president encountered his father, passed out and drunk in the snow at the door of their house. Wills was sceptical of efforts to psychoanalyse the president and his politics through what he saw as a deliberate “piece of rhetoric”, considering it designed to communicate a political persona of morality.
He was particularly critical of how presidential hissdfasd torian Robert Dallek interpreted the event and its consequences in his premature account of Reagan’s presidency, The Politics of Symbolism (1983). xi Dallek’s elaborate idea that the story showed the roots of Reagan’s politics – a fear of dependence and mistrust of authority - is central to Rogin’s own argument, but he expands it by saying that the trauma of the event lead Reagan to seek reinvention in his Hollywood roles. Knute Rockne: All American, for example, “inverted Reagan’s familial past, replacing an unreliable dependent father with an idealized, strong one”. King’s Row, on the other hand, gave Reagan catharsis by providing an exaggerated family horror story from which he could escape, through a symbolic act of amputation. “The two films that made Reagan a star”, argued Rogin, “supplied him with an idealized authority he could sacrifice and a sadistic one he could be punished by and then overcome. Freed from the gothic small town, Reagan would reinhabit, as fantasy life for millions, an ideal version of the American past.”xii The essay, in its final form, was published in a collection titled Ronald Reagan: The Movie and other Episodes in Political Demonology. Demonology, in the author’s words is the attribution of “magical pervasive power to a conspiratorial center of evil”. It is the refuge of the counter-subversive who “needs monsters to give shape to his anxieties and to permit him to indulge his forbidden desires”.xiii The cinema is a central theme of Rogin’s study as the medium through which Americans from D.W. Griffith onwards played out their fears and reimagined themselves. Rogin argues that Griffith’s ambition to “collapse the world into film”, “made Reagan possible as a presence who feels real to himself and his audience because he is seen”.xiv Reagan’s involvement in the production of paranoid and repressive Hol-
lywood narratives, combined with his anticommunist, conservative political leadership, makes him a vital figure in Rogin’s tradition of counter-subversive demonology. Indeed, for Rogin, Reagan’s political activity only makes sense in relation to his Hollywood identity. Reagan’s personal political stance against communism and liberalism is analogous to the fantasy and propaganda of Hollywood, and rooted in his
own inability to distinguish between movies and reality. Rogin claims that Reagan found himself in film, remembering and reliving his childhood through the roles he played on screen. However, it is more accurate to say that Rogin found Reagan in film, using an imaginative biographical method that understood the president primarily as a symbol of ideological fantasy, and cast him, in Rogin’s own demonology, as a figure only halfreal – an American monster, created from the mythic fiction of Hollywood. Reagan’s official biographer, Edmund Morris, also found movies at the heart of Reagan’s myth. Morris wrote Dutch as a cinematic biography, bringing fiction and visual drama into his purportedly historical narrative. He also wrote it as a memoir, inserting himself as a fictional
narrator who had observed Reagan for his entire life, rather than just eight years. His violations of the rules of historiography included a variety of other fictional characters, friends and relations of the fictional Morris, and several apparently tangential passages into their lives, complete with fabricated footnotes. For all its self-indulgence, and the frustration it may cause, Dutch is not a failure of a biography. Morris’s innovation affirms the distance between biographer and subject, avoiding any pretence of certainty about Reagan’s thoughts or motives, and allowing the reader to share the role of observer, with discretion over the narrator’s judgement. Moreover, Morris makes a sincere and convincing attempt to understand the nature of Reagan’s significance to America, which is reflected and reinforced by his literary methods. In his prologue, the author relates a reflection which describes his, and perhaps any presidential biographer’s guiding purpose: “Presidents, whatever their political symbolism, represent the national character of their era, and if we do not understand our leaders as people, we can never understand ourselves as Americans”.xv Dutch represents an effort to find American national identity in the life of Ronald Reagan, but rather than describe its tenets, he explores its basis in the concepts of memory and narrative. Dutch is deliberately, emphatically subtitled A Memoir of Ronald Reagan. To relate Reagan’s childhood and life, Morris uses the usual biographical tools of research and narrative, but also through acts of remembrance – both imagined and real. In the prologue, after relating how he came to be Reagan’s biographer, Morris recounts a trip he was part of in May, 1992 to Tampico, the former president’s first visit to the town of his birth in over seventy years. As the chronicler of Reagan’s life, Morris corrects the former president as he misremembers the details of his early life amidst the much-changed landscape of the town. He watches Reagan enter the room of his birth, seem to recoil and retreat from its blunt actuality, and in conversation afterwards losing any interest in his world of eighty years ago. Morris essentially elects to act as Reagan’s memory, or to try to rediscover it – a goal made more poignant by the president’s decline
into Alzheimer’s disease as the book was written. He goes alone to Tampico, Dixon and Chicago, to walk in the places the young Reagan walked and re-imagine his experiences through their landscapes and artefacts, appearing on occasion to hallucinate whole episodes from Reagan’s life. Later, he observes the young Reagan through the fictional memory of his narrator, who first sees him in Dixon playing football and lifeguarding, and then re-encounters him in Eureka and Hollywood. This apparent life-long fascination with Reagan is explained only at the end of the book, in what is perhaps the first twist to occur in biography in literary history. The narrator reveals to the reader that he was one of the seventy-seven whose lives Reagan saved from the currents of Rock River. Unable to thank Reagan in his last meeting with the president in 1994, he makes his gratitude a collective burden and metaphor for Reagan’s legacy - “Some day, I hoped, America might acknowledge her similar debt to the old Lifeguard who rescued her in a time of poisonous despair and…carried her ‘breastward out of peril.”xvi Defending his methods, Morris argues that “a performer is not comprehensible unless he is witnessed, unless there’s a spectator there.”xvii He creates a witness for Reagan’s life, not simply out of literary self-indulgence, but in an attempt to meet the demands of presidential biography. His witness stands in for America. The connections Morris observes and imagines between the present and Reagan’s youth allow the reader to dramatically engage with his life, to commemorate him as a story. “For Morris,” Mark Maslan argued, “memory is history as a medium of identity, and by inventing memories of Reagan, Morris seeks not so much to teach us about him as to enable us [as Americans] to identify with him.”xviii The key to Reagan’s life, his inner myth, as Morris understood it, was his performance for America – a performance that consistently evoked the theme of American identity, a performance of American myth. Morris hoped his readers would understand Reagan, and thus themselves, through a dramatic and fictionalised narrative. The mythic purpose of presidential biography is sought by arguing America’s reliance on imagination and invention to create meaning
– a reliance symbolised by the subject, Ronald Reagan. The use of fiction as a method is unique to Morris, but it is a response to the subject of fiction in Reagan’s life, which, as a president, is unique to him. Saint Ronald Paul Kengor’s God and Ronald Reagan, with its emphasis on the subject’s faith and historical greatness, comes close to literal hagiography – the life-writing of saints. The author makes no case for divine influence in Reagan’s life, but the theme of destiny is implicit – in the nature of Reagan’s faith, and in direction of the narrative. The book is shaped by the argument for Reagan’s personal victory over the Soviet Union, and this emphasis informs the structure of the biography, creating a sense of historical purpose in the progress of Reagan’s life. “Reagan’s life and political career,” Kengor wrote, introducing his biography, “coincided almost exactly with the rise and fall of communism in Russia.”xix This observation directs the narrative, which opens with the young Reagan at Dixon’s First Christian Church on January 20, 1924, in a scene weighted with portent, though unrelated to any significant act or event of Reagan’s life. The moment is important because “a continent away…fifty-three-year old Vladimir Ilych Lenin lay near death in an even colder – in many ways – Bolshevik Russia…As Lenin clung to life, twelve-year old Dutch Reagan clung to his hymnal.” This, Kengor elaborates, “was the start of a spiritual pilgrimage that would lead that boy in the front pew to a spot in front of a bust of a grim Lenin at Moscow State University sixty-four years later.”xx Kengor’s later diversions into Soviet history relate to Reagan’s political development and decisions; here, his dramatic juxtaposition invests the child with destiny. Like Garry Wills, Kengor locates the young Reagan within American cultural and ideological tradition, but focuses on his religious inheritance. The author establishes the direct influences on Reagan’s faith, notably his mother, and the novel she encouraged him to read, That Printer of Udell’s, which prompted him to become baptised at age 11. These influences provided grounds for an intellectual Christianity which, for the young Reagan, defined the roles of the individual and the church in society. Kengor also frames Reagan’s
early faith in terms of the exceptionalist mission he would later apply to his anticommunism, and considers the broader, more indirect theological and historical influences of his church. The roots of Nelle Reagan’s First Christian Church were in the Disciples of Christ, founded in the early nineteenth century by the immigrant Scot, Alexander Campbell, a proponent of a millenarian, nationalist idea of a missionary American destiny. Kengor quoted Campbell’s assertion that the world looked to America for “its emancipation from the most heartless spiritual despotism ever”, and that “this is our special mission in the world as a nation and a people”. Campbell, he stressed, saw America as a “beacon,” a “light unto the nations,” whose political institutions would provide inspiration for the overthrow of false religion and oppressive tyranny in Europe. In his conclusion points out that the course and purpose Reagan’s life in his earliest years, was ‘quite likely’ influenced by ideas from his pastor.xxi This purpose is tied directly by the biographical narrative to American and Soviet history, and reinforced by the consistent theme of national and personal destiny, that shaped Reagan’s beliefs. Conclusion The conventions of presidential biography have changed over two centuries, but the mythic relevance of the presidency still holds its influence
on the genre. One term coined to describe this influence is the “Great Commoner Complex”, whereby presidential biographers struggle to represent their subjects as ordinary human beings, while still portraying them as America’s definitive agents of history and representatives of their age and country. This complex is detectable in these biographies of Reagan. Wills and Morris approach Reagan as a flawed and complex character, compelling but often unremarkable, yet write his life as an exploration of national history and identity. One term coined to describe this influence is the “Great Commoner Complex”, whereby presidential biographers struggle to represent their subjects as ordinary human beings, while still portraying them as America’s definitive agents of history and representatives of their age and country. This complex is detectable in these biographies of Reagan. Wills and Morris approach Reagan as a flawed and complex character, compelling but often unremarkable, yet write his life as an exploration of national history and identity. as America’s definitive agents of history and repre-
sentatives of their age and country.xxii This complex is detectable in these biographies of Reagan. Wills and Morris approach Reagan as a flawed and complex character, compelling but often unremarkable, yet write his life as an exploration of national history and identity. Rogin sees Reagan as a confused and pathetic figure, but whose unlikely rise to the presidency describes America’s own pathology. Paul Kengor explores the development of Reagan’s personal faith, but understands it primarily as an influence and product of history. However, beyond the generic representation of the president-to-be as a symbol of national identity and history, these authors all put forward a representation of Reagan unique to him, as a symbol of American mythology – of the construction and communication of American identity. In Wills, he is a symbol, of national fable and of American storytelling; for Rogin, he embodies national illusion and fantasy. Morris’s Reagan embodies the ambiguity and vitality of America’s self-imagination through memory and drama. In Kengor’s work, Reagan is emblematic of the continuity, communication and application of America’s exceptionalist, missionary ideology. In each case, this symbolism is most vivid in the representation of Reagan’s childhood, where his young life is recounted, remembered and revised as a prologue to the twentieth century
For a more detailed analysis of the association of i. Reagan with American mythology, see Johnson, Roger, “Ronald
Kengor, Paul, God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual vii. Life (New York: Regan Books, 2004), p. Viii.
Reagan and the Mythology of American History”, Thesis (Dphil)
Wills, Garry, Reagan’s America: Innocents at
gan (London: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1999), p. xxviii. xvi.
Ibid, p. 672. Morris, ‘Online Newshour: Reading Reagan’ (Octo-
(University of Sussex, 2010).
viii. Home (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1987), pp. 1-4.
xvii. ber 4, 1999), http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/white_house/
Nadel, Ira Bruce, Biography: Fiction, Fact and ii. Form (London: MacMillan, 1984), p. 9, 176-8.
Garry Wills, Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home ix. (New York: Penguin Books, 2000), pp. 448-459.
july-dec99/reagan_10-4.html (accessed November 27, 2006).
Casper, Scott E., Constructing American Lives: Bi-
iii. ography and Culture in Nineteenth Century America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), p. 19. Ibid, pp. 68-76. Also see Marcus Cunliffe’s discusiv. sion of Washington as the “Copybook Hero”. Cunliffe, Marcus,
Wills (2000), pp. 1-19.
Ibid, p. 43; Wills,’ Ronald Reagan: The Politics of xi. Symbolism’ (review), The Journal of American History 71(2) (September, 1984), pp. 423-4. Rogin, Michael, Ronald Reagan: The Movie and
George Washington: Man and Monument (New York: Mentor
xii. Other Episodes in Political Demonology (Berkeley: University of
Books, 1958), pp. 17-20.
California Press, 1987), p. 22.
See campaign biographies Edel, Leon, Writing Lives: Principia Biographica
vi. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1984), p.161.
xiii. xiv. xv.
Ibid, p. xiii.
Maslan, Mark, ‘Telling to Live the Tale: Ronald xviii. Reagan, Edmund Morris, and Postmodern Nationalism’, Representations 98 (Spring 2007), p. 65. xix. xx. xxi.
Kengor (2004), p. Ix. Ibid, p.2. Ibid, p.34
Altschuler, Glenn C. and Rauchway, Eric, ‘Presixxii. dential Biography and the Great Commoner Complex,’ American Literary History, 16(2) 2004, pp. 363-74.
Ibid, pp. 5-6. Morris, Edmund, Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Rea-
Roger Johnson received his DPhil in American Studies from the University of Sussex in 2010, with the thesis “Ronald Reagan and the Mythology of American History”. He continues his research into Reagan and American memory, and maintains a blog on the subject, Gipperwatch (http://gipperwatch.blogspot.com/)
Gustav Landau Oscar Broughton University of Sussex
“A son of the new Germany” historians Kuhn and Wolf called him.i Gustav Landauer, whose birth coincided with the founding of modern Germany, grew up in a middle class Jewish family in the south of Germany in the small town of Karlruhe. Being born during this exciting phase in German history certainly affected Landauer thought process; nationalism and statehood are two reoccurring themes in his work. From 1888 to 1892 he studied German and English literature, philosophy and art history in Heidelberg, Strasburg and Berlin. During this period, he was particularly influenced by the works of Max Stirner and Frederick Nietzsche, and it is from this point that his interest in the importance of cultural – as opposed to political- struggle first developed. These ideas became manifest when he joined the Neue Freie Volksbuhne (New Free Peoples Theatre) in 1891. For the rest of his life, Landauer remained committed to this organisation, which sought to encourage educational and cultural projects, accessible to workers. In Berlin Landauer befriends the famous anarchist publisher Johann Most who would later move to the United States and play a key role as part of the powerful anarchist movement in New York City during the later part of the 19th century.1 In 1892 Landauer joined the Verein der unabhangigen Sozialisten (Association of Independent Socialists) also known as Die Junger, where he wrote for their paper Der Sozialist (The Socialist). This group was composed mainly of socialists who had been rejected from the newly formed Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). However, unlike many other Marxists who would later move towards anarchism, Landauer later asserted that “I was an anarchist before I was a socialist, one of the few who had not taken a detour via social democracy”.ii This contempt for the SPD would go on to define itself more so in Landauer’s later life in the form of fierce anti-militarism as well as his aversion to doctrinism. 1 An excellent book which covers this period and the actions of the New York anarchists is T. Goyens Beer and Revolution.
In October 1892 Landauer met his future wife, the seamstress Margarethe Leuschner, the two were married within the year and had two daughters: Charlotte Clara 1894 and Marianne 1896. In 1893 Die Junger split along Marxist and Anarchist lines with Landauer firmly on the anarchists side. The anarchist wing retained the journal Die Sozialist and Landauer was able to use this vessel as a way of broadcasting his own brand of anarchism, until the journal capitulated in 1899 due to factional disputes which tore the group apart. Despite this set back Landauer’s rise to prominence in the 1890’s is unmistakable, as he moved from virtual obscurity at the beginning of the decade to one of German anarchism’s most prominent figures. This is not just reflected in the volumes of work, which he produce through Die Sozialist, but alsoin the attention he now received from the German state which imprisoned him several times during this period. This was in part due to the extensive speaking tours which he embarked on throughout the German speaking world, where he came into contact with many of Europe’s most famous anarchists: Kropotkin, Nettlau, Rocker and Malatesta. It was during this period that he also began to formulate his understanding of a federal communitarian anarchism. This idea departs from other communitarian ideas such as those put forward by Bakunin, and in-
1870 - 1919
stead is more akin to the mutual aid philosophies of Proudon and Tolstoy. In Landauer’s own words he sought to create an anarchism based upon the creative potential of individuals by leaving “the state and all forced associations”iii rather then smashing them. As his friend Erich Mühsam pointed out, “Landauer never saw anarchism as a politically or organizationally limited doctrine, but as an expression of ordered freedom in thought and action”.iv This unity between thought and action is a key tenet of wider anarchist principles; in particular, the strong argument for end results which are themselves supported by justifiable means.1 In 1900 Landauer joined the literary group, Neue Gemeinschaft (New Community) lead by the brothers Heinrich and Julis Hart. Although politically ambiguous, this group appealed to Landauer because of the rural utopian ideals, which the Hart brothers espoused. These views would stay with Landauer and mix with his understandings of nationalism and anarchism to form a highly unique way of interpreting nationalism through the lens of German anarchism. In this way the nation becomes more akin to a peaceful community within communities and it is only due to the harmful effects of the state that the nation takes on more coercive features. v 1 An argument which liberalism in particular fails to recognize let alone.
In 1903 Landauer divorced his wife and remarries the translator Hedwig Lachmann, having two more daughters: Gudula Suzanna (1902), and Brigette (1906). In 1908 Landauer founded the Sozialisticher Bund (Socialist Federation) with the stated aim of “uniting all humans that are serious about realizing socialism”.vi Central to the group was the idea of unity amongst intellectuals and workers as well as the creation of small independent communities and organizations. Although small, the Bund did gain members in Germany and Switzerland, which operated in the form of small antonymous communities without any form of central leadership. Landauer also restarted the Die Sozialist in 1909 as a way of supporting this movement, which he edited virtually on his own. Landauer himself wrote 115 contributions for the magazine concerning art, literature,philosophy, contemporary politics and translations of Oscar Wilde and Proudon into German. Among his most famous work during this period was Schwache Staatsmänner, schwächeres Volk! (Weak Statesmen, Weaker People!, 1911). In this piece Landauer famously argues that “The State is a social relationship; a certain way of people relating to one another. It can be destroyed by people creating new social relationship”.vii Within these words Landauer draws together possibly his most brilliant analysis: That the state is not a rigid machine which can be smashed as other contemporaries such as Lenin had suggested, but instead that its true form was as a set of subjective and highly flexible relationships. In 1914 Landauer denounced the First World War using the Die Sozialist as a mouthpiece to vent his frustration against the violence. In response the paper was shut down in 1915 as a result of new censorship laws. In February 1918 Landauer’s wife died unexpectedly of pneumonia, leaving Landauer distraughtfor months. Landauer subsequentlyleft Berlin in 1918 and relocated to Krumbach in southern Germany to escape the wartime hardships. In November 1918 the First World War came to an end, pushing Germany into a state of shock and confusion which lead to the German Revolution. While the SPD attempted to form a representative democracy, others called for more radical forms of democracy. Notably the Spartacists rose up in open revolt in January 1919, and the Bremen Left also sought a form of council based democracy in 1918. While in November 1918, a New Bavarian republic was declared in Baveria, run by a system of councils.
The man responsible for this declaration was Kurt Eisner the leader of the Unabhangige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany) (USPD) a splinter group from the larger SPD, which had formed in 1917 in response to their opposition of the war. In November Eisner invited Landauer to join the revolution in Bavaria which he enthusiastically excepted and joined in Munich, where he became a member of several councils in the city as well as Commissioner of Enlightenment and Public Instruction. However on January 12th 1919, the USPD suffered a spectacular loss in the republic’s first elections, and Eisner was assassinated a few weeks later by right wing extremists. Following these events, the majority SPD established a new government with the help of conservative forces. Opposition to this was fierce and in Munich,on April 7th 1919, the Bavarian Council Republic was declared by anarchists and USPD members. One week later the ousted SPD government sent military units to reclaim Munich, however the Communist Red Army was able to repel them. The Communists now took control of the city, leaving Landauer uncertain of his role in the city. Two weeks later the SPD government sent troops from Berlin bolstered with members of Free Corps, who were finally able to overwhelm the city on May 1st. Soldiers immediately arrested Landauer and they beat him to death the very next day. It is reported that his last words as he was savagely attacked were “Finish me off- to be human”.viii Following Landauers death a small memorial was erected in his memory in the city of Munich. However, the Nazi party destroyed this memorial in 1933 G. Kuhn, Gustav Landauer Revolution and other Writings, A Politii. cal Reader (PM Press, 2010), p.19 G. Landauer “Twenty Five Years Later” in G. Kuhn’s, Gustav Lanii. dauer Revolution and other Writings, A Political Reader, p.64 G. Landauer “A few words on Anarchism” in G. Kuhn’s, Gustav Laniii. dauer Revolution and other Writings, A Political Reader, p.80 iv.
G. Kuhn, Gustav Landauer, p.25
P. Marshall Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism v. (Fontana Press, 1993), p.411 G. Landauer “What does the Socialist Bund Want” in G. Kuhn’s, vi. Gustav Landauer Revolution and other Writings, A Political Reader, p.188 G. Landauer “Weak Statesmen, Weaker People!” in G. Kuhn’s, Gusvii. tav Landauer Revolution and other Writings, A Political Reader, p.214 viii.
G. Kuhn, Gustav Landauer, p.40
Lutz Hofer Department
of English, Foundation University Islamabad (PAKISTAN) University of Amsterdam
hether mathematicians will agree with it or not: One is proba none, but also not as complicated as many. One is a simple an lem. A recurrent phenomenon in communications research descriptions and explanations have too-often-too-quickly bee there, everywhere. There are good reasons to doubt, reasons logic. Political scientists usually discuss the phenomenon as “ utive, party, and electoral level which would ultimately cause regime type. On the other hand, communication scholars res and dividing their attention into three realms of personalizatio
Different terms usually signal different concepts. Yet, despite the obvious overlap, there is still little mutual effort to systematic theoretical and methodological integration and agreement. However, one point both fields do agree on is that from a normative perspective personalization may pose a threat to reasoned debate and decisionmaking, and ultimately endanger the well-being of democracy. Much could be criticized about this reasoning that, at least implicitly, has motivated the endeavor and interpretations of the majority of studies on the subject. I’ll keep this short as others have rightly pointed to this “trivial” understanding (Adam & Maier, 2009): Political psychology’s insights into the merits of cues or shortcuts for citizens’ opinion formation, =(vote) decision making and the application of different normative standards than classic democratic theory might lead us to more careful conclusions. Yet, often even one term contains different concepts. Aside from the lack of interdisciplinary integration of research programs, such inner-disciplinary problems are troubling comprehensive answers to the personalization hypothesis. For instance, campaign personalization has been defined simply as “using heads” (Hartleb & Jesse, 2005, p. 90), “creating and using the prominence of leaders” (Schönbach, 1996), or as “focus of the campaign on the main candidates” whereby “personal, role-afar characteristics” as well as the “private side” of the candidates are system atically emphasized (Holtz-Bacha, 2006). Media personalization, on the other hand, has been marked as “increased media interest in personalities of the politicians” (Grbeša, 2004), “a media phenomenon
in the sense that reporting on politics by the media is scrutinized with the aim of quantifying political leaders among those who are reported on” (Kaase, 1994), or as “a concentration on the candidates at the expense of parties and political issues [and] as a concentration on personal qualities with no obvious political dimension” (Wilke & Reinemann, 2001). Moreover, such differences in definitions, some broader than others, have created a multitude of operational approaches. For media personalization, the focus of my work at the University of Amsterdam, measurement ranges from simple counts of articles that at least once mention a candidate over elaborate comparisons of candidate mentions versus party mentions, to the ratio of attributions of political versus private image characteristics (that often are placed into such exclusive dichotomy). These indeed difficult and necessary decisions to restrict instruments for keeping them applicable within the constraints of time and money have complicated the comparability of studies at hand, as well as with regard to findings. Most authors agree that personalization is nothing new. On the other hand, all perspectives and the term itself suggest a trend over time, and more specifically: an increase over at least the past 30 years. If at all brought forward, the main explanatory argument is usually kept short: modernization and medialization and especially the introduction of private television would have accelerated personalization.
Lutz Hofer obtained a BA (cum laude) in Communication Studies, Political Science, and Sociology at the University of Duesseldorf/Germany in 2003 and an MA in European Communication Studies at the International School for Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Amsterdam in 2005. His master thesis focused on trust building in government communication. Lutz is currently writing PhD thesis at the UvA.
Work in Progress
ably the purest number for empirically working social scientists. It is not as frustrating as nd comprehensible answer, even to complicated questions. And that is exactly the proband its neighboring field of political science, for which simple, seemingly generalizable en claimed, is the idea that we are facing an increasing personalization of politics – here, s that have led me to conduct comparative research going beyond one-case-one-answer “presidentialization”: an extension of personal political actors’ power zones on the execa shift towards a system that is more presidential in practice without having changed its search the issue under the term “personalization”, taking a communications perspective on: campaigning, media coverage, and effects on public opinion and attitude formation. This logic is indiscriminately applied in studies that do not focus on television content, but on campaign posters, newspaper coverage, and vote decisions alike. Also, where and how these macroprocesses would transform into specific personalization artifacts, such as media personalization, and how these transformations interrelate has not been addressed. The assumption of an increase is still what it is: an assumption. Despite all conceptual and methodological reasons for doubt, the argument that macro-processes taking place in many of the countries being researched would be causal, as media personalization has perpetuated the conception that personalization is one single and uniformly developing phenomenon. Interestingly then, when being confronted with the task to interpret the results of their single-case/single-country-design, studies necessarily refer to a “context matters” argument (It probably was the role of party system of this country. It probably was the candidate’s personality.) – and leave it uninvestigated. Studies which really take a comparative approach across time and contexts are scarce, and so far none has developed an explanatory framework along which the dynamics of media personalization could be hypothesized and interpreted. What follows from all this? One answer to the personalization hypothesis can only come into sight if research starts harmonizing the many single definitions and methodologies into one encompassing concept that is geared towards the specific realm it wants to research (e.g., personalization in the media), sensitive to its interrelation with other realms, and reaching beyond cross-sectional evaluations (as personalization assumes a process over time). In this sense, one-ness of concept is appreciated. On the other hand, such a concept
can only be informed by a comparative perspective. In this sense, one (case, timepoint, etc.) is not enough. In my dissertation, I suggest media personalization to be thought of as an artifact that can be explained by the context-dependent degree of commercialization of journalism culture (see Hanitzsch, 2007), whereby media personalization is conceptualized and measured along five dimensions (presence, structural emphasis, substantial centrality, detachment, de-politicized portrayal). At present, I am conducting a content analysis of a set of approx. 4300 political frontpage news items, comparing a) national daily quality and popular newspapers in b) campaign as well as routine time over c) a time-span of 30 years (1980-2009) in d) five different countries (Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, United States of America) that differ in their contexts of political communication systems. The results are expected this summer. Alas, it might be more than one
--Adam, S., & Maier, M. (2009). Personalization of politics - towards a future research agenda. A critical review of the empirical and normative state of the art. Paper presented at the 54th annual meeting of the DGPuK “Medienkultur im Wandel”, May. Bremen, Germany. --Grbeša, M. (2004). Personalization in Croatian presidential election in 2000: How personal did the candidates go and what did the press cover? Politička misao, 41(5), 52-73. -Hanitzsch, T. (2007). Deconstructing journalism culture: towards a universal theory. Communication Theory, 17(4), 367-385. --Hartleb, F., & Jesse, E. (2005). Der Bundestagswahlkampf von 2002 unter strategischpersonellen Gesichtspunkten. Mit einem Ausblick auf den Bundestagswahlkampf 2005. Politische Studien, 402, 86-97. --Holtz-Bacha, C. (2006). Personalisiert und emotional: Strategien des modernen Wahlkampfes. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, 2006(7), 11-19. --Kaase, M. (1994). Is there personalization in politics? Candidates and voting behavior in Germany. International Political Science Review, 15(3), 211-230. --Holtz-Bacha, C. (2006). Personalisiert und emotional: Strategien des modernen Wahlkampfes. Aus Politik und Zeitgeschichte, 2006(7), 11-19. -- Kaase, M. (1994). Is there personalization in politics? Candidates and voting behavior in Germany. International Political Science Review, 15(3), 211-230. --Schönbach, K. (1996). The Americanization of German Election Campaigns. In D. Swanson and P. Mancini (eds.), Politics, Media and Modern Democracy (pp. 91-104). London: Praeger. --Wilke, J. & Reinemann, C. (2001). Do the candidates matter?: Longterm trends of campaign coverage – A study of the German press since 1949. European Journal of Communication, 16(3), 291-314.
Josje Damsma & Erik Schumacher. Hier woont een NSB’er. Nationaalsocialisten in bezet Amsterdam (Boom, Amsterdam 2010) ISBN 9789085069539;paperback; 182 pages; 19.90 euro. At its peak the Dutch National Socialist Movement (NSB) had approximately 100,000 members. The party, founded by Anton Mussert and Cornelis van Geelkerken, was particularly popular in Amsterdam where it had over 10,000 members. In their book Hier woont een NSB’er. Nationaalsocialisten in bezet Amsterdam, Josje Damsma & Erik Schumacher focus on ‘ordinary’ NSB members in the Dutch capital during the German occupation (1940-1945). Rather than discussing key figures in the NSB, the authors choose to write a so called history-from-below. The result is a fascinating historical narrative which describes the social and mental world of NSB members. The book, which is based on diaries, memoirs as well as archival sources, draws some interesting conclusions. First of all, the authors show that in Amsterdam, NSB members were much more active and loyal than previously assumed. Even in the spring of 1944, when the chances of a German victory had become extremely unlikely, there were still a significant number of loyal NSB members. The latter proves that the movement was not only made up of opportunists, who only joined because they wanted to profit from the special status enjoyed by members, but also by true believers. Secondly, the authors conclude that whereas the NSB as a movement was vilified and politically isolated, on an individual level, its members weren’t necessarily isolated or marginalized. The NSB encouraged its members to remain friendly with ‘the world outside of the movement’ and there are numerous examples of relationships forged between members and non-members. Therefore, according to the authors, the NSB was never completely isolated as previously suggested. Furthermore this research shows that the movement not only offered ideology and politics but also a social system During its existence the NSB organised many activities for the whole family and generally looked after members who were needy, such as the families of East-Front volunteers. Without denying or ignoring any of the atrocities committed by the NSB and its members, Damsma and Schumacher reveal that there was much more to the movement than previous studies have shown. As such, Hier woont een NSB’er is a significant contribution to the existing national socialist historiography.
20 years ago, Jolande Withuis – also affiliated with the Dutch Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) - published her book on communist mentality (Opoffering en heroiek. De mentale wereld van een communistische vrouwenorganisatie in naoorlogs Nederland, 1946-1976) in which she portrays the lives of ‘ordinary’ communist women.
Criminal Court. Although access to these files is limited, we are now able to study a bigger group of ‘ordinary’ NSB members than 20 years ago. Lastly I think that the current political climate has a significant influence. The rise of first Pim Fortuyn and now Geert Wilders has shown that a moderate Dutch political culture is no longer a given. These developments have enabled a growing interest in research into Dutch National Hier woont een NSB’er has a lot in common with Socialism. Withuis’ research; both books apply a similar methodology and describe besides political, How does your book fit into the international predominantly the social and cultural aspects of historiography of fascism? the NSB and the Dutch Communist Party. Why did we have to wait so long for a similar book The recent revival of studies into internationon the NSB? al fascism has contributed to a new interest in the NSB. In preparation for our own research The fact that compared to the communist move- Erik (Schumacher, red.) and I read the few availment, a social history of the NSB has been pub- able studies about the NSB, before moving on lished relatively late has among other things to to international studies, like that of Paxton and do with the subject; it has only been since re- Mann. They were clearly interested in fascists’ cently that there is a renewed interest in stud- movements’ rank-and-file. Paxton finds it very ies of Dutch National Socialism. Most political important to study both the ideology of a pohistories are being written by people who are, litical party’s leadership as well as the political one way or another, affiliated to the subject of practices of its ‘ordinary members. Furthermore their research. Since the NSB was discontinued he argues that it is vital to study the period when in 1945, there aren’t many people who have this fascists exercised power, because it is precisely in affiliation. One of the reasons for the aforemen- this period that they have to make choices which tioned revival is the availability of new sources. clarify their core beliefs. This moved Erik and I to NSB members’ personal files have become ac- focus on ‘ordinary members’ during the German cessible at the Central Archives of the Special occupation rather than during the 1930s.
Josje Damsma studied Political Science and History at the University of Amsterdam. In September 2008 she started her PhD at the University of Amsterdam and NIOD (Dutch institute for war, holocaust and genocide studies). Her PhD project is ‘A social history of Dutch National Socialists during the German occupation. Tensions between political commitment and social interaction.’
G.A. Kooy studied NSB members in Winterswijk; his project focuses on the question why people joined or left the movement, rather than researching the impact a NSB membership had on a person’s life and surroundings. Kooy is an exception; most studies focus on the NSB’s leadership and its propaganda, which is a shame because like with the communist movement, it is very important to look at a fascist organisation’s membership and activities. Within these kind of movements, there is no clear divide between ideas and deeds. Therefore besides looking topdown, a bottom-up approach is essential. Rather than taking the isolated position of the NSB as a given, in Hier woont een NSB’er we explore the extent of social and political isolation of collaborating fascists. Internationally we don’t see many scholars who ask the same question. Again we see a cross-fertilization between research into fascism and communism. The authors of Communists in British society (2009) for example, question the notion of ‘a closed society’ and point out that there are several ties between individuals and the party. This point of departure is also relevant for research into the NSB. It is very important that membership be viewed as dynamic rather than static.
interview. These difficulties made us decide to focus on archival sources instead. The personal files in combination with diaries, memoirs, local party rags, internal and police reports, are all great sources to discuss the meaning of a person’s NSB membership.
Recently a group of ex-NSB members in the town of Wedde revealed that they, 65 years after the war, are finally ready to open up about their past. You’ve based your research on diaries, NSB-members’ personal files and memoirs. Have you considered interviewing ex-members You’ve applied a popular scientific approach. to create a more complete picture of what Why? it was like to be part of the National-Socialist movement? We wanted to reach a wider public. Our research results were presented in an academic journal; We have indeed considered the idea of inter- Bijdragen en Mededelingen betreffende de Geviewing people, but were faced with quite a few schiedenis der Nederlanden/ The Low Countries practical problems. People who were active in Historical Review (2009). We decided to publish the NSB during the war are now around 90 years a popular scientific book because the subject is old. That makes the research population very very suitable for such an approach and because small, which makes it impossible to interview a we had fantastic visual material. Our results were varied group of people. Furthermore, the use of not only an important contribution to the fascist oral testimonies provokes many questions and historiography, but they also have a social value. difficulties; we feel that recollections only reveal For this reason we presented our research not the respondents’ self-image at the time of the only to fellow historians but also to a wider pub-
Our results were not only an important contribution to the fascist historiography, but they also have a social value. For this reason we presented our research not only to fellow historians but also to a wider public. Hier woont een NSB’er is a prime example of an interdisciplinary study. Do you think that this is the future of historical research? Subjects related to the history of war are particularly suitable for an interdisciplinary approach. Recently, there has been a growing interest in social history and history from below; within this context it is good to apply social theories. For political histories it is obvious that there is much common ground with political sciences. I think that cross-fertilization between disciplines is vital, we need to cross the borders of our discipline to discover new insights or to give research a whole new perspective. It would a shame and a waste to only look for new insights within your own field of expertise and ignore other scholars from other disciplines who work on the same subject. Nevertheless, ‘interdisciplinarity’ is not a magic term and scholars need to explain clearly which disciplines they want to combine. I do feel that many research projects will benefit from an interdisciplinary approach. When it comes to research into the NSB it is very clear how and why an interdisciplinary approach is suitable. The way the NSB functioned has much in common with sociological theories about social movements, and subjects like political participation and mobilization techniques overlap with political sciences
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