The American Frontier has been a place both of promise and loss; a loss of life and land for the Native population, but a promise to those who have come to colonize these lands. What could be called the European frontier is a possible or recent region of EU expansion into former territories controlled by the Soviet Union.
Today, the American frontier is both "closed" and ubiquitous. Celebrations of frontier life can be seen throughout the United States, manifested in the continued affirmation of the so-called pioneer spirit, of rugged individualism and self-reliance as demonstrated by the Tea Party movement and its political representatives. Consequences of frontier ideology can also be seen in the persistent challenges for Native cultures and economies. In rural, frontier America, however, both Native and non-Native communities ideologically and culturally have become part of the national mythology of Cowboys and Indians: The frontier has always been defined as a "meeting place," however euphemistically phrased by Frederick Jackson Turner.
In the aftermath of the recent economic downturn, but already following an intensive economic globalization, rural, frontier America has felt the consequences of the economic downturn and a change in industrial and labor structures. What has this meant for the cultural legacy of the pioneer spirit and the "winning" of the West?
On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union has developed a mythology of community and progress, of peace and prosperity after World War II, a movement that has been rejuvenated by the end of the Cold War. This "winning" of the East had been interpreted also as an ideological victory for democracy and post-nationalism. However, following initial euphoria, the fall of the Soviet Union has enabled economic globalization to an unprecedented degree. Rural communities in Europe have been hit hard by the ensuing deindustrialization. Furthermore, in some former Communist states, the ideological push towards neo-liberal policies stands in stark contrast to established welfare states and state-mandated solidarity in the former Western Europe. These processes are also questioning national mythologies and borders, for instance in the border regions of Germany and Poland, but also with respect of resurging nationalism in Hungary, Finland, Austria, Belgium and Italy.
Thus in a critical comparison, the Tenth Transatlantic Students Symposium will investigate in how far the impact of both the intensified globalization and the economic crisis has affected rural communities in the United States and the European Union, and how this has translated into a reexamination of national mythologies based on the respective frontiers, in the American case towards the West, in the European case towards the East.
The Symposium is made possible by the generous support of:
American Studies Program
Oregon State University:
Master of Public Policy Program,
Intercultural Students Services
Max Kade Foundation
Holiday Land Richter Reisen, Berlin
The organizers would like to express their gratitude to all sponsors, guest speakers and participants for their continuing dedication and support.