CFP: Understanding America in the 21st Century: Culture and Politics

Convened by the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association

Salzburg Global Seminar, Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria

Friday, September 21 – Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Ever since Salzburg Global Seminar was founded in 1947 as the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, critical dialogue about American history, literature, cultural institutions, politics, economics and law has played a vital role in our organization’s development and legacy.

The annual symposia convened by the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association focus on topical questions and issues related to American culture and society, in order to foster understanding of how these issues are influenced by, and affect, the world as a whole.

The multi-disciplinary symposium in 2018 will explore the sensitive intersect of culture and politics in America’s rapidly changing landscape, building on the conclusions of the 2017 symposium on Life and Justice in America: Implications of the New Administration.

Our ultimate purpose is to foster greater understanding of how the lives of individuals and communities in 21st century America are being reshaped as a result of current social, political and cultural forces as well as America’s changing role in world affairs.

Participants will examine factors related to leadership, gender, race and ethnicity changes in America, transformations in media and digital communication, the decline of trust in political and cultural institutions, the direction and polarizing significance of popular culture and the arts in understanding America, and the implications of the above for the future of American Studies abroad.

Program Format The four-day session will be a highly participatory and outcome-oriented program, held at Schloss Leopoldskron, the historic home of Salzburg Global Seminar. Daily thematic presentations by distinguished speakers will be followed by moderated plenary discussions, as well as panels and café discussion groups on topical issues to maximize cross-sector interaction with participants.  Afternoon sessions will include small thematic working groups, providing multiple opportunities for all participants to share their knowledge and expertise on equal terms and to build new alliances and research projects.

Participants will analyze the likely directions of changes  in America over the next decade, drawing on their observation of developments since the 2016 election as well as political trends leading up to the mid-term elections of 2018.

Participant Profile Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) symposia are intended to connect scholars and professional leaders from around the world to build collaborative networks for research and critical debate. The 2018 meeting – the 16th SSASA symposium – will bring together approximately 40 participants from more than 25 countries. In addition to public and private sector professionals, participants will include academics teaching about the United States in universities across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central, Eastern and Western Europe, as well as the United States. We will actively encourage participation by Americanists, political scientists and cultural professionals interested in the future direction of American culture.

Key Questions  Issues to be addressed during the symposium will include:

  1. Why is America so hard to understand?
  2. In what way are increased social, political and cultural tensions a product of demographic shifts, changes in leadership, or issues of gender, race relations, the politization of immigration, and crime and punishment and judicial fairness in the U.S.?
  3. What explains the loss of trust that America is currently experiencing and what are the implications for the future?
  4. What are the most dynamic factors, specifically including the distribution of wealth and educational opportunity, that are contributing to the polarizing of society and politics?
  5. To what degree does an analysis of popular culture and cultural institutions, such as political, economic, educational, and the arts foster an understanding of America?
  6. To what extent does American populism and nationalism differ from that presently being experienced elsewhere?
  7. In what way and manner has the expectation and conduct of political leadership changed in the 21st century?

Program Goals

  • The session’s primary goal is to foster intellectual analysis and discussion between professionals and academics about the factors shaping the future of personal life and communities in America.
  • Participants will gain a better understanding of the complexity of domestic and international forces impacting and driving America in the 21st century, to enrich their teaching, research and practice.

Session Chairs:

Christopher Bigsby, Director, The Arthur Miller Institute, University of East Anglia, UK

Ronald Clifton, Retired Counselor, Senior Foreign Service of the United States; Associate Vice President (ret.), Stetson University

SPEAKERS will include:

Christopher Bigsby, Director, The Arthur Miller Institute, University of East Anglia, UK

Reinhard Heinisch (invited), Professor and Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Salzburg

Tricia Rose, Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies and Director of the Center for Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, Brown University.

Charlie Savage (invited), Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Washington correspondent to the New York Times

For more information about the program, contact Symposium Director Ms. Marty

The symposium website and a registration form can be accessed at

Information on designated speakers will be posted there as soon as they are confirmed.

Limited financial aid is available towards the symposium fee of 740 Euro (which includes all expenses in Salzburg, but not travel). One full scholarship will be awarded through the Emory Elliott Scholarship fund, and one through the Clifton Scholarship Fund.