Rethinking the 1960s (Yet Again): The Global Revolutions of the 1960s and the Politics of Space

Sunday, January 10, 2010: 12:00 PM
Elizabeth Ballroom C (Hyatt)
Michael H. Carriere , University of Chicago
Taking a transnational approach to the student protest movement of the 1960s, this paper argues that young people across the globe not only tied their profound sense of alienation to existing social and political arrangements at this historical moment; they also often tied their vision of this idea to spatial arrangements.  One sees this in deep relief in the architecture and urban planning associated with the Berkeley Free Speech Movement of 1964 and the People’s Park campaign of 1969, the fight against the gymnasium at in 1968, and the struggle over dormitory space at the of in 1967 through 1968.  Allusions to the machine-like nature of the university and the harsh realities of the inauthentic “knowledge factory” were more than metaphorical: they were often commentaries on the physical environment of university campuses themselves. This essay will pay close attention to these environments, showing how they may have helped create an atmosphere conducive to the rise of a global, simultaneous student movement.

At the same time, those that the student protesters were reacting against – the university administrators – had come to see the built environment of the postwar university as coming to symbolize a certain new educational – and even political – philosophy. The large modernist structures that came to dot the campus landscape following World War II were seen by such individuals as the best ways to prepare young people for the postwar world. To these individuals, the aesthetics of modernism – both in terms of architecture and urban planning – created a language in which the campus itself could become a physical representation of the newness, strength, and vitality of Cold War liberalism. It was such a landscape, and everything that this landscape came be to seen as representing, that the global New Left sought to overturn.

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