SSASA » Overview

A Long History of American Studies Programs at Salzburg Global Seminar

Since Salzburg Global's founding in 1947, with the first American Studies program at Schloss Leopoldskron, the study of America has played a vital role in the history of this organization. For decades, scores of prominent intellectuals - academic and non-academic - have gathered in Salzburg to examine and debate American politics, foreign policy, economics, literature, history and culture, and America's role in the world. More than 30 American themed seminars have been organized, all are self-funded.

Session in 2016:

Images of America: Reality and Stereotypes
September 23 to 27, 2016


Interviews and coverage from our SSASA programs

Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium gets underway
Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association symposium gets underway
Oscar Tollast 
The symposium on ‘Sustainability and the City: America and the Urban World’ kick-started on Thursday evening with a presentation on the idea of the city. Participants from 27 countries gathered in Parker Hall to listen to Christopher Bigsby, director of the Arthur Miller Centre for American Studies at the University of East Anglia. Mr Bigbsy's lecture covered among other topics the differing definitions of the term "city" and how each person's experience of a city depends on their social background and lifestyle. He said: "When we speak of sustainability, what do we mean? Clearly we mean our ability to sustain life and earth in the face of global warming, rising populations and finite resources. "But what of cities? To an increasing percentage of people, cities offer wealth and progress, depending on how we choose to define progress. "The challenge in terms of cities is to sustain the life of the individual. For if meaning exists, it does so through individuals. Those possibilities must be protected and expanded.". Prior to Mr Bigsby’s speech, participants were officially welcomed by Marty Gecek, chair of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA), and symposium director. Ms Gecek said: "Each of you has certain expectations about this symposium: what's in it for you? What do you want to get out of it? What is your role here? "I'm certain that our speakers will certainly stimulate you with their presentations on this very exciting theme, but dialogue is the key word for the next few days here. "Unlike typical academic conferences, especially in Europe, where many papers are read, our programs provide many opportunities for discussion and to provoke international, educational and intellectual exchange." Clare Shine, Vice President and Chief Program Officer of Salzburg Global, also extended her welcome to the group. Ms Shine said: "Our mission to challenge present and future leaders to solve issues of global concern has not shifted. Nor has our total dedication to American studies as a way of helping young and older people to understand roles and responsibilities of great power in the world today. "It's wonderful timing that you're here now to look at sustainability and the city, because that is going to be the bedrock of how we form the citizens of tomorrow." Salzburg Global recently held a session on 'A Climate for Change: Governance for Sustainability' with its report made available online earlier this month. The SSASA was founded in 2003 to build upon the work of 32 sessions organized by the American Studies Center. It has been able to provide an opportunity for anyone in the field of American Studies to meet and learn from other experts in the field, attending symposia at the Schloss Leopoldskron devoted to broad American themes. This year’s four-day session will draw on a range of disciplines to examine the future of the city in America, and other cities around the world. The session will examine the dynamics that make up the social and cultural dimensions of the modern global city, focusing on common issues, inter-related relationships and future trends. Participants are American Studies academics, urban sociologists, urban planners, architects and others interested in the study of the city. Questions that participants will explore include:
  1. What is the significance of urban living to those in the rapidly growing American, Asian, and other great cities?
  2. Are global cities extraterritorial, sharing more with one another than with the country in which they are situated?
  3. What role does the city play in shaping the lives, values, attitudes, and well-being of those who live in them?
  4. How attuned to human needs and desires are they?
  5. What is the role of the architect and planner in the future of cities?
  6. How can cities become innovators in sustainability?
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Resistance and Readiness
Resistance and Readiness
Louise Hallman and Marty Gecek 

In 2002, in a world still reeling from the recent terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, Americanists from all over the world came to Schloss Leopoldskron, Austria to address “The Continuing Challenge of America's Ethnic Pluralism”.  Ten years on, the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association will again tackle the issues of race and ethnicity in the US and Europe. That earlier symposium focused mainly on general issues of race and ethnicity, the impact of then-recent immigrants and refugees in the US, and concern about mounting xenophobia in the USA in the immediate wake of “9/11.” On both sides of the Atlantic, tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim groups have grown in the past ten years since the cataclysmic Twin Towers attacks in regard to issues of migration, integration, and what some have called “the limits of tolerance.” Two major wars; further terrorist attacks in Madrid, London and Texas – all purportedly perpetrated by local or home-grown Islamic extremists; increasing legislation against the wearing of religious symbols such as the burqa, niqab, and hijab (traditional Muslim women’s full face veils and headscarf) in Belgium and France; and the use of planning laws to halt the building of mosques in the USA and Switzerland, have all contributed to a sense of uneasiness and distrust for some on both sides of the religious and ethnic divides. But it is not only anti-Muslim sentiment that has grown.  Over the past decade, Europe has seen not only a growth in immigration numbers from asylum seekers – most notable in places such as the controversial Sangatte refugee camp near Calais, France – but also with the increased migration within the EU since Directive 2004/38/EC on the right to move and reside freely was introduced; statistics from the American organization, Migration Policy Institute indicate that in 2010 there were 850,000 eastern Europeans living in the UK alone.  Although these economic migrants are European, their arrival in their new European homes has been met with hostility in some areas, with the Roma community particularly affected; Roma have been expelled from towns and cities in France and Northern Ireland, driven out either by the local authorities or, in the worst incidents, angry mobs. In the US too, there have been increases in legislation to curb immigration and to root out illegal immigrants already living in the country.  Controversial new laws have been proposed and enacted, most notably the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act in Arizona. Supporters of the law claim the Arizona measure simply allows police to question legal residency only after a person has been stopped on reasonable suspicion of another crime.  Its detractors have called it “an unconstitutional and costly measure that will violate the civil rights of all Arizonans,” with accusations of racial profiling and deliberate targeting of the local Latino community. It is against this backdrop of rising racial tensions that the ninth symposium held by the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association on September 27-October 1, 2012 will again discuss these hot topics of race and ethnicity, but this time from a much more comparative perspective, looking at both the European and American experiences of immigration, nativism and the challenge of ethnic and religious diversity. Europe is threatened by a number of risks, claims a 2011 report by the Group of Eminent Persons of the Council of Europe.  ‘Living Together: Combing Diversity and Freedom in 21st Century Europe’ states rising intolerance and support for xenophobic and populist parties, along with discrimination, the development of parallel societies, and Islamic extremism, coupled with the loss of democratic freedoms and civil liberties – long held precious across liberal Western societies now in fear of “being swamped by an uncontrolled influx of immigrants and/or massacred by Islamic terrorists” – and a possible clash between “religious freedom” and freedom of expression have resulted from a growing sense of insecurity brought in part because of immigration, magnified by the distorted image of minorities and harmful stereotypes propagated in the media, and a crisis of leadership. Over the course of the four-day session, Fellows from across Europe and the US will discuss this paper – the threats and their proposed responses – together with a faculty including Farid Hafez, researcher and lecturer at the University of Vienna’s Department of Oriental Studies; Rob Kroes, former president of the European Association of American Studies; Berndt Ostendorf, Professor Emeritus of North American Cultural History at the America Institute of Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich; Rubén G. Rumbaut, Professor of Sociology at University of California – Irvine; noted local Americanist and Professor of Modern History at the University of Salzburg Reinhold Wagnleitner; as well as the report’s author, Salzburg Global Seminar’s Senior Program Adviser, Edward Mortimer. Salzburg Global Seminar is an apt place to hold such a session, not only for its own long tradition of bringing scholars of both the US and Europe together, but also for its location – an Austrian palace built by a Protestant-expelling Catholic Prince-Archbishop and once owned by the exiled Jewish theater director Max Reinhardt before being seized by the local Nazi Gauleiter – a stark reminder of the levels of religious intolerance once present in Europe. A living testament to such intolerance, faculty member Hedwig Rose will recount Fellows with her personal history as a “hidden child” in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands during her talk on “The Scourge of Scapegoating.” Chaired by Peter Rose, Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology and Senior Fellow of the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute, Smith College, and former director, American Studies Diploma Program, Smith College, participants will take part in plenary sessions, panels, and discussion groups looking at such topics as the push and pull factors for migration; the dichotomies between “natives” and “newcomers” and their significance in the US and various parts of Europe; identities and distinctions between “they” and “we” as expressed in politics and in the art and literature of marginality; patterns of adaptation, integration and isolation; and the varied meanings of “tolerance.” Not only will the symposium look back at the last decade, it will also conclude by looking forward – what does the future hold for ethnic and religious relations in the US and Europe? The Council of Europe report suggests that improvements will need the co-operation of a great many actors: educators, mass media, trade unions, civil society, churches and religious groups, celebrities and so-called “role models”, as well as municipal, national, regional and international institutions. But true to the 65-year history of the formerly-named Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, now Salzburg Global Seminar, and the words of first-session faculty member, the acclaimed anthropologist Margaret Mead, the symposium will start its work with a small group of committed people, and that should never be underestimated.
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