[URBANTH-L]CFP: Modernization as a Global Project: American, Soviet and European Approaches

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Tue Sep 18 12:26:09 EDT 2007

CFP: Modernization as a Global Project: American, Soviet,  
and European Approaches (GHI, Washington, DC)

Modernization as a Global Project: American, Soviet, and European  

In recent years, American historians have explored the project of  
modernization and development from its conceptual origins through its  
practical applications. German and European scholars are paying  
increasing attention to the problems of economic and political  
development in the new Third World - or, from the European  
perspective, the former colonies. It is, therefore, a useful moment  
to bring together historians to compare approaches to modernization  
and development in the global north - the United States, Europe (East  
and West) and the USSR.

In his award-winning book, The Global Cold War, Odd Arne Westad  
argues that the conflict between East and West in the Third World was  
an expression of two competing models of modernization, a democratic  
one and a socialist one. This thesis can serve as a conceptual basis  
for a comparison of modernization politics. Were the two models  
really as different as they presented themselves to be? How did each  
side perceive the other model? Which problems did each party  
encounter when trying to implement its modernization concept abroad?

A handful of scholars, primarily in Europe, have begun serious  
research on the modernization and development programs of the Soviet  
Union and its East European allies. Yet there remains a great deal to  
be learned about Soviet bloc activities in the Third World, from  
education and training opportunities to economic development, to  
military aid. How did Communist models of development change during  
their "export" to the Third World? What challenges did proponents of  
Soviet-style modernization encounter abroad?

And was there only one form of democratic modernization? Did the  
members of the Western alliance - many of whom had been colonizers in  
the immediate past - follow a common approach to modernizing the  
Third World? It might prove fruitful to ask whether the Western  
alliance's coherence with regard to its modernization approach vis-à- 
vis the "underdeveloped world" was really as strong as usually  
portrayed. To do so, one has to analyze the intellectual origins of  
American and European concepts of modernization, the transatlantic  
transfer of ideas of modernization and development, the formulation  
of modernization projects in national and/or regional contexts, and  
the Western countries' methods, successes and problems in  
implementing their models in the Third World.

Finally, many of the accounts to date have emphasized western ideas  
and policies over Third World aims, interests, and responses. How did  
the target countries of the Third World react to the different  
modernization schemes offered to them? What did indigenous and  
imported ideas about "modernity" share? And how did they conflict?

To encourage discussion of these questions and problems, and to bring  
together scholars working on related topics, the German Historical  
Institute Washington is organizing a workshop to take place in March  
28-29, 2008, at the GHI. The GHI will cover travel and accomodation  
expenses. The workshop will be held in English.

In order to facilitate scholarly interchange, participants will  
circulate their papers before the conference, and will give only very  
brief oral summaries. Final papers (12 to 15 pages) are due March 1,  
2008, and will be available to conference participants only.

The following topics could be discussed at this occasion:

- Modernization Discourses in the West, the Soviet Bloc, and the  
Third World
- Industrialization versus Agrarian Reform
- Demography, Human Ecology, Public Health
- Flow of Technology, People, and Ideas
- Propaganda and Cultural Diplomacy

Scholars interested in participating in the workshop are asked to  
send an abstract (200 to 400 words, in English) and a short  
curriculum vitae to Corinna Unger (unger at ghi-dc.org) before October  
22, 2007. Inquiries can be made to both conveners, David Engerman  
(engerman at brandeis.edu) and Corinna Unger (unger at ghi-dc.org).

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