The centre cannot hold: Rethinking the 1960s in America and beyond



21 April 2016


University of Sydney

As the United States teeters under the weight of Trumpism while inequalities of race, class, gender, and nativity inspire protests and political organising, it has become increasingly common to harken back to the political divisions of the 1960s.

This roundtable panel explored the usefulness of the ‘1960s’ as a point of comparison for contemporary politics and culture not just in the U.S. but around the world in locales like Brazil and Greece. What has changed in the way we think about the 1960s as scholarship on the decade has passed from those who participated in its upheavals to those who study it as scholarly project? Is the ‘1960s’ a coherent category of historical time and analysis? If so, are the inequalities, oppressions, and counter-revolutions of the contemporary world producing a ‘new 1960s?’.

The four panellists, including USSC academics Dr Thomas Adams and Dr Rebecca Sheehan, are all historians of American social movements who teach outside of the United States. They offered diverse answers to these questions while placing the idea of the 1960s in the contemporary political and cultural context.

This event was hosted by Sydney Ideas and is co-presented with the American Cultures Workshop, a Faculty of Arts and Sciences Collaborative Research Scheme.


  • Dr Rebecca Sheehan
    Dr Rebecca Sheehan
    Lecturer in the Sociology of Gender, Macquarie University

    Rebecca Sheehan is Program Director of Gender Studies and Lecturer in the Sociology of Gender at Macquarie University. Sheehan was previously a Lecturer in US History at the US Studies Centre. Her key areas of expertise are US women’s history, feminist history, history of gender and sexuality, history of social movements in the US, and cultural politics, including race, gender, religion and sexuality.

  • Dr Thomas Adams
    Dr Thomas Adams
    Senior Lecturer in History and American Studies, University of Sydney

    Dr Thomas Jessen Adams was previously a lecturer at the United States Studies Centre. He continues to be a Lecturer in American Studies and History at the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry at the University of Sydney. His research and writing focuses on political economy, labour, social movements, urban history, and race, gender, and American politics.

  • Professor Andrew Diamond
    Professor of American History and Civilization, University of Paris-Sorbonne

    Professor Andrew Diamond is Professor of American History and Civilization at the University of Paris-Sorbonne. He is the author of Mean Streets: Chicago Youth and the Everyday Struggle for Empowerment in the Multiracial City as well as French language volumes on the 1960s and African American history.

  • Associate Professor Caroline Rolland-Diamond
    Associate Professor of American History and Civilization, University of Paris-Nanterre

    Associate Professor Caroline Rolland-Diamond is Associate Professor of American History and Civilization at the University of Paris-Nanterre. She is the author of multiple French language books on the 1960s and protest movements in the US and France.