The US Studies Centre's 2010 cohort of Postdoctoral Fellows each spoke about their research topic. The seminar series ran during April and May.

  • Rebecca Sheehan - Sexual Revolutionaries: How Radical Feminists Changed American Minds, 1968-1975 Recently The Monthly chose to mark the fortieth anniversary of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch with Louis Nowra's review of both. Dismissing the book as "hopelessly middle class" and characterising Greer as a woman-hating "polemicist" with a "coarse" mind, "a befuddled and exhausted old woman" who reminded him of his "demented grandmother," Nowra provoked a storm of responses. More troubling than his ad hominem attack was Nowra's failure to give his subjects their historical due. Taken from a bigger project on American sexual culture in the 1970s, this seminar puts Greer and The Female Eunuch back into history. Through consideration of several key radical feminist texts and the fierce public debates they provoked, I argue that radical feminist ideas - including Greer's - drove a "cultural turn" in consciousness about American sex roles. The resulting separation of gender from sex and sexuality contained the potential for liberation and backlash.
  • Jeremy Pressman - American Engagement and the Path to Arab-Israeli Peace For over forty years, the United States has been involved in the effort to bring comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. The US role has been much debated, and its involvement has varied significantly over this time span. Critics have made a variety of sometimes contradictory claims about the benefits and drawbacks of Washington’s involvement. Are there lessons for President Barack Obama? In this talk, I argue that the United States has been a crucial facilitator and catalyst that helped bring about the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979 (across the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations), the Madrid process in 1991 (Bush the elder), and indirectly, the Oslo breakthrough in 1993. In each successful case, the United States was not derailed by an initial failure; worked with strong Arab and Israeli leaders; and capitalized on and manipulated an unexpected event such as Anwar Sadat’s trip to Jerusalem (1977) and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (1990). Even when structural factors and local players favor peace, the road back from war is a complex and treacherous one. Quality negotiators matter in determining whether Arabs and Israeli reach peace.
  • Willie Gin - The Diversity Effect: Minorities and Public Policy in the United States, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, 1950 to 2000 It is often asserted that diversity negatively affects social welfare provision and social solidarity. The presentation challenges this claim through two means. First, it will be shown that the United States is not exceptional in its racial diversity and that New Zealand has had similar proportions of the population nonwhite since at least the 1970s. Divergences in the political development in the two countries, as well as divergences between Canada and Australia, demonstrate that diversity alone is not the decisive factor in producing social welfare outcomes. Second, evidence will be presented from comparison of US counties. Previous analyses of US counties claimed that ethnic fractionalization was associated with lower public goods provision. Reanalysis shows that the ethnic fractionalization measure is not necessarily the best measure of diversity, and that some kinds of social welfare provision are actually positively correlated with some kinds of diversity. The research suggests that though greater diversity may generally be associated with lower trust and harsher attitudes towards minority groups, one must also take into account processes of minority incorporation and the political mobilization of minority groups in determining the effect greater diversity has on policy outcomes.
  • Mark Geiger - Financial Innovation and the Chicago Board of Trade In this talk I will discuss preliminary research findings for my current book project, a history of the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and its successor organization since 2007, CME Group. Exchanges are one of the core institutions of capitalism, but our understanding of their history contains many gaps. CBOT is the world’s oldest derivatives exchange, and CME is now the world’s largest exchange of any sort. Exchange-traded derivatives nowadays trade in huge volumes and affect financial strategy at every level. Two of the book’s principal themes will be market integration and the spread of financial innovations. My focus, however, will be less on financial history than on questions of economic sociology. Early stage research suggests that members of CBOT/CME act within a complex and demanding network of social and family ties. Understanding these forces within one of the most important global marketplaces is a matter of more than academic interest. The worldwide financial crisis of the past three years stems in no small part to the social relations and psychology of market participants.