Freedom and Oppression in 1960s Britain: November 17-19, 2011 (abstracts by June 30, 2011)

full name / name of organization: 
GRAAT, Université François-Rabelais de Tours, France

International conference

Freedom and Oppression in 1960s Britain

Université François-Rabelais de Tours, France

November 17-19, 2011

In the United Kingdom, according to the canonical interpretation, the sixties were characterized by an almost revolutionary spirit of contestation: the thirst for freedom and the strong wish to free oneself from social and moral constraints were illustrated in a rich, varied, often provocative and subversive artistic production, as well as in many a societal phenomenon. There was to the "Sixties", or to what could be referred to as the golden age of youth, with its mods and rockers, but also to popular culture, which was definitely asserting itself through series (Coronation Street, The Saint, Danger Man, The Avengers) or movies (Cathy Come Home, The Servant, If), nevertheless, and above all, a political dimension where confrontation and reassessment through violence were often the norm: from pop festivals to protest marches, from flower power to black power, the period freely and forcefully associated innovative cultural expression forms with determined and cleverly structured political demands.

Political and social authority as well as literary and aesthetic canons were redefined at a time when television writing was emerging as the new dominant artistic form: film output staged and reassessed authority and its figures, sometimes shattering them. What's more, they sanctioned the advent of an opposition force, that of youth, and they gave another raison d'être to the work of art, for instance increasing the importance of photography.

From the United Kingdom, the "Sixties" phenomenon was to reverberate both spontaneously and on a long-term basis, particularly in Western Europe and the United States. The extent of the phenomenon was so wide that it has never stopped surprising, drawing attention and raising fundamental questions. Nowadays, the so-called advanced industrial world is still striving to escape social reasoning and economic logics which, as they were triggered enthusiastically at the time, still give rise to doubt and frequent questioning, thus generating anxieties and sometimes virulent reactions.

The purpose of the conference is neither to acclaim the "Sixties", to glorify them with indulgence and nostalgia, nor to call them into question or condemn them. Inducing participants to analyze the concrete influence of protest movements and the diverse artistic innovations on the United Kingdom's political culture and British society, the organizers intend, in the first place, to better define, or redefine, the "Sixties" object: to what extent does this periodization retain pertinence, integrity or homogeneity? The thing is that interpretation of this object has continuously evolved : besides the clichés which apparently still monopolize our emotional relation with the Sixties (The Beatles standing on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street, Twiggy on the frontpage of Vogue), today the heritage of the period seems to be complex: it is both redundant and rich, liberating and restrictive, creative but trying to format our relations with the style and our expectations in terms of legitimate methods used to challenge norms.

Please submit proposals of approximately 200 words, in French or English, together with a short bio-bibliography, to both Molly O'Brien Castro ( and Sébastien Salbayre ( by June 30, 2011.