The outgrowth of a 2008 conference marking the fortieth anniversary of the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s Center for Twentieth Century Studies (now the Center for Twenty-first Century Studies), The Long 1968 presents a wide-ranging selection of essays “concerned less with chronology than connections.” The authors pursue both the “commonalities and variations of the long 1968,” and make important contributions to a recent historiographical trend reconsidering the politics and possibilities of post-1968 struggles for social change (p. 1). To do so, their essays look beyond familiar figures and geographies, instead asking how 1968 manifested beyond the Paris–Berkeley axis, functioned in different places and registers of time, and continues to shape our lives in significant ways.
The first section, “1968, The Text,” comprises three intellectual histories of scholars Michel Foucault (Bernard Gendron), Theodor Adorno (Richard Langston), and Henri Lefebvre (Judit Bodnár) that put their work in new contexts, with particular attention to the impact of 1968 to their thinking about the relation between theory and practice. The second section, “Locating Politics,” starts with Jeremi Suri’s discussion of the lifespan of the counterculture, generated by the promises of Cold War competition but ultimately extinguished by the forces that had extended those promises. Subsequent essays look to Anglophone East Africa (James Ferguson), Northern Ireland (Simon Prince), and Mexico (Jacqueline E. Bixler) to examine how 1968 happened differently in places far from Paris. The particular histories of each of these distinct 1968s offer important points about the power of transnational networks and global movements of resistance and refusal, but also remind us that tactics and strategies do not necessarily translate across geographies and must be shaped (and studied) with attention to the local dimensions of struggle. [End Page 147]
In the third section, “Bodies, Protest, and Art,” the essays consider connections between physical bodies, performance, and notions of belonging. Martin A. Berger and Robert O. Self analyze the body politics of the 1960s, in the Black Power protests of the Mexico City Olympics and across the landscape of protest and liberation movements in the United States respectively, and show that the body was a central, if underexamined, site of struggle during the era. Michelle Kuo’s study of the performance piece 9 Evenings provides an example of how new forms of artistic collaboration were facilitated by corporate research, in some ways reflecting Suri’s thesis. Noit Banai’s contribution also looks at artistic experimentation, asking how “the discourse of revolutionary ‘spontaneity’” that marked May 1968 has “become a conceptual platform for contemporary aesthetics,” in the work of Olafu Eliasson (p. 293).
The final section, “1968, The Movie,” includes two essays on the cinematic legacies of 1968. Julian Bourg shows how recent films continue to contest the meaning of 1968 even as they approach those events from greater historical remove. Mark Tribe’s brief discussion of his 2006–08 project re-staging prominent protest speeches of the 1960s concludes the book nicely, encapsulating how the long 1968 blurs “the lines between theory and practice, art and technology, politics and culture” (p. 16).
Some articles will be more difficult than others for those not as versed in the methodological or theoretical approaches certain authors take, but the editors have done a fine job of situating the essays in relation to each other. Between the thorough descriptions in the very useful introduction and the internal coherence of each section of the book, the wide-ranging selections are quite navigable. There are pieces of interest here to scholars working in any of the areas these essays engage, particularly those teaching social movements, transnationalism, performance, representation, and cultural politics. [End Page 148]
CUTLER EDWARDS is a PhD candidate in U.S. history at the University of California–San Diego. His dissertation examines the connections between antiracist and anti-imperialist struggles, community organizing, and cultural politics in 1970s New York City.