"E Pluribus Unum" or "E Pluribus Plura"?
Oslo, Norway, 9–12 May 2008
For the complete conference program and travel information see the EAAS Newsletter American Studies in Europe, No. 60.
The motto “E Pluribus Unum” mostly subsumes an institutional and political will. But, from all historical data and possibly even more from contemporary dissensions, it appears that the social and cultural realities of America might well illustrate the possibility for an "E Pluribus Plura" version of the formula. How does the United States negotiate the inner tensions that, because of its constitutive diversity, might threaten its unity? How do traditions (political, artistic, literary…), modes of consensus building (from myth to national icons and patriotic assertions of exceptionalism), the feeling of a wished-for common good counteract potential strife and the tensions of particular interests and particular groups, make up for the aporias of nationhood and communitarian feeling, of ideological consensus and a tradition of dissent? Could it be that there are indeed several “Americas”? Is being an American necessarily being in many ways double? Can the politically unifying, centripetal power of the State, hidden under the neutral Unum, accommodate the centrifugal forces that might generate a societal and cultural “plura” out of the hallowed political and territorial “pluribus”? Do diversities imply, for their survival and development, a “middle ground”, a “mainstream”, a “tradition” – some kind of American norm? Seen in light of the various subdisciplines of our fields, these are some of the questions that might generate the wished-for contributions to this Conference.