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Mag. Roman Birke

Research Fellow Fritz Thyssen Foundation/Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena

PhD-Candidate at the Department of Contemporary History, University of Vienna

Roman Birke is a PhD candidate at the Department of Contemporary History at the University of Vienna. He currently lives in Jena where he holds a Fritz Thyssen Foundation Research Fellowship (Study Group Human Rights in the 20th Century) at Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena. His PhD Thesis, which he submitted in May 2018, is entitled “Human Rights and Population Control. The Fight against Overpopulation as a Humanitarian Mission between the 1940s and the 1990s”. The thesis discusses the global attempts of reducing fertility rates in the context of the perceived threat of overpopulation. It argues that framing population control policies in a language of humanitarianism and human rights was key for their success in a global geopolitical setting that was shaped by decolonization and Cold War conflicts. For his research, he spent six months at Columbia University in New York in 2015/16 and five months at Trinity College Dublin in 2017. He held a Marietta Blau Stipend and an Erasmus+ PhD Fellowship. The concept of his PhD thesis was awarded the Theodor Körner Prize 2017. His most recent publications include a peer-reviewed article about the main findings of his PhD Thesis (Humanity Journal 2019, accepted for publication) and an Edited Volume on Gender and Human Rights in the 20th Century (Wallstein 2018, together with Carola Sachse). Since submitting his PhD Thesis, he is working on a research project about the political reorientation of Western societies after the end of the Cold War, focussing on the United States and Germany as first case studies.

E-Mail: roman.birke@univie.ac.at

Homepage: https://romanbirke.com


Turbulent Transitions. Political and Ideological Reorientation in the United States after the End of the Cold War, 1989-1997

During the Cold War, US liberal intellectuals and policy makers were keen to develop a coherent ideology that attempted to prove the superiority of the West over the Soviet bloc. Market liberalism, democracy, human rights, and the faith that such ideas will be adopted by others served as cornerstones of the United States’ ideology. With the end of the Cold War, a decade long practice of viewing domestic and foreign policies in contrast to the policies of the Communist bloc came to an end and resulted in a fundamental political and ideological reorientation. This paper analyses the trajectory of the ideological underpinnings of US policy after the end of the Cold War. Particularly, it discusses the following questions: How can we explain that the term “illiberal democracies” was already coined in 1997 after what had seemed to be a triumph of Western political and economic liberalism in 1989/91? Why could Western societies not create a lasting enthusiasm for their political philosophies developed during the Cold War but are facing increasing challenges by populist currents today? The paper argues that examining the turbulent political and intellectual climate after the end of the Cold War is key for answering these questions. It is part of a planned research project and will present first results based on the analysis of public contributions of political actors, intellectuals, and scholars who debated the future perspectives of US domestic and foreign policies after 1989/91.

Programme: Panel 9, Thursday, 6 September 2018, 17:30-19:00