About the Series 1968 and its Legacies

Fifty years ago, the uprising of May ‘68 shook French society to its foundations. Part of a globe-spanning rebellion stretching from Berkeley to Beijing, from Tokyo to Tunis, from Turin to Tashkent, the French May challenged capitalism and imperialism while proclaiming the possibility of a utopian transformation of everyday life. The reappearance of the ghost of social revolution in the historic birthplace of the ideas of 1789 and the Paris Commune captured the radical imagination in a way hardly matched at the time or since. What remains of this challenge fifty years on?

Situating May ’68 within its larger context, events and exhibits in this series examine the unique staying power of the French events in historical memory while considering the relevance of the Global 1968 today. The recent resurgence in social protest, epitomized in the global Occupy Movement and the rise of populism worldwide, makes an examination of the various dimensions of “1968” particularly timely.  We welcome discussion of local specificity and global connections of protests and their diffusion through culture and media. We also consider the reaction and response of governments to apparent social disaffection, especially the kind that finds resonance across borders.  Like in Paris 50 years ago, it is sometimes difficult to know whether massive protest improves the lives of citizens and the institutions designed to support civic life and social supports, or results in anarchy and radicalization.  Thus, it is important to analyze how governments have sought to create avenues of communication within their societies and across borders in the form of cultural diplomacy, mutual engagement, and the fostering of a healthy public sphere, and where they have failed to do so.