Re: [sixties-l] 60s Awakenings

From: Michael Bibby (
Date: Tue Jun 20 2000 - 17:54:08 CUT

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    In response to Ted's comments below--excerpted from a much longer and
    thought-provoking post-- I'd like to toot my own horn a little bit: My book *Hearts
    and Minds: Bodies, Poetry, and Resistance in the Vietnam Era* (Rutgers UP, 1996) in
    part argues that the ideological rearticulations of embodiment produced through the
    "expressive politics" of Vietnam-era activism have had a lasting impact on
    contemporary culture and should be regarded as a key sociopolitical development of
    late 20th C US history. As I see it, 60s left-activism was very much about "identity
    reconstruction," perhaps more so than any previous era of political activism (though
    some of it can be seen in the "proletcult" of the 30s). The political and cultural
    discourses of civil rights/black power, women's liberation, gay liberation, and
    antiwarism were often deeply imbued with a reconceptualization of "the body" as a
    field of political struggle; and post-Vietnam era "identity politics" and
    multiculturalism are very much inflected by the 60s body politics.

    It is especially interesting to note correspondences between language about
    embodiment in the Black Liberation and Women's Liberation literature of the period:
    Throughout both there is an attention to the ways in which an ideological
    reconstruction of body identity is essential for a kind of self-awakening that leads
    to political awareness. A prevalent theme in poems printed in WL-oriented papers is
    the speaker's awakening to a new image of the female body, often brought on by C-R
    sessions or by attending WL rallies. Similarly a theme running through several poems
    in the BL-oriented press, as well as in the Black Arts movement, emphasizes the
    speaker apprehending "black is beautiful" in very physiological and personal ways as
    the first step toward a heightened political consciousness.

    Michael Bibby

    Ted Morgan wrote:

    > My interest has been in the kind of "awakening" that took place as
    > women first began to attend & join women's groups, C-R groups, etc. --awakenings
    > of consciousness that led to political consciousness and then action, which in
    > turn created great feelings of liberation, exhilaration, and empowerment, which
    > culminated in forms of collective action which brought about instrumental change
    > ('political' empowerment) in the larger society. [Not that this is as linear as
    > my writing suggests; it's much more interactive & cyclical.] The dynamic
    > contains both strains of identity reconstruction (linked to "expressive
    > politics") and agitation for (instrumental) change in the larger society. The
    > women's liberation writings are full of these kinds of expressions, as is the
    > rich literature from the civil rights movement awakenings in the 50s and early
    > 60s.

    . . . .

    > Some people writing in recently --in disgust about the recent round of
    > 'dialogue'-- have suggested that they're more interested in currently-relevant
    > discussion. I would suggest a topic, related to my interest described above.
    > Namely, what has happened to this process of "awakening" today, especially for
    > younger people. How has it been affected by the mass media culture --by rampant
    > consumerism, the spreading market society, globalization-- and by 60s-bashing
    > propaganda and media treatments (movies, etc.). What are the implications for
    > awakening a radical democracy movement today? Cf. WTO-IMF protests, etc....
    > What do you think?
    > Ted Morgan

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