l’Atlantique en rose: First Word/ Introduction to this Blog
This blog is an attempt to explore transatlantic exchanges that have shaped gay male life from the latter decades of the twentieth century to the present.
Locating the Atlantic in Human History: The Persistence of Exchange
The Atlantic has carried on its waves the key advances that have disturbed and restructured human history since the 16th Century. If the fertile crescent served as a cradle of civilization, giving birth to early humanity’s greatest societies, the Atlantic’s place in more recent centuries is emerging as somewhat comparable: ‘Atlantic crossings’, to borrow from Daniel Rogers (1988), have spurred waves of political, demographic, technological, and global cultural-economic exchanges on a scale that is unprecedented.
As Rogers also asserts, it is on the waves of the Atlantic that common principles, plans, and practices in the organization of cities have traveled to become almost global, ubiquitous. Along with urban plans and architecture, the Atlantic has also carried and transported modern structures and standards for the organization and management of social life in town and country: that is, concepts ranging from the rural cooperative to labour unions (Rogers 1998).
In a similar manner, the units of political organization and the structure of international relations have also emerged out of intense, transatlantic conflict over the nature and purpose of government and the most ideal means to channel political opinion and administer public affairs. Democratic revolution and the demise of monarchy were also transported and transplanted through lived experiences, ideas, military and political alliances that spanned the Atlantic over the past three centuries (Palmer 1959).
Rose-Coloured Transatlantic Exchanges
In the 1990s it became fashionable to speak of unprecedented ‘globalization’ as technological advancement made it possible for goods and ideas to travel at much faster speeds. Yet, with a longer term perspective, it becomes a bit clearer that the travel of persons, ideas, technologies, finances was not especially new. The new speed at which these traveled was perhaps most notable.
It is within this long term, well developed context of transatlantic exchange that the defining movements, trends, and transformations of the past centuries have emerged.
In the last part of the twentieth century, transformations in the norms and organization of sexuality traveled across the Atlantic. This will perhaps have the same transformative implications as other socio-cultural changes that travelled across the Atlantic since the 16th century.
The late twentieth century saw the emergence of intentional alternatives or challenges – depending on where you stand on the discussion – to the key building block that structures human society: ‘the family’, the heterosexual household. Whereas past ‘Atlantic Crossings’ brought about a reconsideration of political and public life, the private has (arguably) become more central to more recent transatlantic exchanges.
This blog is an attempt to enter into this world of transatlantic history – with a particular focus on the more ‘pink’ exchanges that became more visible in the middle of the twentieth century. It also feeds into, and will hopefully be fed by, a doctoral project on New York’s influence on gay men lives in London and Paris.
Author: George Katito
Palmer, Robert Roswell. The Age of the Democratic Revolution: The Challenge. Vol. 171. Princeton University Press, 1959.
Rogers, Daniel. “Atlantic Crossings.” Social Politics in A Progressive Age, Cambridge, MA (1998).