Edward J. K. Gitre
Lecturer in American History, Seattle University
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Ed is a U.S.-focused transatlantic historian, holding a Ph.D. in History from Rutgers University and an advanced degree in Cultural History from the University of Manchester, England. Prior to his present appointments, he was a Doctoral Fellow at the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University. His works have been published in Church History, The Hedgehog Review, the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, History of the Human Sciences, and elsewhere, and he has delivered presentations in Santiago de Compestala, Spain; at Princeton University; the University of St. Andrews, Scotland; the University of Virginia; and Rutgers University. At Rutgers, he received a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research. His interests include the history of the social sciences, transatlantic intellectual exchange, war and society, social and cultural theory, history of emotions, and Anglo-American religion.
Ed is completing a manuscript tentatively entitled “The Sound of Silence, 1939-1973: War, Boredom, and Adjustment in Midcentury America.” This project explores World War II and its long-term effects on U.S. society and culture. Over the years the “long 1950s” have been described as conformist, bland, apathetic, staid, bored—and boring. Critical analysis of the nation’s postwar “malaise” typically focuses on the country’s increased prosperity and the cultural politics of Cold War anti-communism. The U.S. did become wealthier after World War II. Home appliances proliferated. Suburbs and shopping malls expanded. White picket fences went up. Americans ate more and acquired more. Notwithstanding, as Ed maintains, materialism and political witch-hunts alone cannot account for the nation’s fixation on “togetherness.” His project observes that the nation became “adjustment”-minded in a very different context, and for very different reasons, namely, a decade prior, while fighting a multiple-theatre war—when it was infused with ideals of civic responsibility, service, and shared sacrifice. Only by understanding wartime conditions and experiences can one understand why the nation became so adjustment-minded. Returning to that era and ethos, “The Sound of Silence” promises to shed new and important light not only on a decade but on a generation and the culture it created.