A Specifically 1970s Transnationalism? Anti-Nuclear Protest in France and West Germany

Presented at the Transformationen der Ökologiebewegung conference, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Berlin, 14-15 November 2014.

Abstract: The 1970s were a period in which local and decentralized protest action against nuclear energy collided for the first time with an emerging global environmental consciousness.  Were the anti-nuclear protests of that decade therefore unique in their “transnational” nature? Did cross-border interactions at that time reflect a creativity that has since been lost or merely the first, simplest stage of something that has now become much more sophisticated? This paper will explore the different modes of thinking and acting transnationally that were associated with 1970s anti-nuclear protest, paying special attention to their limits as well as their possibilities.  At the same time, it will show that cross-border interactions in that decade were broadly accessible and not confined to the prominent national leaders, organizational professionals, or even borderland residents that dominate existing studies. 

The project on which this presentation is based makes use of more than 60 interviews with former activists and extensive research in archives across France and Germany.  The oral history material constitutes a unique, diachronic source for examining change over time in terms of interviewees’ personal trajectories and their subjective perceptions of change.  It thus provides a helpful perspective for analyzing the extent to which “grassroots transnationalism” continues today and how much it was rooted in the specific context of the 1970s.