LH.20.013 – Mediating Integration: Mapping American Visions of Europe

Route: Living history

Cluster question: 046 What is Europe? Past, present and future.

This project examines how the European collective self-understanding as a Western civilization was shaped in the postwar years by cultural constructions from the United States. The American ally co-created the liberal world order within which the European integration took shape. But it also produced a shared sense of belonging within the ‘West’ and stimulated a modern citizen-oriented sense of democracy.
Now that idea of ‘Europe’ is facing an existential identity crisis, due to rising populism, distrust in news media and European Institutions, and growing Atlantic drift, there is an urgency to relearn about successful attempts to define Europe in a global context. The Marshall Plan of the 1950s, which represented the American perspective on European recovery and integration, left a lasting legacy on the self-image of Europe. This project will assess these transatlantic visualizations of a ‘New Europe’ through the innovative interpretative lens of the powerful visual culture of the time.
The meaning of Europe is embedded in images as much as words. A cutting-edge methodology of photographic grammar will reveal and analyze the hidden rhetoric of persuasion in the visual archives. Combining heritage, media studies, and comparative history, we will map, analyze, and categorize the rich – but dispersed – cultural archive of American visualizations of Europe, such as photographs, documentary films, movies, and pamphlets. This collection will allow for the first time to identify patterns in image production, usage, (re)mediation, and to trace the circulation of American images in European newspapers and magazines.
The true power of the Marshall Plan as a continuing myth to overcome crises in and beyond Europe resides less in its political narrative or economic stimulation but in the carefully constructed images. That vision from the transatlantic ‘other’ left an imprint on European identity we have to understand in order to determine what Europe means today.


(Re)Mediation, Atlantic Drift, European Crisis, European Integration, Marshall Plan, New Europe, Soft Power

Other organisations

Freedom Museum (Wiel Lenders), Netherlands Atlantic Association, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision


Organisation Radboud University (RU)
Name Prof. dr. F. (Frank) Mehring
E-mail fmehring@gmail.com
Website https://www.ru.nl/personen/mehring-f/