Quiet Invaders Revisited

Tuesday, 19 June 2012, 2:00pm - 3:30pm, IWM library

Seminar “Faces of Eastern Europe”

The American cultural diplomat E. Wlder Spaulding, who served in Vienna during the postwar occupation, penned a book that appeared in the late 1960s on Austrian immigrants to the United States, entitled Quiet Invaders. He posited that Austrian immigrants assimilated quickly and quietly into American society and thus rarely were perceived as “hyphenated Americans” (Austrian-Americans) — they learned the language quickly, encountered no racial prejudices, and transformed into Americans rapidly. In “Quiet Americans Revisited” I want to test Spaulding’s thesis of rapid assimilation and absorption by individual Austrian immigrant biographies from the 1920 until today (from the Burgenlaenders and Jewish refugees of the 1920s and 1930s to GI war brides and ski champions after the war to the Schwarzeneggers and Pucks of today). Next to the individual life stories, changes in American immigration legislation/regimes will be investigated as well. The immigration flow was a function of American immigration law: while it was very hard for Austrian Jews to enter during the Anschluss era, immigrants to the US encounterd less severe immmigration legislation after World War II. A prosopography of Austrian immigrants will outline the different transnational life trajectories of Austrians turning into Americans during rapidly changing historical contexts throughout the 20th century.

Guenter Bischof is University Research Professor of History, University of New Orleans; currently he is a guest of IWM.