GAAS-Conference 2016: Balancing the Scales. The United States in an Age of Inequality

Project no.:



Thursday, 10 - Saturday, 12 November 2016


John F. Kennedy Institute, FU Berlin, and Bundespresseamt, Berlin


John F. Kennedy Institute, FU Berlin
German Association for American Studies

Target group:

Political scientists, historians, sociologists as well as a larger interested audience

Conference fee:

10 Euro will be charged at the conference / Students free


To register for the opening panel, the conference and the keynotes, please fill out the form and send it via email until November 4, 2016.

Suggested accomodation:

can be found here.


Artwork: Marina Arbenz (Creative Commons image sources:,

During the eight years of the Obama presidency, the United States' economy appears to have recovered from the economic shock induced by the financial crisis of 2008. Job numbers have increased, while key indicators for economic growth continue to gradually rise. Yet at the same time, the US along with most parts of the world faces historically unprecedented levels of economic inequality.

While social movements such as Occupy Wall Street, on the left, and the Tea Party, on the right, still seemed able to influence political discourse based on perceived injustices and economic imbalance, these debates have lost traction. Meanwhile, the manifold problems caused by inequality persist along the fault lines of wealth, gender, and race.

In November of 2016, after the presidential election cycle is officially over and the barrage of campaign rhetoric has abated, we aim to revisit the pressing question of inequality, which appears to lie at the heart of so many of the economic, socio-cultural and political problems facing the US and the world outside its borders. How has the Obama administration fared in addressing these problems? How have rampant inequalities shaped electoral campaigns and promises? How, if at all, will the next administration and congressional caucus address the lingering problems caused by the unequal distribution of wealth, justice, rights, and various forms of capital?

Keynote Speakers

Wendy Brown

Wendy Brown is Professor of Political Science and Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D in Political Philosophy from Princeton University in 1983. Prior to coming to Berkeley in 1999, she taught at the University of California, Santa Cruz and at Williams College. Professor Brown's fields of interest include the history of political theory, nineteenth and twentieth century Continental theory, critical theory and theories of contemporary capitalism. Her work has been translated into more than twenty languages.

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Michael C. Herron

is Professor of Government at Dartmouth College.  He taught previously at Northwestern University and has visited at the Hertie School of Governance, Harvard University, and the University of Rochester.  Herron’s research focuses on election problems and representation, and much of his recent work revolves around Florida. At Dartmouth College Herron teaches classes on statistics, game theory, and American politics.

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The program can be downloaded here.
Day 1 – Thursday, November 10, 2016
Theodor-Haubach-Saal, Bundespresseamt

Opening Panel on US Presidential Elections
Kent Logsdon, Deputy Chief of Mission, United States Embassy, Berlin
Jessica Gienow-Hecht, Freie Universität Berlin
Irwin Collier, PhD, Freie Universität Berlin
Andreas Falke, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, Erlangen-Nürnberg

Moderation: Juliane Schäuble, Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin

Day 2 – Friday, November 11, 2016
John-F.-Kennedy Institute


Film: “Tested”
Curtis Chin


Opening Address
The idea of (in)-equality in American political thought

Michael Dreyer


Panel 1: Inequalities at Home
Equitable Growth, Mobility or Opportunities for All? How Progressive, Conservative, and Centrist Think Tanks and Research Groups Discuss Income Inequality in the US and Elsewhere

Martin Thunert

Tipping the Scales strategically: Promoting Inequality through a Mass Movement
Michael Oswald

Coffee Break

The changing discourse on social inequality in the United States under the influence of the “sharing economy” and digitization
Nathalie Rauscher

The Wider Implications of Health Inequalities and Disparities in the United States
Betsy Leimbigler

Keynote Address I
Mortality, Incarceration, and African-American Disenfranchisement
Michael C. Herron

Day 3 – Saturday, November 12, 2016
John-F.-Kennedy Institute

Panel 2: Reproducing and Mitigating Inequalities
Inequality and Women’s Higher Education: Wellesley College in Historical Perspective
Katharina Metz und Sophie Spieler

“Is College Worth It?“ The Rising Costs of College Education as a Driver of Inequality
Mathias Enders

Coffee Break

Not all candidates are equal - they don't even have equal chances. Inequalities in political ambition and political success in the U.S
Patrick Horst

The Translation of Economic in Political Inequality. A Campaign Finance Case Study
Jörg Hebenstreit

Voting Rights Revisited
Christoph Haas

Lunch break  

Panel 3: The U.S. and Global Inequalities
Politics stops at the ports: Tracing the politicization of U.S. trade policy
Curd Knüpfer

Built-in Inequality? – A Critical Analysis of Technical Innovation and State Actions in the U.S. Logistics Sector
Christian Güse

Coffee break

Inequality in International Organizations
Lora Viola

Can Neoliberalism really explain rising inequality? Examining the post-1980s transformation of the US economy and Financialization as a contending concept
Puneet Bhasin

Keynote Address
Neoliberalism, Financialization and Democracy: Ten Theses
Wendy Brown