Past Program


Ever since Salzburg Global Seminar was founded in 1947 as the Salzburg Seminar in American Studies, critical dialogue about American history, literature, cultural institutions, politics, economics and law has played a vital role in our organization’s development and legacy.

The annual symposia convened by the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association focus on topical questions and issues related to American culture and society, in order to foster understanding of how these issues are influenced by, and affect, the world as a whole.

The multi-disciplinary symposium in 2018 explored the sensitive intersect of culture and politics in America’s rapidly changing landscape, building on the conclusions of the 2017 symposium on Life and Justice in America: Implications of the New Administration.

Our ultimate purpose is to foster greater understanding of how the lives of individuals and communities in 21st century America are being reshaped as a result of current social, political and cultural forces as well as America’s changing role in world affairs. 

Participants examined factors related to leadership, gender, race and ethnicity changes in America, transformations in media and digital communication, the decline of trust in political and cultural institutions, the direction and polarizing significance of popular culture and the arts in understanding America, and the implications of the above for the future of American Studies abroad.


Program Format

The four-day session has been highly participatory and outcome-oriented program, held at Schloss Leopoldskron, the historic home of Salzburg Global Seminar.

Daily thematic presentations by distinguished speakers were followed by moderated plenary discussions, as well as panels and café discussion groups on topical issues to maximize cross-sector interaction with participants. Afternoon sessions included small thematic working groups, providing multiple opportunities for all participants to share their knowledge and expertise on equal terms and to build new alliances and research projects. 

Participants analyzed the likely directions of changes in America over the next decade, drawing on their observation of developments since the 2016 election as well as political trends leading up to the mid-term elections of 2018. 


Participant Profile

Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) symposia are intended to connect scholars and professional leaders from around the world to build collaborative networks for research and critical debate. 

The 2018 meeting – the 16th SSASA symposium – brought together approximately 50 participants from more than 25 countries. In addition to public and private sector professionals, participants will include academics teaching about the United States in universities across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Central, Eastern and Western Europe, as well as the United States. 

We actively encouraged participation by Americanists, political scientists and cultural professionals interested in the future direction of American culture.

Key Questions

Issues addressed during the symposium included:

  • Why is America so hard to understand?
  • In what way are increased social, political and cultural tensions a product of demographic shifts, changes in leadership, or issues of gender, race relations, the politization of immigration, and crime and punishment and judicial fairness in the U.S.?
  • What explains the loss of trust that America is currently experiencing and what are the implications for the future?
  • What are the most dynamic factors, specifically including the distribution of wealth and educational opportunity that are contributing to the polarizing of society and politics?
  • To what degree does an analysis of popular culture and cultural institutions, such as political, economic, educational, and the arts foster an understanding of America?  
  • To what extent does American populism and nationalism differ from that presently being experienced elsewhere?
  • In what way and manner has the expectation and conduct of political leadership changed in the 21st century?”

Program Goals

•    The session’s primary goal is to foster intellectual analysis and discussion between professionals and academics about the factors shaping the future of personal life and communities in America.
•    Participants will gain a better understanding of the complexity of domestic and international forces impacting and driving America in the 21st century, to enrich their teaching, research and practice.

Multi-Year Series


The study of America has long played a vital role in the history of Salzburg Global Seminar. For decades, scores of prominent intellectuals have gathered in Salzburg to examine and debate American politics, foreign policy, economics, literature, history and culture, and America’s role in the world. 

More than 30 American themed seminars have been organized under the auspices of the Salzburg Seminar American Studies Association (SSASA) and its precursor, the American Studies Center.

For more info about our multi-year series, please visit: