In Global Transit
Jewish Migrants from Hitler’s Europe in Asia, Africa, and Beyond
February 14-18, 2018
Conference in Kolkata, India
Conveners: Andreas Gestrich (GHI London), Simone Lässig (GHI Washington), Anne Schenderlein (GHI Washington), and Indra Sengupta (GHI London)
The German Historical Institutes London and Washington DC together with the newly established Branch Offices of the Max Weber Foundation in Delhi, Beijing and Berkeley, CA are organizing a conference on new perspectives on Jewish flight and exile from Nazi Europe. The majority of scholarship on this topic has so far focused on the flight and emigration of Jews from Germany and Austria and on the destinations where the greatest numbers of people ended their journeys: the United States, Central and South America, and Palestine. The most recent additions to this extensive scholarship focus on previously neglected places of refuge, particularly in Africa and Asia and also consider Jews from outside the Third Reich who were forced to flee Europe.
Building on that scholarship, this conference aims at expanding the geographical, temporal, and conceptual lens on Jewish forced migration. This approach promises to offer new insights not only into the experience of the refugees but also into the reach of anti-Semitism and racism against the backdrop of colonialism and war. Many refugees traveled long and circuitous routes, which could take weeks, months, or, if longer stopovers were involved, sometimes years, with the final destination often unforeseeable.
During this conference we would like to pay special attention to neglected temporal and spatial aspects of forced migration from Nazi Germany and occupied Europe. We will focus on the destinations and processes of migration, giving particular attention to colonial and semi-colonial settings and the transit phase of migration. We are particularly interested in three main themes/areas of inquiry:
Economic and Humanitarian Aspects of Emigration and Escape. In transit, refugees had to rely on or cooperate with various local, national, international, and transnational actors and organizations — governmental and non-governmental, Jewish and non-Jewish alike. We would like to find out more about such entities and their interactions with refugees and other actors. One question we are interested in exploring is in what ways both non-Jewish and Jewish people involved in the transit of Jews from Europe may have profited from the refugees’ often desperate situations (e.g. states selling citizenship, human traffickers, shipping companies, etc.)
Encounters with Race, Racism, and Colonialism. Whether the refugees stayed temporarily in colonial India, for instance, or ended up settling in South Africa or the United States, they were confronted with racism directed at them as well as members of other ethnic and/or religious groups. We would like to explore how Jewish refugees experienced racial discrimination in the places that offered them refuge. What role did notions of ‘European superiority,’ ‘race,’ and ‘civility’ play in encounters between refugees and locals? How did Jews reflect on and come to terms with the complex, often intertwined layers of identity and belonging, particularly in colonial contexts (being outlawed and uprooted, while being reinforced in their self-identification and perception as European and thus privileged, but also classified and sometimes confined as ‘enemy aliens’ during the war)?
Multidirectional Encounters and Knowledge Transfer in Colonial and Semi-Colonial Wartime Contexts and their Aftermath. Jewish refugees brought Nazi persecution and war into regions that otherwise were only peripherally affected by the conflict and about which locals were often poorly informed. In this way, these places of refuge were also centers of learning, knowledge production and exchange, and we invite papers that investigate these processes and the long-term consequences for the refugees’ later lives. We are particularly interested in the experiences of different age groups and the specific knowledge adolescent migrants produced or culturally translated, but will also welcome new approaches toward class and gender.
Goals: The conference aims to bring researchers in the fields of migration, exile, and refugee studies into dialogue with specialists in Jewish history, colonial history, and the history of knowledge. We particularly welcome applications from doctoral students and recent PhD recipients.
We wish to address common research gaps and questions and to situate them in the context of general migration history. Framing emigration, exile, and refugee history as an entangled history in colonial contexts and situating it also in the history of the “Global South” can serve as a special prism for better interpreting processes that extend beyond Jews and Jewish history. In this way, we would like to extract these histories from often rather victim-centered narratives and explore more forcefully the interactions with people outside of the refugee/migrant communities as well as differences within these communities themselves. By doing so, we hope that the conference will contribute to shaping a new field of research—migrants’ knowledge in historical perspectives.
The workshop language will be English. Successful applicants can receive grants for travel and lodging expenses.
Further conferences on related topics will be organized by the Max Weber’s recently established offices in Berkeley and Beijing in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
Please send a short abstract of no more than one page and a brief CV to Susanne Fabricius (email@example.com) by February 28, 2017.