Present Threats to Democracy – Resolution by the German Historical Association (VHD)

The German Historical Association (Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands) passed a resolution on present threats to democracy at its bi-annual meeting in Münster

The German Historical Association (VHD) held its bi-annual meeting, the Historikertag, from 25-28 September in Münster, Westphalia. The 3.700 visitors debated the theme “Divided Societies” (“Gespaltene Gesellschaften”) in almost 100 sessions and panels ranging from ancient to contemporary history. The topic was also intensively discussed with regard to historians’ role in the present. Initiated by Dirk Schumann and Petra Terhoeven from Göttingen and supported by a group of a dozen historians, the General Meeting on 27 September passed a resolution on the present threats to democracy (“Resolution des Verbandes der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands zu gegenwärtigen Gefährdungen der Demokratie”). An overwhelming majority of the several hundred members present voted in favour of the Münster declaration (pdf)

The resolution defends key principles against present-day threats posed by populists’ voices and activities. It argues amongst others for a historically sensitive language against discriminatory cries like “Volksverräter” or “Lügenpresse” reminiscent of the anti-democratic rhetoric in Germany during the first half of the twentieth century. It further appeals to hold up humanitarian principles and international law with regard to asylum seekers and refugees calling to mind past German deeds and experiences. The declaration also mentions the search for European cooperation that emerged from the bitter strife and conflicts during period of two world wars as well as the principles of debating in pluralist democracies. The resolution concludes with an appeal to study the past critically so that political abuse in the form of fake history can be rejected based on scholarship.

The resolutions has already attracted comments in the press. See for example

https://www.welt.de/kultur/history/article181702310/Deutscher-Historikertag-Als-Japan-den-Islam-einfuehren-wollte.html

http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/debatten/historikertag-stellt-sich-gegen-die-afd-15812149.html

https://www.bild.de/politik/inland/politik-inland/52-historikertag-ist-unsere-gesellschaft-wieder-so-gespalten-57539680.bild.html

https://www.tagesspiegel.de/wissen/deutscher-historikertag-in-muenster-raus-aus-der-komfortzone/23123400.html

During the General Assembly and in a panel discussion on the previous evening, members of the German Historical Association discussed not so much the detailed points in the draft resolution, nor did they question the exact wording. A large majority appeared to support the key principles. The foremost question was whether and how historians should intervene in political debates. Some argued against a resolution on particular political issues although they generally supported the ideas and values of the text. They preferred to focus on threats to freedom of research and the democratic conditions necessary to maintain that freedom. Few saw the resolution as a party political statement or pointed out that a rhetoric of crisis might fuel the danger. That the declaration was also directed against the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) was plain without that party being explicitly mentioned. Nevertheless, most recognized that the text was on the defence of principles rather than policies and does not support positions of any single political party.

Those in favour agreed that historians should give guidance based on their scholarly expertise. Historical guidance for the public usually takes the form of analysis and historical explanations. However, it seemed to the majority that present threats called also for normative statements. One speaker reminded the assembled historians of Theodor Mommsen’s intervention in the anti-Semitism debate in 1880 and declared that Mommsen’s principled stance may serve as a positive reference for today’s German Historical Association. Distinguishing between the historian as scholar and expert on the one side and the historian as citizens on the other was described as a moot and artificial point under present circumstances. It was felt that historians should explicitly defend those principles of pluralist society under attack from populism at present. One speaker from Chemnitz and another one from a memorial site (Gedenkstätte) in Lower Saxony strongly urged those present to pass the resolution because they needed this kind of support by the professional organisation against the current, sometimes daily threats to their freedom of research. The final vote by showing of hand demonstrated that German historians as an organised profession overwhelmingly recognized the present threats and saw the need to defend key principles of pluralist and democratic society.

Position in Jewish History

The Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, Germany seeks a new Research Fellow (Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter*in) for five years

Deadline: 15 October 2018

The successful candidate pursues an individual research project within the frame of the IEG research agenda “Negotiating differences in Modern Europe” . The innovative project contributes to one of the three research areas of the IEG (research program). The position is open to Early Modern and 19th or 20th century applications.

The Leibniz Institute of European History (IEG) in Mainz is an independent research institute and a member of the Leibniz Association. It conducts research on the political, social, cultural and religious foundations of Europe from the early modern period to contemporary history and has an international fellowship programme for PhD candidates (www.ieg-mainz.de/en).

Download announcement in English or German



Care in Crisis – Ethnographic Perspectives on Humanitarianism

Conference at the Department of Anthropology and African Studies (ifeas)
Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany

22 – 24 February 2018

This conference introduces the notion of care into studies of humanitarianism. Care is a social activity produced by combinations of intimate and institutional practices. All of us need to be cared for, but care requirements are revealed more starkly and are often amplifi ed in moments of acute need or emergency. At the same time, in emergency and disaster situations, quotidian care arrangements can themselves undergo a crisis. Everyday routines may need to be adapted and radically changing conditions can call into question established procedures, or demand alternative modes of action.

Humanitarian intervention reconfigures caring institutions through new ways of knowing and representing suffering that emerge alongside organizational responses; it produces shifts in the organization and practice of care that profoundly reshape the sociality of those involved; and it is implicated in the production of new material environments that restructure the possibilities and limits of caring interventions. Contributors draw on ethnographic fi eldwork to explore the mutual construction of entitlements, responsibilities and governance that shape practices of care in humanitarian contexts, as well as the moral underpinnings, materiality and lived realities of these dynamics.

Programme (download Flyer)

ORGANIZERS:
Heike Drotbohm, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
Hannah Brown, Durham University

 

Crisis in the Middle East: Humanitarianism, Religion and Diplomacy, c. 1860-1970

Conference at the Leibniz-Institute of European History, 7 – 9 February 2018

The third conference organised by the Network »Engaging Europe in the Arab World: Missionaries and Humanitarianism in the Middle East 1850s to 1970s« focuses on crises in the Middle East and the relation between humanitarianism, religion, and diplomacy. Participating scholars discuss the period from the Ottoman Empire to the Second World War and its aftermath. The panels analyse humanitarianism and missions in the context of imperial troubles, intervention, the European mandate system and nation-building. A round table with Eva Svoboda , Senior Research Fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and Jonathan Benthall, Director Emeritus of the Royal Anthropological Institute and Research Fellow at UCL, will conclude the proceedings discussing scholarship and humanitarian practice.

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Volkswagen and Human Rights Violations in Brazil, 1964-1985

Investigations on the role of Volkswagen during military dictatorship: TV-Documentary by Stefanie Dodt and Thomas Aders

Lúcio Bellentani, a former Volkswagen worker, visiting the prison in which he was tortured by Brazilian police after he had been handed over by the Volkswagen security force (Source: ARD-Mediathek)

The German automobile firm Volkswagen is being investigated by public prosecutors in Brazil. Newspaper and TV journalist from NDR, SWR and Süddeutsche Zeitung have now published findings of their own. The excellent TV documentary by Stefanie Dodt and Thomas Aders is available in the ARD-Mediathek with English subtitles and in Portuguese. Lúcio Bellentani, a former worker, says he was arrested in the workshop by factory security and handed over to the Brazilian secret police who took him away for prolongued torture over several months. Carl Hahn, then top manager with the car company, claims that he had no idea that human rights were violated on company ground. He says that there are more important things than investigating the past.

Carl Hahn, former Volkswagen top-manager, who says that there are more important things than investigating the past (Source: ARD-Mediathek)

The company’s press officer does not wish to make a statement on the accusation as long as the investigations are ongoing. The journalist team of investigators base the documentary on interviews but also on archival files. They contain a large number of reports on Volkswagen do Brasil workers the company regularly sent to the secret police during the dictatorship. This is an exemplary piece of journalistic and archival research.

Watch the documentary here.

Conference on Gender & Humanitarianism at the Leibniz Institute of European History

Crossposted from EuropeAcrossBorders

The international conference at the Leibniz Institute of European History discusses the relationship between gender and humanitarian discourses and practices in the twentieth century. In particular, it analyzes the ways in which constructions and ideologies of gender shaped and were shaped by humanitarian practices, interactions, ideas, bodies, and institutions on local, regional, national and/or global scales. By introducing the analytical category of gender into the historical study of humanitarianism, the conference discusses how (hierarchical) relations between men and women, social and cultural constructions of masculinity/femininity and gendered conceptions of human bodies worked out in the various types of humanitarian organizations (e.g. IOs, NGOs, networks, aid agencies, churches), campaigns, perceptions, works and subjectivities. Focusing on the time between the First World War and the end of the Cold War, the conference concentrates on a period that not only witnessed a great expansion of humanitarian action worldwide but also saw fundamental changes in gender relations and the gradual emergence of gender-sensitive policies in humanitarian organizations in many Western and non-Western settings.

Convenors: Esther Möller (Mainz), Johannes Paulmann (Mainz) and Katharina Stornig (Giessen)

Programmflyer-Gender-and-Humanitarianism (pdf)

Programme

 Thursday June 29, 2017

14.00–14.30    Esther Möller (Mainz), Johannes Paulmann (Mainz), Katharina Stornig (Giessen): Welcome and Introduction

I. Masculinities and Femininities in Humanitarian Discourse and Practice (Chair: Ulrike Weckel, Giessen)

14.30–15.30     Inger Marie Okkenhaug (Volda): Gender and Humanitarian Practices after World War I: Female Scandinavian Relief Workers and Armenian Women Refugees in Lebanon and Syria

15.30–16.30     Maria Lidola (Konstanz): Gender and the Formation of Humanitarian Discourse in the Global South: The Specific Case of Cuban Medical Missions

16.30–17.00     Coffee break

17.00–18.00    Bertrand Taithe (Manchester): Masculine Character and Heroics in Humanitarian Aid: A Long Perspective

18.00–19.00    Kerrie Holloway (London): Where are all the Men in Humanitarian History? A Re-assessment of Field Workers during the Spanish Civil War

20.00                Conference Dinner

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