Call for Papers: Simon Wiesenthal Conference 2017: (In)Glorious Victims? Challenging the Paradigms of Memory Politics in Europe

Call open until Sunday, 30. July 2017 – 23:59

Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien (VWI)

Martyrdom has a long tradition in European culture. In the nineteenth century, the cult of death became a major symbolic element of nation-building, shifting the focus from the heroic commander to the suffering soldier. This transition created common, Europe-wide rituals and iconographies of suffering for the nation while also opening up the battlefield for rivalry between these nations.
In the carnage of the First World War, this heroic construction of martyrdom faced increasing competition.  Yet exclusionary, competitive, and ostracising nation-building processes, which from the beginning marginalised many groups such as women or ethnic and religious minorities, ultimately led to the Second World War and the Holocaust as a social, political, as well as physical annihilation of human beings.  

After 1945, within the context of the post-war reconstruction of Europe, memory of the murder of European Jewry was established within the framework of an antifascist resistance narrative, building on the notion of a national (and sometimes antifascist) martyrdom, thereby denying the specificity of Jewish suffering and excluding the Holocaust from national histories. With the collapse of the European political blocs in the late 1980s and early 1990s and the fading of ideological boundaries, this national antifascist resistance narrative lost its credibility as it became clear that it could not address, let alone overcome the trauma-rooted, terrible experience of the Holocaust. Recognition of victimhood now came to the fore.

Thus, the Holocaust became more or less the only generally recognised and accepted transnational European historical event, serving as a form of symbolic ‘container’ for the construction of a European identity – albeit always challenged by many other historical traumas, especially at the peripheries of the continent: Stalinism, the Spanish Civil War, or the Irish Potato Famine. This produced a hegemonic, exclusive and simultaneously very vulnerable centre-oriented discourse of ‘Europeanism’.

The conference languages will be German and English. Individual papers or complete panels of up to four contributions each are welcome.

The VWI will cover accommodation fees. The institute is also endeavouring to find separate funding to be able to reimburse some of the participants’ travel costs.

Proposals should be written in German or in English and include an outline of the topic of no more than 600 words, as well as a short CV and a short list of publications. Please send your application in one integrated PDF file by email with the subject “SWC 2017” to no later than 30 July 2017.
Publication of conference proceedings is planned.