CfP: Reshaping the Nation: Collective Identities and Post-War Violence in Europe 1944–48

Deadline : 31 January 2019

Conference dates: 16th – 17th of May 2019
Venue: Charles University Prague, Karolinum, Czech Republic
Organizing institutions:
Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University Prague
Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague
Keynote speaker: professor Norman Naimark (Department of history, Stanford University)
Deadline for applications: 31 January 2019
World War II entailed an unprecedented amount of violence and suffering, only part of
which was caused by the actual fighting. Against the background of a looming unconditional,
total German defeat at the end of the war, German occupation in many cases degenerated
into brutal physical violence against civilians. Immediately after the end of the war, societies
in nearly all formerly occupied countries were drowning in a wave of more or less
spontaneous violence. People in the liberated countries directed their wrath not only against
former Nazis and against ethnic Germans in general, but also attacked domestic
“collaborators” and national “traitors.” The complex phenomenon of Endphasegewalt
involved transitional violence, violent rituals, extermination campaigns, national cleansing,
rage, retribution, rape and other forms of opportunism. Endphasegewalt infused the
everyday experience of millions of Europeans at the time.
In the course of the last few decades, historians and other researchers have published many
studies concentrating on different cases of violence during the period. Mostly, they sought
explanations for political decision making or proposed models and descriptions of the social
practices connected with violent behavior. These macrosocial perspectives left out the very
important performative aspect of violence: people were putting their conceptions of the
ideal postwar society into practice through violence. Was violence a meaningful act meant
to empower new collective identities, or was it only the coincidental product of accumulated
frustration and rage? To answer these questions, the conference will adopt a micro- and
local-historical perspective. It will compare events in selected regions of several occupied
countries that were affected by German occupation policies.
The conference will focus on violent acts occurring at the end of World War II in the context
of nationalism as reshaped by previous war experiences. For the first time
in modern history, German occupation served as a tool not only for economic expropriation
of the material wealth of defeated societies but also for racial reordering of occupied
populations. Even though there were important differences between the occupation
regimes that Germany established in in Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and those in
Central, Northern, and Western Europe, the Nazi administration utilized national and racial
categorizations as the crucial framework for strengthening its rule in all occupied countries.
The Nazis used both domestic perceptions of nationality in the occupied lands and “racial”
classifications at the same time. As a result of the Nazis’ racial dividing lines, nationality lost
many of its former imaginative aspects. Occupation powers inscribed nationality and race
onto the fate of individuals, which in many cases became a matter of life and death.
Historical research on nationalism has often focused on the nineteenth century, on World
War I, and on the inter-war period. Researchers have not paid much attention to the
concepts of nationhood, nationalism, and nation building in the period directly after World
War II. It is an open research question how the extreme forms of racism promoted by the
Nazis during World War II influenced the experience of individuals in the postwar period.
The conference will analyze the composition of nationalities (who belonged to the national
community?), the legitimizing function of nationalism, and its relation to acts of violence
at the end of war and to the reshaping of postwar societies. At the same time, we want
to address the differences between countries. How did a specific occupation policy
in a specific place, with its specific national and racist criteria, influence the “responses”
of the occupied society? Is there any evidence of a biological understanding of nationhood?
How did competing concepts shape a new understanding of the “nation”—particularly
taking into consideration the different political and cultural developments in various nationstates
after the war ended?
We welcome papers dealing with topics from all occupied countries (Poland, France,
Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Bohemia, Italy /after 1943/, Yugoslavia,
Greece, etc.). Because the conference will try to bridge the persistent dividing line between
Western and Eastern European historiography, we are especially interested in comparative
We are interested in papers that touch upon violent acts occurring at the end of World War
II and stemming from nationalism as reshaped by previous war experiences. Potential
participants in the conference can contribute to the following topics:
The role of race-based discourses and biological concepts of nationhood
Connections between local and regional violence and state-controlled activities
Violent rituals and historical models of violence
Concepts of nation, nationhood, and citizenship after 1944
Processes and perceptions of inclusion and exclusion
Connections between nationhood on the one hand and religion, language, history,
and culture on the other
Relations between violence and gender-based aspects of the creation of new
collective identities
Connections between political, national, and criminal violence and socially motivated
Conference organization
Submission of abstracts
Please send your abstracts in English by 31 January 2019 to: The length of conference abstracts is limited to 500 words.
We will inform you about an acceptance of your paper no later than by 28 February 2019.
Conference language is English.
Boris Barth (Charles University, Prague)
Ota Konrád (Charles University, Prague)
Blanka Mouralová (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague)
Jaromír Mrňka (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague)
Accommodation and travel
The organizers will cover accommodation, catering at the conference and travel costs
from Europe for all speakers. Please, contact us in case of travel from other destinations

Author: Aisseco

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