Coinciding with the 55th anniversary of the Belgrade summit and the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement, this conference will address a range of questions relating to the wealth of diplomatic, economic, intellectual and cultural encounters and exchange between 1945 – 1990, both within the Non-Aligned Movement, across the socialist world and with the developed countries. It will map the history of Yugoslavia’s global engagements not only as a subject associated with political and diplomatic
history, but also as a broader societal and cultural project.
This is a collaborative conference between ourselves and the Centre of Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz.
University of Graz
Meerscheinschlössl / Festsaal
29 September 16:00 – 19:00 1 October
Professor Kristen Ghodsee
Bowdoin University, USA
Professor James Mark
University of Exeter & 1989 after 1989, UK
The conference Human Rights after 1945 in the Socialist and Post-Socialist World took place on the 3 – 5 March 2016 at the German Historical Institute, Warsaw. It was a collaborative conference between 1989 after 1989; the German Historical Institute Warsaw; Georg-August University of Göttingen and the London School of Economics. The aim of the conference was to highlight the role and historical agency of the socialist world in the history of human rights.
The conference report is now available on our conference pages and on Geschichte Transnational. It summarises papers presented across 6 panels covering topics such as state socialism, human rights and globalisation; how human rights is defined internationally; state socialist conceptualisation of rights and human rights; socialist foreign policy; transnational movements and flows; and political dissent in relation to the global history of human rights.
The importance of analyzing vernacular human rights, i.e. analyzing when and how people used human rights languages , was one of the leitmotifs of the conference. The issue of teleology and normativity in historical human rights research was another major topic. Consequently, many papers presented stories of failures that contradict positivist narratives and challenge policy-orientated narratives of democratic transition. Parallel to transnational and international human rights history, the role of the state in human rights history was another key issue of the conference. Bringing the state back in, human rights can also be seen as an element of legal history – a promising approach embedding the highly normative notion of human rights in a wider legal history context. This conference brought together scholars working on various regions and actors in a truly fruitful manner. It linked different approaches and perspectives on the history of human rights in a way that contributed to an urgently needed, more complex understanding of the socialist world’s role in human rights history.
Read the full conference report.[Top]
March 3-5, 2016
German Historical Institute Warsaw
Conference Room, 3rd Floor
German Historical Institute Warsaw
1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective
Georg-August University of Göttingen
As both human rights and globalization have emerged as dynamic fields of historical and sociological research, the “socialist world” is relegated to a supporting role in the triumph of Western capitalism and liberal democracy. The aim of this conference is to question established narratives that have ignored or downplayed the role of socialist ideas, practice, and experts—be they state officials, loyal intellectuals or dissident activists — in the development of international human rights ideas, discourses, and systems in the post-war era. With a geographic scope that covers the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc, Yugoslavia and China, we hope to show that the socialist world did not just react passively to Western human rights politics, but was a vital participant in the production of global human rights with legacies that continued past the revolutions of 1989. By examining the socialist contribution to the evolution of human rights, we hope to contribute to revising standard narratives of globalization that focus exclusively on the perceived winners of these processes.
Thursday, 3 March 2016
Ruth LEISEROWITZ (German Historical Institute Warsaw)
Introductory Panel: State Socialism, Human Rights and Globalization: In Search of a New Narrative
Hella DIETZ (Georg-August University of Göttingen)
Ned RICHARDSON-LITTLE (University of Exeter)
Robert BRIER (London School of Economics)
15:30-16:00 Coffee break
Panel 1: Defining Human Rights Internationally
Steven JENSEN (Danish Institute for Human Rights)
Defining the Social in the Global: Social Rights, UN Diplomacy and the Emergence of International Non-Discrimination Norms and Politics, 1950-1960
Alexander OSIPOV (European Centre for Minority Issues)
The Soviet Union’s Involvement in the Establishment of the European Minority Rights Regime
Discussant: Arnd BAUERKÄMPER (Free University Berlin)
19:00 Conference Dinner
Friday, 4 March 2016
Panel 2: State-Socialist Conceptions of Rights and Human Rights
Jennifer ALTEHENGER (King’s College London)
Rights, Not Human Rights: Communist China’s National Constitution Discussion, 1954
Michal KOPEČEK (Institute for Contemporary History, Prague and Charles University, Prague)
Socialist Conceptions of Human Rights and its Dissident Critique
Todor HRISTOV (University of Sofia)
Rights to Weapons: Human Rights as a Resource in Workplace Conflicts in Late Socialist Bulgaria
Discussant: Paul BETTS (Oxford University)
11:00-11:30 Coffee Break
Panel 3: Tolerance, Difference, and Rights under Socialism
Ivan SABLIN (University of Heidelberg)
Illusive Tolerance: Buddhism in the Late Soviet State
Zhuoyi WEN (Hong Kong Institute of Education)
Contesting Cultural Rights in Post-socialist China
13:00-14:30 Lunch break
Panel 4: Human Rights as Socialist Foreign Policy
Sebastian GEHRIG (Oxford University)
The Fifth Column of the Third World? The East German Quest for International Recognition through UN Rights Discourses
Jens BOYSEN (German Historical Institute Warsaw)
Polish Engagement in the United Nations as a Tool for Justifying Communist Rule in Poland and Gaining Leeway in the Warsaw Pact
Discussant: Robert BRIER
(London School of Economics)
16:00-16:30 Coffee Break
Panel 5: Transnational Movements and Flows
Christie MIEDEMA (University of Amsterdam)
Negotiating Space for International Human Rights Activism: Amnesty International in Eastern Europe before 1989
Rósa MAGNÚSDÓTTIR (University of Aarhus)
Soviet-American Intermarriage: Transnational Love and the Cold War
Discussant: James MARK (University of Exeter)
19:00 Dinner for the conference participants
Saturday, 5 March 2016
Panel 6: Dissent and Human Rights
Simone BELLEZZA (University of Eastern Piedmont)
The Right to Be Different: Ukrainian Dissent and the Struggle Against a Global Consumerist Cultural Standardization
Hermann AUBIÉ (University of Turku)
Between Loyalty and Dissent: Revisiting the History of Human Rights in China Through the Discourse of Chinese Intellectuals and Dissidents
Zsófi a LÓRÁND (European University Institute, Florence)
Feminist Dissent, Activism for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the Human Rights Discourse in Yugoslavia in the 1970s-1980s
Discussant: Celia DONERT (University of Liverpool)
11:00-11:30 Coffee Break
Concluding Panel: The Place of State Socialist Societies in the Global History of Human Rights
Paul BETTS (Oxford University)
James MARK (University of Exeter)
Celia DONERT (University of Liverpool)
German Historical Institute, Warsaw
March 3 – 5, 2016
Call for Papers Deadline: 27 November 2015
Human Rights after 1945 in the Socialist and Post-Socialist World
Histories of late twentieth century global change have focused on its perceived winners on a macro-scale: democratic capitalism, global markets and individual rights. In such formulations, the “socialist world” and its history appear irrelevant to understanding global processes and unable to inform liberal Western democratic societies.
The global rise of human rights might look like a particularly striking case in point. The formal guarantees of rights in socialist societies, after all, seemed to have no substantial effect on these societies’ political and legal practices, and the debate on civil society in “the West” which east European human rights activists had inspired during the 1980s, did not survive socialism’s fall in that region.
In this conference, we want to question those narratives. Actors from the socialist world – be they state officials, loyal intellectuals or dissident activists – actively participated in international conflicts over the meaning of democracy, economic freedom, religious liberty and national self-determination in the post-war period. Socialist officials took part in drafting the U.N. covenants of 1966, in turning South African apartheid or repression in Chile into global causes célèbres or in promoting women’s rights. African socialists shaped human rights discourses by blending them with the struggle for self-determination, while Latin American activists grafted human rights to their Marxist ideas. Chinese Communists joined traditional ideas of cultural difference with Leninist ideology to create a distinct human rights discourse. Dissident intellectuals, on the other hand, did not necessarily take the West’s side in the Cold War when they criticized socialist realities, but developed innovative human rights vernaculars deeply shaped by their unique contexts. In sum, the “socialist world” did not just react passively to Western human rights politics, but was a vital participant in the story of the production of global human rights.
This conference seeks to explore how the socialist world can be written into the broader global narratives of the rise of human rights in the 20th century, and even revise these narratives. Our understanding of the “socialist world” is deliberately inclusive. It entails the socialist systems of eastern Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Southern and East Asia as well as socialist and Communist parties and movements more broadly, and anti-colonial or anti-dictatorial movements in the Global South.
We welcome papers from different disciplines and from diverse perspectives, whether dealing with official discourses, state policies, right experts, or national or transnational political movements.
We particularly encourage proposals on the following topics:
- rights cultures within socialist societies, including reflections on the global context of their construction;
- the contribution of socialist elites, experts and social groups to the global rise of human rights;
- connections across the socialist world in the production of conceptions of rights, including reflections on the role of international organizations or transnational movements;
- the importance of rights discourses for socialist regimes and movements in establishing legitimacy at home and abroad;
- the use of rights discourses by opposition movements, and the relationship between official/ alternative rights movements within socialist societies;
- the legacy of rights discourses within socialist and post-socialist societies today;
- comparisons, and connections between, the production of rights ideas in the socialist and non-socialist worlds;
- rethinking the role of rights and the collapse of socialist states;
- broader reflections on writing the socialist world into the history of rights;
- broader reflections on how these stories contribute to the rethinking of the story of cultural and political globalization.
This conference is the first in a series of meetings exploring how processes and practices that emerged from the socialist world shaped the re-globalized world of our times. Throughout, the legacies of this socialist engagement with globalising processes in the socialist and post-socialist world will also be an important point of interest.
Please send a brief abstract of 300-500 words, as well as a brief CV, by November 27, 2015, to Natalie Taylor at the University of Exeter (N.H.Taylor@exeter.ac.uk ). All organizational questions can be sent to Natalie Taylor. Academic queries should be sent to Hella Dietz (Hella.Dietz@sowi.uni-goettingen.de ).
Download the Call for Papers: Call for Papers Human Rights after 1945
Substantial funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors also explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.
This event is kindly supported by the German Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Leverhulme Trust-funded project 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective at the University of Exeter.[Top]
Alternative Global Geographies, Imagining and Re-Imagining the World Late 19th Century – Present Day
Call for Papers for the Conference of the Research Network Socialism Goes Global
12 – 14 November 2015
Call for Papers Deadline: 27 July 2015
In contrast to public claims of the early 1990s, space and geographies have not lost their central role in defining an ever more globalized world. We still live in territorialized spaces: not only in the narrow sense of states and societies that reside within their borders, but also geographies and spatial formats on regional and world scales. Research in the aftermath of the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences is increasingly drawing our attention to the importance of understanding large-scale spatial dynamics for global history.
Many influential paradigms, often emerging from metropolitan cores or centres of the Cold War, have emerged to make sense of an increasingly interconnected world. These have included Euro- and other ‘centric’ centre-periphery models, the idea of the Anglophone or Francophone worlds, the tricontinental model, World Systems Theory, or the division of the globe into the First, Second, and Third Worlds, or the ‘Global North and South’. Such ideas came not only from the academy (in e.g. geography, area studies, history, economics, anthropology) but also from the work of political, economic and cultural actors. This conference will explore such attempts to make sense of the world on a regional or global scale, and explore how such ideas have been used to make sense of, and organize, power relations, cultural encounters and economic connections.
We wish in particular to encourage papers focussing on the ‘view from the periphery’. Despite the recent turn to studying global history from non-western perspectives, there is still little research done on visions of world order from other actors outside metropolitan cores or the West- from e.g. Latin America, South and Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. We invite contributions dealing with ways of conceptualising the world from areas that thought of themselves as peripheral (or semi-peripheral) on a global scale, or, indeed, challenged their definition as such. We wish to emphasise that we do not set an a priori definition of ‘periphery’ – the definition of where the periphery is located, how it is defined and who belongs to it shall be rather an element of the analysis. We also encourage contributions on those who conceptualised alternative visions of world orders, from a variety of political, religious, cultural or economic movements – regardless of their geographical location (i.e. also from critical or peripheral standpoints within the metropole/ core).
The event aims to bring together scholars from multiple disciplines (e.g. history, sociology, geography, anthropology and others), working on various topics (colonialism, post-colonialism, socialism and radicalism), on different world regions or on a world scale. The time frame may range from the late 19th century – as an era in which global imaginations and political projects of a politico- and cultural-spatial organization of the world powerfully emerged in relation to late colonial regimes – through the transformations of the interwar, the Cold War and decolonisation, and up until the present day.
Papers might address:
– conceptualizations and spatializations of the world: how have actors accepted or critiqued dominant visions of global spatial visions; what ‘alternative visions’ have been proposed e.g. ‘socialist world’, ‘anti-imperialist world’, ‘Afro-Asian world’, ‘global South’, ‘majority world’; how have actors worked to make such reconceptualisations authentic, or new interconnections a reality?
– the relation between political projects and practices to these conceptualizations – either as producers of these or through instrumentalizing them.
– the clashes between such conceptualizations and practices, paying attention to the web of power relations inherent in these conflicts.
– the roles of expert cultures (e.g. area studies institutes, agricultural specialists, economists, sociologists, fiction writers) and non-academic actors (e.g. activists); institutionalisations based on spatial imaginaries; the intellectual production of spatialized knowledge; the role of trans-regional exchange in the production of spatial models.
– the production of authenticity in new geographical imaginaries (how have these new imaginaries been made real? How have imagined distances between world regions been collapsed, or new borders and frontiers between world regions produced? How and why have alternative visions failed in the face of dominant models?).
– the conceptualisation of the periphery and semi-periphery (how did actors relate themselves to the concept? How did internal peripheries within regions or countries shape how actors conceptualised peripheries on a global scale?).
– relations between ideological camps and geographical spaces (e.g. imperialism, anti-imperialism and spatialized visions; shifting and rival definitions of the globe as a set of large geocultural units by the Cold War powers; contested visions of world mapping).
– the role of world mapping in domestic cultures in different ideological systems and regional settings (e.g. political uses; global spatial mappings as ‘disciplining tools’ for home populations; representations of world orders in e.g. maps, culture, political discourse; the political and cultural interpreters of spatialized visions for popular audiences).
Please send a brief abstract of 300-500 words, as well as a brief CV, by 27 July 2015, to Catherine Devenish at the University of Exeter (C.Devenish@exeter.ac.uk ). The conference will take place in Leipzig from 12 to 14 November 2015. Some funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.[Top]