The emergence of an international system of states ordered around the idea of "the nation"at the end of the “long” 19th century was neither a natural, nor inescapable, nor uncontested development. It was a process shaped by human beings that was open-ended. The goal of the planned conference is to discuss this process in the context of the intensification and acceleration of communication and exchange processes which in the 19th century had taken hold in East Central Europe as well. Modern means of transportation and technical advances in the communication of news increased the mobility of both people and information in equal measure. Industrialization, urbanization, and increasing efforts of the state to further order areas of life gave rise to contradictions and regional asynchronies and gave rise to a new stratum of educated people who both addressed and helped give shape to these innovations. These processes led to the spread of mutually competing systems of knowledge and political ideologies, each one claiming universal validity. One of these knowledge systems based itself on the idea that humanity is apportioned into nations. Although a national way of thinking purports to provide a framework within which to construct particular political and cultural communities, it also always refers to the global dimension according to which all human beings are assigned to definite nations and these are legitimate agents in world history.
The central point of the conference, then, is not isolated “national movements”, but rather the different agents or groups of agents who with their actions and proffered interpretations intervened in the process of expanding a national way of thinking or who were affected by the process. What comes into view are: the reciprocal relationships and negotiations between the power of the state and different political agents; the experience of emigration and political exile as well as its interpretation at the local, regional, and European level; the appearance of international congresses and organizations which were pursuing universal objectives, yet which also made differences tangible and ascribed to them a certain political meaning. Furthermore, in order to do justice to the historical dynamic, the implications of momentous events for the agents and their agendas to be studied here, should be worked up situationally and from a longer perspective. For consideration here are the Polish uprisings as well as the shift in the “Polish question” in the 19th century; the Austro-Hungarian compromise; the establishment of the German Empire as well as the Kulturkampf and the Anti-Socialist Laws; the revolution of 1905 in Russia; the beginning of the war and its course as well as the downfall of the empires and the establishment of a post-war order composed of nation states.
We are requesting proposals for papers addressing the following three arrays of questions.
I. “Mobility and Intensification” Crossing Borders and Migration as Motors of Change.
In the period being studied, on the one hand, there was an international harmonizationwhich extended itself from the forms of political and social organization down to individual lifestyles. Yet at the same time, the ideas and institutions of modernity in their respective local and particular contexts gave new meaning to feelings of cultural difference and brought an awareness of dissimilarity. The precondition for this was the increasing frequency of cross-border contacts and the growth of intercultural exchange connected with it.
• Who were the agents of this intensification and how did the experience of differences change their ideas and their possible ways of acting?
• What kind of reciprocal exchange emerged between the East Central European “periphery” and the “centers” in the east and west?
• On the one hand, how did knowledge of the conditions in East Central Europe change in the centers of emigration, and, on the other hand, how did the images of the potential possibilities of “one’s own” future sovereign nation state change on the edges of the empires?
• What impact did national and transnational communication have on the identification of the mobile agents in their migration and their connections with their place of origin?
• What awareness of spaces and affiliations as well as borders emerged in the differing milieus between the periphery and the center?
• To what extent did the resulting cultural transfer promote the development of a national self-awareness against a European background? What universal artistic or political forms of a particular identity were transferred?
• What meaning did the connection to an ethnic minority have and how was this distinctiveness perceived? What influence did the diaspora minorities (such as the Jews, Armenians, and Germans) have on the processes of entanglement and mobility?
II) “Rivals of the National”: Political Identities and Organizations Beyond Nationalism.
A big problem for convinced nationalists was the frequent indecisiveness, indifference, or dismissiveness from members of their own nation towards the national efforts, or their “refusal” to regard cultural practices and spaces as national. Questions about the alternatives to and rivals of the nation as the political basis of community deserve, therefore, greater attention than they have received to this point in historical research.
• What offers of identification, carrying a universal claim, arose in the political public sphere that found an easier connection to the everyday life of people than that of the nation?
• To what extent was the participation in an international community an attractive option for bridging the fragmented and political as well as economic state of things on the perceived periphery of East Central European societies?
• Images of social ordering such as the idea of a western civilization, of the Christian occident, or of a Slavic family of peoples all produced more comprehensive communities with relation to cultural-ideological communities. To what extent were they rivals of the national or to what extent did they contribute to the establishment of a national ordering of the world?
• How were cultural and financial resources, say, of religious communities, of supranational states, or international philanthropic organizations employed in order to avoid nationalization of the life world?
• Which modern identities were generated out of the traditional stock of religious confession, of the work world, or from imperial of urban affiliation? How did the process of agreement about “one’s own” develop there in times of “mass media”, increasing migration, and political participation?
• Which niches and chances offered themselves in the imperial states for minorities who were being excluded from the national project?
III) Nationalism as “Vehicle” and “Ticket”
The particular and universal character of nationalism (in equal measure) allowed it to grow into an important legitimizing resource. Since it recognized the right to exist of another nations alongside one’s own, indeed presupposed such, the smallest nation could itself challenge the legitimation of a multinational empire. To that end, the principal of national regime had to be preached by the powerful states and have their own status as a nation confirmed. Individual efforts at the establishment of sovereign nation states should be considered from their particular logic of global “attention economy” and the increasing acceptance of the idea that nationalism is a democratic movement toward modernization. Józef Pilsudski’s acknowledgement after the fact that he had left the street car of socialism at the stop of (nation state) independence, should at the same time be conceptually reversed and formulated into a question: who boarded the nationalistic train in order to advance their own agenda?
• Which social problems and attempts at solutions were in such a way narratively restructured that they appear harmonious in a nationalistic modus?
• In what way was the nationalization of one’s own agenda a presupposition, for example, for being able to engage in international organizations and movements and thereby acquire confirmation of the relevance for one’s own cause in a global arena?
• To what extent did the division of the west European liberal states into nation states ensure that this form of organizing became the norm for transnational movements in which agents from East Central Europe participated?
• In what reciprocal relationship did the ideas of feasibility and the programmatic visions of state sovereignty stand to each other before and after the “Wilson Moment”?
By 29. February 2012, please send an abstract (approximately one page) that relates directly to one of these three topics. Please include as well a resume in German, English, or Polish, sending the above to: email@example.com. Please provide accurate information about your active and passive language abilities. Travel expenses and lodging will be covered. A selection of the conference papers will be published in an edited volume.