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Conference «Spaces of Experience and Horizons of Expectation: Eastern European Diasporas during the Cold War» (Halle, 24-25 November 2016)
A conference organized by the Aleksander Brückner Center for Polish Studies Halle/ Jena (research project «Phantom Borders in East Central Europe», funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research), in cooperation with the Chair for South-East European History at Humboldt University, Berlin.
After World War II large groups of emigrants from Eastern and South-Eastern Europe remained in western countries for good. They included former forced laborers in the Third Reich, POWs, inmates of concentration camps, and people who had fled from the advancing Soviet Army. Those among the so-called ‘Displaced Persons’ who did not return to their home countries during the first post-war years represented the most important field of recruitment of political activists of the East and South-East European diasporas in the emerging ‘Western World’.
Inquiring into the history of East European diasporas may help to open new perspectives on the history of the Cold War. Individual emigrants and emigrant organizations were among the most exposed participants in the growing conflict between East and West. Some diaspora activists cooperated with Western intelligence services, including covert operations behind the «Iron Curtain». Others attracted public attention due to their radically anti-communist commitment, or to their alleged involvement in collaboration with Nazi Germany.
Moreover, the study of the East European diasporas promises new insights into the political, cultural, and societal history of the Cold War. The diaspora experiences transgressed the East-West divide in several respects: Their biographies were largely shaped through experiences from beyond the ‘Iron Curtain’, and their political activities primarily aimed at changing things in their countries of origin. On the one hand, they represented the «East» in the «West» and, on the other hand, in the «East», often they were considered representing particularly dangerous ‘agents’ of Western Cold War politics. They were a part of Western societies and participated in their political and cultural change. At the same time, they were related to the East more closely than others.
In that sense, the East European diasporas were, in a way, at the center of an entangled history of East and West during the Cold War. It can also be assumed that more detailed research on the diasporas will contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics of East-West confrontation — reflected against the background of political, cultural, and societal change in Western societies.
The aim of the conference is to investigate which insights the history of the diasporas provides for the political, cultural, and societal history of the Cold War era in the period between the end of World War II the late 1980s .
Possible topics of interest for the conference:
- biographic experiences and political activities among the diasporas
- diasporas in comparison
- post-war emigrants and their relation to the older diasporas
- the diasporas and Cold War politics in Western states
- the perception of the diasporas in the socialist states
- the diasporas in the political propaganda of the East
- the diasporas and anti-communism in the West
- the diasporas and debates over crimes of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust
- East European dissidents, the diasporas, and the Western public
- the era of détente, the protests of 1968 and the diasporas
Convenors: PD Dr. Kai Struve, Dr. Nenad Stefanov
Travel expenses (up to a certain amount) and accommodation during the conference will be covered by the organizers.