Internationalism in the (Long) 20th Century

Internationalism in the (Long) 20th Century

Oscar Broughton / Lea Börgerding, Institute for History, Free University Berlin; Alina Oswald / Ana Carolina Schveitzer / William Blakemore Lyon, Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt-University Berlin; Tristan Oestermann, History Department, Humboldt University Berlin
Berlin; Online
From - Until
20.10.2020 - 23.10.2020
Conf. Website
Clare Richardson, Graduate School of Global Intellectual History, Freie Universität Berlin; Henrique Cintra Santos, Graduate Program in Global History, Federal University of Santa Catarina (Brazil)

History PhD students from the Freie Universität and the Humboldt-Universität in Berlin organized this workshop to give early career academics the opportunity to discuss and develop their research on internationalism using new methodologies, temporalities, and actors. It was the seventh workshop organized by the Political History PhD Network. Originally planned to take place in Berlin, Germany, it was instead hosted online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the opening keynote speech, MICHAEL GOEBEL (Geneva) presented a historiographical overview of the dissolution of empire and nation-state formation, noting that recent scholarly debate over this transition has focused on the question of how foreseeable the trend was. He analyzed how the most recent literature tends to argue that the end of multiethnic, multinational empires and the rise of nation-states over the last 250 years was not inevitable. In his presentation Goebel questioned the notion of “nationalism,” stressing its mutable discursive meanings throughout the twentieth century.

MARTIN HAMRE (Berlin) opened up the workshop’s first panel, Internationalism in the Inter-War Period, by presenting his research on minor European fascist parties in the 1930s. He analyzed how they started to nurture international cooperation despite regarding internationalism as an indicator of communism. In explaining this curious transformation, Hamre pointed to pragmatic reasons such as the necessity of enhancing the reach of parties with relatively minor status and showed how ideological precepts such as anti-Semitism played a role in intensifying the internationalist aspect of these groups.

FREDERIK ØRSKOV (Helsinki) also dealt with the conceptual intersection between internationalism and fascism, addressing Nordic Nazi-fascist intellectuals and their publications. Ørskov talked about how these European intellectuals played an important role within fascist internationalism. In the participants’ roundtable following his presentation, one of the main questions focused on gender relations in this context.

JULE EHMS (Bochum) closed the first panel by discussing German syndicalism and anti-nationalism in the context of the Occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. With Germany defaulting on reparation payments after its defeat in the First World War, France and Belgium occupied the Ruhr region. Ehms examined German syndicalist groups that refused to follow nationalist propaganda. Instead of discursively vilifying the occupiers, these groups stressed the need for more international cooperation.

Following the first panelists, ILLARIA SCAGLIA (Aston) introduced the first Research Input session by discussing the necessity of considering the history of emotions and its developments as a fundamental feature of research on internationalism. Scaglia emphasized that the history of internationalism has been late in incorporating the field into its analytical framework. Scaglia drew attention to the case of the League of Nations in the interwar period by stressing the uses of friendship as a central rhetoric.

Continuing the workshop’s presentations, DEXTER FERGIE (Northwestern) opened the panel Organizing Internationalism with his research on the geographical considerations of how international organizations functioned. He discussed the economic and cultural outcomes of establishing the United Nations’ main headquarters in New York. Since the staff of international organizations often moved to the United States with their families, Fergie spoke about the importance of addressing their adaptation to new cultural and social contexts and how geographical proximity could have influenced political and economic decision-making.

SABRINA PROSCHMANN (Düsseldorf) shared her insights into how fascist internationalism, technocratic internationalism and the concept of a New Europe came together to expand their influence and range of action. She emphasized the very lack of a common understanding between such groups over what they understood and meant by the idea of a New Europe. Proschmann’s discussions thus provided a conceptualizing intervention into internationalism in the twentieth century.

Closing the second panel, MEI LING YOUNG (Oxford) assessed the Alliance for Progress, an initiative established under the Kennedy Administration as an economic cooperation project between the United States and Latin America. Young presented the Alliance as one of the main strategies employed by the US government in the early Cold War, despite the fact that it lacked well-established aims.

The panel Anti-Colonial Internationalism started with a presentation by HELENA WAKIM MORENO (São Paulo) in which she discussed activism against the Portuguese Empire among African university students in Portugal. Her research looks at transnational, anticolonial opposition to Salazarism between 1960 and 1961, focusing in particular on the Casa dos Estudantes do Império, which was founded by the Portuguese government as a home for students from the colonies studying in Lisbon.

SIMEON MARTY (Berlin) also presented on the theme of anticolonialism in London in the Second World War. He surveyed the dynamics by which non-European actors – particularly the League of Coloured Peoples and its protagonist Harold Moody – developed their own ideas for a postwar order. Considering intersections between urban and global history, Marty observed the central role played by London with regard to the circulation of people, ideas, and economic resources.

CAITLIN BARKER (Michigan) discussed international anticolonial womanhood, focusing on writings by Cameroonian activist Marthe Moumié as well as Chinese knowledge production on Cameroon. Barker’s presentation dealt with the building of friendship, connections, and international knowledge production in the context of the Cold War.

ISMAY MILFORD (Edinburgh) talked about East African internationalism in the 1960s for the second Research Input, focusing on mobile, non-state actors from countries whose transnational work has been perceived as marginal within anticolonial movements of the period. Milford emphasized the impact of mobility and global connections on actors who, though seemingly not acquainted with internationalism, developed particular anticolonial and internationalist concepts.

KSENIA LITVINENKO (Manchester) presented her work on the circulation of scientific-technical literature among socialist countries and its impact on an internationalist system of knowledge exchange. She examined the journal Stage Design and Technology, published under the patronage of the USSR’s Ministry of Culture, as a medium for creating international connections in theatre, architecture, and technology.

In his presentation, STEFAN GUŽVICA (Regensburg) showed how the Balkan Communist Federation (BCF) brought together communist parties in the Balkans with the goal of creating a socialist federative republic, overcoming ethnic tensions between states and finding common cause against greater powers. Based on newly available archival sources, his research addressed how the BCF embraced self-determination as part of a Balkan-wide revolutionary strategy, showing how communists unintentionally abandoned a proletarian approach.

YASMINA MARTIN (Yale) analyzed how journalist Frene Ginwala’s efforts to influence the Tanzanian public with her Leninist and internationalist ideas clashed with the government’s agrarian socialism. As a South African-Indian editor trained in the United Kingdom, Ginwala played a unique role in connecting Tanzanian elites with foreign intellectuals living there in exile. Martin argued that the press played an influential role in forming socialist internationalist ideas in Tanzania’s earliest days as a nation state.

The last day of the workshop started off with research input from THUC LINH NGUYEN VU (Vienna), whose work on global histories of socialism examines how competing images of dissidents in Poland emerged. In part, her research considers the politicization of emotional practice and how dissident students were driven to protest by their care for one another rather than democratic ideals alone.

The panel on International Solidarity featured two presentations. It began with JUHO SAKSHOLM (Jyväskylä) outlining his research on the Swedish New Left and the Global South, which builds on the work of his PhD dissertation on the transnational history of Swedish social movements in the 1950s and 1960s. While Swedish historiography focuses on Maoism and particular African movements, he has analyzed the sizable solidarity movement with Latin American groups and has shown how that affected the inner dynamics of the Swedish New Left.

BARBARA MÜLLER-FREI (Basel) brought her background in activism to discussing how solidarity movements in Switzerland engaged intellectually with African perspectives through literature and direct contacts with liberation movements. She argued that these Swiss groups developed their thinking by critically questioning both Maoist ideology and the influence of African intellectuals. She was the second and final panelist to share her research in this session.

The workshop participants took part in a final exchange of ideas and reading suggestions, addressing questions of how to utilize different kinds of internationalisms in their work and how to incorporate the history of emotions.

The conference ended with a keynote speech by VALESKA HUBER (Berlin) in which she challenged the audience to think about how different actors conceptualize internationalism. Who is considered part of internationalism and what are internationalism’s boundaries and margins? She noted that in the last few years, scholars have addressed one of the biggest challenges in the field by moving beyond understanding internationalism simply as institutions like the United Nations to instead considering “multiple internationalisms,” “sites of internationalism,” and “agents of internationalism.” She closed her keynote affirming the importance of connecting ideas and actors.

Conference overview:

Opening Keynote Speech
Michael Goebel (Geneva): Writing History beyond the Nation? Imperial Breakups and the Teleology of the Nation-State

Panel 1: Internationalism in the Inter-War Period

Martin Hamre (Berlin): Conceptualizing European Fascist Internationalism in the 1930s

Frederik Ørskov (Helsinki): A Darker Shade of Scandinavian Internationalism? Nordic Intellectuals in Nazi-Fascist Cultural “Inter-Nationalism”

Jule Ehms (Bochum): German Syndicalism and Anti-Nationalism during the Occupation of the Ruhr in 1923

Research Input 1

Ilaria Scaglia (Aston): Emotions as a Fundamental Feature of Interwar Internationalism(s)

Panel 2: Organizing Internationalism

Dexter Fergie (Northwestern): Headquartering the World: Geography, the United Nations, and American Power

Sabrina Proschmann (Düsseldorf): Technocratic Internationalism and the New Europe

Mei Ling Young (Oxford): The Unintended Consequences of Internationalist Rhetoric for the Alliance for Progress

Panel 3: Anti-Colonial Internationalism

Helena Wakim Moreno (São Paulo): Against the Portuguese Empire from the Metropolis: African University Students, Anti-Colonial Activism and Transnational Opposition to Salazarism (1960–1961)

Simeon Marty (Berlin): Thinking Black in the Blitz: Harold Moody, the League of Coloured Peoples and the Transformation of Pan-African Ideas in Second World War London

Caitlin Barker (Michigan): International Anticolonial Womanhood: Marthe Moumié’s Political Thought and Chinese Knowledge Production on Cameroon

Research Input 2

Ismay Milford (Edinburgh): East African Internationalisms: From Decolonisation to the Not-So-Global 1960s

Panel 4: Socialist Internationalism

Ksenia Litvinenko (Manchester): In-forming Socialist Internationalism: Architectural Communities and Their Print Media

Stefan Gužvika (Regensburg): The Nationalist Path to Internationalism: The Balkan Communist Federation and the United Front Policy

Yasmina Martin (Yale): “She Is a Dangerous Woman”: Frene Ginwala and Contested Socialist Pedagogies in Tanzania, 1960–1972

Research Input 3

Thuc Linh Nguyen Vu (Vienna): Socialist Internationalism between ‘the Second’ and ‘the Third’ World: Poland and Vietnam in the Global Cold War

Panel 5: International Solidarity

Juho Saksholm (University of Jyväskylä): Swedish New Left and the Global South: International Activism, Neutrality, and Solidarity Redefined

Barbara Müller-Frei (Basel): How African Political Thinking and Actors Coined a Swiss Solidarity Group

Émilien Tortel (Geneva): Militants, Diplomats, and Humanitarians: Internationalism in the City Refuge of Marseille (1940–1942), cancelled

Closing Keynote Speech

Valeska Huber (Berlin): Visions of Humanity: Internationalism and Global Population Thought

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