C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors

Displacement and resettlement during and after World War II in a global perspective

Event Details

  • Date

    Friday, 26 June - 14:00 – 16:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    C – Mobilities, migrations, and transnational actors
Convenor
  • Kerstin von Lingen (University of Vienna)
Chair
  • Kerstin von Lingen (University of Vienna)
Commentator
  • Kerstin von Lingen (University of Vienna)
Panelists
  • Milinda Banerjee (University of St Andrews)
  • Roderick Bailey (University of Oxford)
  • Linda Erker (University of Vienna)
  • Sarah Knoll (University of Vienna)

Papers

  • Milinda Banerjee
    Displaced Persons/Refugees in Bengali Political Thought: Perspectives from Global Intellectual History

    Displaced Persons/Refugees in Bengali Political Thought: Perspectives from Global Intellectual History

    One of the main questions which has preoccupied the emerging domain of global intellectual history is: how do concepts, ideas, and arguments get globalized? This paper intervenes within these debates by focusing on the figure of the displaced person/refugee, or, to use the Bengali concepts (which carry meanings in excess of the English terms), udbastu and sharanarthi. The first part of the paper focuses on displacements of Bengalis from the 1940s onwards, initially due to the Second World War and the Japanese invasion of Burma, and later, on a far more gigantic scale, due to the Partition of 1947. The paper explores literary representations from the 1940s to 1960s, to highlight how the udbastu/sharanarthi became a central figure of Bengali political thought and political theology. Intellectual solidarities were also forged with other victims of forced displacement of the era, and especially with Jewish refugees. The second part of the paper focuses on the 2000s and 2010s. Through an analysis of the writings of two Bengali-origin theorists, Partha Chatterjee and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, I demonstrate how the displaced person/refugee has engendered new figurations of political theory. I show how discussions in the early twenty-first century have intersected Bengali experiences of Partition and forced displacement with European discussions about forced displacement, especially as brought about by the Nazi regime. Finally, I highlight how these discussions have also drawn upon other crises, such as the cases of the Palestinian and the Rohingya refugees, to create connected worlds of planetary and insurgent theorization.
  • Roderick Bailey
    Displacement and Resistance: transnational perspectives

    Displacement and Resistance: transnational perspectives

    This paper discusses how, during the Second World War, displaced persons and refugees from ethnic, political and religious minorities were recruited by Allied nations and transformed into agents of resistance in German- and Japanese-occupied countries. Using a variety of examples, ranging from Jewish refugees from Axis-occupied Europe to Chinese communists in Malaya, it seeks to underline the importance of transnational history as a tool for understanding the global experiences of displaced populations during the Second World War. In particular, it illustrates not only the diverse pathways taken by displaced persons during the war, but also some of the implications of Allied interactions with minorities in this way. These included, for example, tension between resistance fighters of different backgrounds, and inflated hopes, among minorities, for improved lives after the war.
  • Linda Erker
    Forced Jewish Migration as a Scientific Career Opportunity? The Austrian Archaeologist Grete Mostny in Chile after 1939

    Forced Jewish Migration as a Scientific Career Opportunity? The Austrian Archaeologist Grete Mostny in Chile after 1939

    Due to Word War II and Nazi-persecution thousands of people were forced to migrate and leave everything behind, among them many scientists. They lost their social life as well as their professional networks and career opportunities. Grete Mostny was a young Austrian Egyptologist when she was excluded of the University of Vienna after the so-called “Anschluss” in March 1938. Persecuted as a Jew by the National Socialists, she fled first to Belgium and then managed to escape to Chile in 1939. A few years after her flight Mostny became head of the Department of Anthropology at the Chilean National Museum of Natural History in Santiago. Finally, she was the first female director of the museum and one of the most famous scientists in Chile in the 20th Century. She died in 1991. The paper wants to present the biography of Grete Mostny as an extraordinary example of a successful scientist who could start a new career after her forced displacement. But Mostny stands for more than just a single life story. Her biography highlights an unexplored Austrian group of highly qualified migrants who resettled in Latin American countries: “the scientists on the move”. Following this observation, the lecture wants to deal with questions of history of scientific migration in a broader way by reflecting the biography of the Austrian-Chilean pioneer Grete Mostny. The presentation analyses her scientific restart, transfer of knowledge and unexpected career opportunities in exile. Patterns of migrations were various as many biographies show. Careers of scientists who were forced to leave were influenced by many different variables. The majority of Austrian scientists were not able to reconnect in their Latin American exile to their professional life back home: Their course of life became irrevocable determined by others.
  • Sarah Knoll
    At the border of the “Iron Curtain”: International aid for refugees from the Communist Bloc in Austria (1956–1989/90)

    At the border of the “Iron Curtain”: International aid for refugees from the Communist Bloc in Austria (1956–1989/90)

    During the Cold War hundreds of thousands of people fled to Austria from the neighboring communist ruled countries. The political elites and the society tend to see Austria as a champion of human rights, but a closer look shows the country’s attitude towards refugees from the communist bloc was ambivalent throughout the entire Cold War. Austria readily offered help and asylum for political refugees, but it always aimed at being a transit country only and frequently applied for international support. The paper examines five “refugee crises” during the Cold War in Austria (Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, Poland 1981/82, GDR 1989, and Romania 1989/90) in a comparative way, to shed light on the turning points in the discourse about flight and migration. Especially the role of non-governmental and International Organisations is in the centre of interest. National and International Organisations were responsible for accommodation, assistance and organized the transit of refugees to other countries. For example, in 1956/57 the Austrian government concluded several treaties with the League of Red Cross Societies (today International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies) about the support of Hungarian Refugees in camps in Austria. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) helped with financial aid and the Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration (ICEM, today International Organization for Migration) organized the emigration of the refugees. The project assumes that reactions of state, society and relief organizations towards the refugees were interconnected and influenced each other. Beyond, reactions towards refugees from communist countries are assessed against the background of East–West dichotomy during the Cold War and the changing global economic.

Abstract

The 20th century has seen unprecedented violence, not only on the battlefields in Europe and Asia, but also against civilians who suffered large-scale deportation and forced migration in both the European and Asian theatres of violence. Research combining institutional records with biographical data and sources, linking the field of Holocaust and cold war perspectives with other (especially extra-European) domains of conflict and ethnic cleansing in the 1940s, will enhance our understanding of forced migration and displacement, and its impact on groups, institutions, and individuals. We can thereby better historicize geographies of movement and resettlement, track mobility hotspots, and study patterns of agency and decision-making. We shall also be better able to study the wider impact of this refugee crisis on societies in Europe and Asia in a global perspective.