The Cold War in the Classroom

The Reluctant Internationalists research group team is delighted to have been awarded a Wellcome Trust Public Engagement grant to help improve how history is being taught at British schools.

Together with the Historical Association we are launching a Teacher Fellowship Programme for 2017 on “The Cold War in the Classroom”. The programme is open to Secondary history teachers with a minimum of three to four years’ teaching experience. The deadline for applications is 7 November 2016 – see our advert below for more details.

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More internationalism articles in Contemporary European History

To accompany our special issue on ‘Agents of Internationalism‘ (access to which is still free until 8th June), Contemporary European History has now released a virtual special issue on the same theme. This collection celebrates 25 years of CEH by bringing you ten articles on the theme of internationalism and transnationalism from the CEH archive, free to download until 30th June.

The ‘agents of internationalism’ in this collection include international bankers and economists, municipal reformers, members of the Soviet Russian intelligentsia, animal health experts, agricultural lobbyists, transport ministers and infrastructure planners, jurists and legal scholars and nuclear protesters. They were active in a variety of networks and organisations and devised or fantasised about a variety of trans- or international projects, with varying results. Together with our ‘Agents of Internationalism’ special issue, this collection should prompt us to think about the variety of internationalisms at play and in direct contact and competition with each other during Europe’s twentieth century. The history of twentieth century Europe, as these articles show, was a history shaped by overlapping and competing international collaborations and radical re-imaginations of the world map.

Call for Papers: Languages of Internationalism

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Languages of Internationalism

Conference to take place at Birkbeck College, University of London

25-26 May 2017

 Deadline for submission of abstracts: 1 September 2016

 

Scholars have in recent years re-energized the study of how peoples, cultures, and economies came, over time, to be linked and entangled across all manner of borders. Transnationalism and internationalism continue to be the watchwords of much humanities and social sciences scholarship. Yet insufficient attention has been paid to the crucial politics of language in historical scenarios of internationalism as a lived or imagined human enterprise. Organised by the Reluctant Internationalists research group at Birkbeck College London in collaboration with Dr. Brigid O’Keeffe from Brooklyn College, CUNY, this conference will bring together historians, anthropologists, literary scholars, linguists, and scholars in related fields, to debate the languages of internationalism.

The goal of the conference is to shed light on the centrality of language to people’s past pursuit and experience of internationalism. Historians must better understand the linguistic realities that their subjects confronted in their various global networks and endeavors. For any agents of internationalism, language presented a wide variety of challenges and opportunities. It imposed obstacles and provided avenues to mutual understanding and collaboration among diverse peoples. The relative successes and failures of past internationalist projects in large measure owed to participants’ ability to effectively communicate across not just linguistic, but also political, cultural, economic, and professional boundaries. This fundamental and literal question of (mis)communication has dramatically shaped the lives of peoples variously confronting the global realities or pretensions of their milieus.

Conference participants will consider the frustrations and triumphs of human beings, in a wide variety of historical contexts, as they deployed language in their efforts to communicate across borders. In this way, the conference seeks better historical appreciation and understanding of language as a linchpin of transnational and international histories.

Submissions of individual papers on the following themes and topics are especially encouraged:

  • Languages of Internationalism: When and why have languages helped or hindered internationalist projects? Roles played by lingua francas; bi-lingualism and multi-lingualism in border areas, cities, schools, refugee or POW camps; sign languages and deaf histories in global perspective; artificial languages as international auxiliary languages
  • Language in Global Diplomacy and Cross-Cultural Exchange: Language politics by and within international organizations, including the League of Nations, United Nations, and others; (mis-)communication and international diplomacy; roles of interpreters and interpreting; connections between language and diplomatic failure; the role of language in educational, scholarly or artistic exchange programs
  • (Mis-)Communicating Expertise in Science, Medicine, and Scholarship more generally: languages of technocracy; experts’ views on and uses of language and strategies of communication; international scholarly communities and the transmission of knowledge; differences between different fields of expertise; experts’ changing conceptions of ‘the public’ and how it can be reached
  • Language Politics During and After Empire: Communication and questions of (linguistic) authority in colonial contexts; language and interpersonal relationships within and across empires; language and colonial diplomacy; language and postcolonial critique
  • Linguistic Rights and Endangered Languages: Linguistic Rights; standardization and imposition of official or national languages; endangered languages and globalization
  • Mass Media, Language, and Idea Transmission on the Global Stage: Communication and linking technologies such as the post, telegraph, radio, tv, and internet; language and global marketing; international publishing and translation projects

Please send paper titles, abstracts (300 – 400 words), and a brief academic biography (200 words) by 1 September 2016 to Brigid O’Keeffe (Brooklyn College, CUNY), bokeeffe@brooklyn.cuny.edu

There will be no conference fee. There will be limited funding available to contribute to the accommodation in London of junior scholars and those from institutions without research funds.

 

Tomorrow: Aid to Armenia workshop

Aid to Armenia-3

We’re looking forward to tomorrow’s workshop at Birkbeck on Aid to Armenia: Armenia and Armenians in International History, organised by our visiting fellow, Francesca Piana, and Jo Laycock (Sheffield Hallam).

CRISES, “QUESTIONS”, AND INTERVENTIONS AT THE END OF THE OTTOMAN EMPIRE

Stephanie Prevost (Paris Diderot): Aid to Armenia at the time of the Hamidian massacres (1894-6): Anglo-American relief funds in the margins of official diplomacy?

James Perkins (British Library): Europe unredeemed’ or ‘the Barbarous Balkans’? British liberals and the Macedonian question, 1903-1913

Chair: Rebecca Gill (University of Huddersfield)

REFUGEES AND RESETTLEMENT IN COMPARATIVE CONTEXTS

Inger Marie Okkenhaug (Volda University College): Refugees, Relief, and Reconstruction: Armenians and Scandinavians in Armenia and Syria, ca. 1920-1940

Maria Rizou (King’s College): The policy of the National Bank of Greece and the Greek state towards the Greek refugees 1918-1924: Economic and Social conditions

Chair: Peter Gatrell (Manchester University)

GENDER, RELIEF, AND RECONSTRUCTION

Becky Jinks (Royal Holloway UCL): Education and National Reconstruction: The Smith College Relief Unit and Armenian Relief, 1919-1921

Anna Aleksanyan (Clark University): The Issue of Identity of Surviving Armenian Women and Children After WWI

Chair: Philippa Hetherington (UCL)

Roundtable: AID TO ARMENIA: LESSONS FROM THE PAST, DILEMMAS FOR THE FUTURE?

Armine Ishkanian (LSE)

Dawn Chatty (University of Oxford)

Katja Doose (Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen)

Anahit Shirinyan (Chatham House)

Chair: Sossie Kasbarian (Lancaster University)

For more details and to reserve a place, please contact francescapiana26@gmail.com or j.laycock@shu.ac.uk

Free access to Agents of Internationalism articles

We’re excited to announce that the articles of our Contemporary European History special issue on ‘Agents of Internationalism’ are free to download from today, for the next seven days.

Jessica Reinisch, Agents of Internationalism

Katharina Kreuder-Sonnen, From Transnationalism to Olympic Internationalism: Polish Medical Experts and International Scientific Exchange, 1885-1939

Alexander Watson, Managing an ‘Army of Peoples’: Identity, Command and Performance in the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1914-1918

Francesca Piana, The Dangers of ‘Going Native’: George Montandon in Siberia and the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1919-1922

Christine von Oertzen, Whose World? Internationalism, Nationalism and the Struggle over the ‘Language Question’ in the International Federation of University Women, 1919-1922

David Brydan, Axis Internationalism: Spanish Health Experts and the Nazi ‘New Europe’, 1939-1945

Celia Donert, From Communist Internationalism to Human Rights: Gender, Violence and International Law in the Women’s International Democratic Federation Mission to North Korea, 1951

Bertrand Taithe, The Cradle of the New Humanitarian System? International Worl and European Volunteers at the Cambodian Border Camps, 1979-1993

Ana Antic, Johanna Conterio and Dora Vargha, Beyond Liberal Internationalism

Charlotte Faucher, Cultural Diplomacy and International Cultural Relations in Twentieth-Century Europe

Jennifer Johnson, New Directions in the History of Medicine in European, Colonial and Transimperial Contexts

After the End of Disease: Rethinking the Epidemic Narrative

This blog post is part of and has been cross-posted from the series ‘After the End of Disease’, hosted by Somatosphere, curated by Dora Vargha. The series accompanies the conference of the same name, which brings together historians of medicine and global public health, anthropologists and sociologists with policy makers to think past the conventional narrative curve of epidemics and disease in general. Every week participants of the conference will contribute a piece that reflects on the conference theme. You can find the detailed program on the conference website.

In conversations with people living with polio in Hungary, I often encountered members of the tight-knit community referring to themselves as “dinosaurs”. We are a breed that is about to die out, they said. Nobody gets polio anymore, some added, and they were right – epidemics, even sporadic wild polio cases disappeared from the country in the 1960s. Their words stood in stark contrast with celebrities like Jackie Chan, Desmond Tutu and Bill Gates showing on billboards all over the world that with the Global Polio Eradication Initiative we are ‘this close to ending polio’. Yet the urgency of the eradication campaign and the gradual disappearance of a polio generation over a lifetime both signified the same thing: the end of a disease. But what, exactly, is this end and what comes after?

In the following weeks, a series of posts by historians, anthropologists and sociologists will grapple with these questions as they consider epidemic narratives and the ways in which endings bear on global health issues. This series accompanies the interdisciplinary conference After the End of Disease, held on May 25-27 2016 in London. Bringing together practitioners and academics from various disciplines and fields, this event aims to initiate conversations on when and for whom diseases end, what happens when the end fails to come, who gets to determine the end and who gets left behind, how a focus on endings shape health policies and how we can critically rethink the temporalities of epidemics.

Public and academic discussions on the end of diseases have been abundant in the midst of recent epidemic crises. Faltering vaccination rates have seen old diseases, like measles and whooping cough resurface to epidemic proportions in the Global North. Several global epidemic crises, such as the swine flu and Ebola, have prompted international organizations, local governments, pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and individuals to respond in manifold ways with the aim of controlling and eventually ending epidemic diseases – even theoretical ones. Ending diseases for good have been the goal of several eradication campaigns over the 20th century and are the focus of several global projects.

What comes after the end of a disease is more often than not relegated to epilogues and usually comes up as an afterthought to the master narrative. Yet, diseases are often imprinted on the bodies of survivors, societies and cultures. Epidemics may change economic structures, social interaction, shape practices of international intervention and attitudes towards healthcare. In some cases, the proclaimed end of a disease leaves individuals or whole societies and states without resources previously guaranteed by the perceived epidemic threat. In others, the action of looking back after the end creates space for making moral judgements on individuals, societies, governments and international organizations.

The course that the epidemic narrative runs is usually well defined. Charles Rosenberg, in his classic 1989 paper, “What is an epidemic”, stresses the episodic nature of epidemics and lays out a particular dramaturgy of how epidemics take place. “Epidemics start at a moment in time, proceed on a stage limited in space and duration, follow a plot line of increasing and revelatory tension, move to a crisis of individual and collective character, then drift toward closure.” This narrative has been little contested since. Literary scholar Priscilla Wald in a more recent work, Contagious, portrays a similar plotline in what she calls the outbreak narrative, which “in its scientific, journalistic and fictional incarnations… follows a formulaic plot that begins with the identification of an emerging infection, includes discussion of the global networks throughout which it travels, and chronicles the epidemiological work that ends with its containment.” While Wald’s book takes important steps towards critically assessing the narrative by focusing on its consequences, stakes and cultural, scientific and political significance, how and when these narratives end are not much questioned. The end of the storyline in the case of epidemics and outbreaks, then, is successful containment.

Disability scholars have been at the vanguard of thinking past this narrative. As Catherine Kudlick pointed out in a recent paper on the survivors of smallpox, epidemics have a hidden history interwoven with disability and survival. Because of this, disability history has the potential for transforming how we understand the impact of epidemic disease, not just at the level of individual reactions but also at that of social and political responses. By placing attention on survivors rather than mortality, Kudlick argues, we can re-imagine epidemic scripts.

Scholars of global health, along with policy makers have a lot to benefit from these perspectives and can take the opportunity to broaden the scope of their study and action. By placing the ‘after’ into the centre of analysis, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of what epidemics are, the how we might study them and who and what gets left out of the master narrative of beginning, crisis and end. This shift of focus also highlights the narrative’s shortcomings and the stakes at hand as epidemic narratives shape global and local health policies.

Eradication is the ultimate ‘end’ to a disease, but the epidemic narrative is very much present in many other health issues, from obesity through cancer. And the dramaturgy of increasing tension, crisis and closure is seductive, especially regarding the end. We all yearn for a happy ending, or at least an ending of some sorts, when it comes to diseases that challenge our faith in medical knowledge, our political systems and rip the social fabric. Hardly anyone would contest that eradicating smallpox was a good idea, or argue that we’d rather have polio epidemics back. Furthermore, the narrative can be constructive in other ways. Epidemics and diseases more generally leave behind not just survivors, but public health practices and structures – not everything is always forgotten or works in exclusionary ways. Clear endings can give way to new beginnings.

At the same time, epidemic narratives can be as deceptive as seductive. The end of disease, may it be a goal, a wish, or a thing of the past, is often perceived in a particular and narrow sense. Endings often imply progress of some kind, while the stories of survivors overwrite the ones of failure, of anonymous loss. But endings are often messier than any international, national or local governing body would care to admit, and most diseases do not map onto neat narratives. Endings hardly mean that the story is finished. The contributions to this series look further to follow the story and investigate the very real stakes of theoretical musings on temporalities and endings and the consequences of such narratives in global health.

Dora Vargha awarded AAHM Prize

Dora Vargha has been awarded the 2016 J. Worth Estes Prize by the American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM). Dora received the prize for her paper “Between East and West: Polio Vaccination Across the Iron Curtain in Cold War Hungary”, published in the Bulletin for the History of Medicine (Summer 2014).

This award was established in honour of J. Worth Estes, M.D., in recognition of his many invaluable contributions to the American Association for the History of Medicine and to scholarship in the history of medicine. The award is made annually for the best published paper in the history of pharmacology during the previous two years, whether appearing in a journal or a book collection of papers.
Congratulations, Dora!

In the Shadow of Ebola

As part of the After the End of Disease conference, The Reluctant Internationalists and the Birkbeck Institute for Humanities are proud to present In the Shadow of Ebola, a film by historian of medicine Gregg Mitman and filmmaker Sarita Siegel on May 25 at Birkbeck Cinema. The film screening will be followed by a panel discussion with the participation of the directors of the film and Jessica Reinisch (Birkbeck), Patricia Kingori (Oxford) and Karen Wells (Birkbeck). The event will be free and open to the public.

Time: May 25, 18:00-20:00

Place: Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square, London

Tickets: register for your free tickets here.

For more information on the After the End of Disease conference, see website.

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In the Shadow of Ebola is the gripping story of a Liberian family kept apart by the Ebola outbreak in a nation still reeling from the chaos of civil war. We follow a Liberian student and his family living divided between the United States and Liberia. As the crisis unfolds, loved ones are isolated in Monrovia where the government is shut down, schools and markets are closed, and food prices are rising.

Liberians find themselves fighting an invisible war that is painfully reminiscent of the chaos and confusion of the fourteen-year Liberian civil war, which ended a mere decade ago.  When the Liberian government responds to the crisis initially with military-enforced quarantines and curfews, mistrust and anger among Monrovia’s residents grow.

As the death toll from Ebola climbs, and a quarantine results in the shooting and death of a 15-year old boy, mistrust and disbelief are replaced by compassion and inner resolve to combat the spread of the virus.  With international aid slow to arrive, Liberians turn to each other for help, as healthcare workers, musicians, and artists join forces on the front lines in public health education campaigns. The steps toward community empowerment and action help to build trust and stabilize the number of new Ebola cases.  But the ripple effects—food insecurity, overwhelmed medical infrastructure, and economic isolation—endure.

Agents of Internationalism special issue

We’re delighted that our ‘Agents of Internationalism’ special issue of Contemporary European History has just been published online, see here.

You can read Jessica Reinisch’s introduction here. The concluding essay by Ana Antic, Johanna Conterio and Dora Vargha is here.

Contemporary European History
Vol. 25 Part 2 May 2016

Contents

Reinisch, Agents of internationalism
Jessica Reinisch

From Transnationalism to Olympic Internationalism: Polish Medical Experts and International Scientific Exchange, 1885–1939
Katharina Kreuder-Sonnen

Managing an ‘Army of Peoples’: Identity, Command and Performance in the Habsburg Officer Corps, 1914–1918
Alexander Watson

The Dangers of ‘Going Native’: George Montandon in Siberia and the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1919–1922
Francesca Piana

Whose World? Internationalism, Nationalism and the Struggle over the ‘Language Question’ in the International Federation of University Women, 1919–1932
Christine von Oertzen

Axis Internationalism: Spanish Health Experts and the Nazi ‘New Europe’, 1939–1945
David Brydan

From Communist Internationalism to Human Rights: Gender, Violence and International Law in the Women’s International Democratic Federation Mission to North Korea, 1951
Celia Donert

The Cradle of the New Humanitarian System? International Work and European Volunteers at the Cambodian Border Camps, 1979–1993
Bertrand Taithe

Conclusion: Beyond Liberal Internationalism
Ana Antic, Johanna Conterio, Dora Vargha

Review Articles
Cultural Diplomacy and International Cultural Relations in Twentieth-Century Europe
Charlotte Faucher

New Directions in the History of Medicine in European, Colonial and Transimperial Contexts
Jennifer Johnson

Notes on Contributors