CfP: Echoes of the Past: the refugee crisis and European collective memory

A special issue of Patterns of Prejudice edited by Dan Stone

In the October 2015 issue of the Journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees, Rabbi Walter Rothschild spoke of ‘public disgust at images of corpses on the beaches and reports of dozens suffocated in what were little more than mobile gas chambers on the Autobahns’. A few days later, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein admonished European politicians for their use of dehumanizing rhetoric, saying that phrases such as ‘swarms of refugees’ used by David Cameron recalled the period before the Second World War when the world turned its back on Jewish refugees. ‘If you look back to Evian’, Al Hussein said, ‘and read through the intergovernmental discussion, you will see that there were things that were said that were very similar’. Since then Europe has both taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees and simultaneously mobilized to try and stop more from attempting the journey. Echoes of the past seem to resound every time that the current refugee crisis in Europe is discussed, with the Holocaust an especially vivid point of reference. What, if anything, does this seemingly instinctive response, connecting the experiences of those fleeing Nazism before the war, or survivors of it afterwards looking for a home, with those fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, tell us about contemporary European identity and its rootedness in the past?

Topics on which proposals might focus include:

Links between pre-Second World War debates about refugees between states, among politicians and in the press, and similar debates today.
Debates about the admission of refugees before and after the Second World War and how they compare—or have shaped—today’s similar debates.
Accounts of how the experiences of different refugee groups have been incorporated in European collective memory in different ways, e.g. Hungarians fleeing in 1956, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese ‘boat people’, Bosnians and Kosovars.
Analyses of how refugees themselves made sense of their experiences, from giving thanks to the countries that offered them refuge, to using their experiences to criticize racism and other forms of prejudice later on in their lives.
EU policies—e.g. Frontex’s operations—and how these are (mis)understood in different European settings.
Comparisons between Eastern and Western European collective memories and how these are made manifest in discussions in the public sphere over refugees. Why, for example, have Poland and Romania agreed to receive so few refugees from Syria, and why has Hungary rejected them altogether?
Theoretical discussions of the creation and contestation of collective memory, including far-right narratives of Europeanness and their impact on the public sphere.
Transnational and/or comparative approaches are especially welcome, although country-specific studies will also be considered.

Proposals (no more than 1 page) should be submitted to Professor Dan Stone (d.stone@rhul.ac.uk) by 30 June 2016.

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