CfP: Cultural Narratives of Race in the German Empire 1871-1945

Cultural Narratives of Race in the German Empire: 1871-1945

International Symposium

University of Edinburgh, September 13th, 2012

German history is often determined by caesurae of crucial political dates (1871, 1919, 1933, 1945), eliciting debates around issues of narrative continuity spanning these divisions. Despite the complexity of these scholarly investigations, a common constant is the persistence of discourses of race, however differently manifested in the Kaiserreich, the Weimar Republic or the so-called Third Reich. From völkisch definitions of the Gemeinschaft to the racial eugenic ideology of National Socialism, cultural narratives of race spanned the public and private spheres of policy, publishing, the arts and cultural criticism. Although many authors situated their racial theories in the scientific and academic realm – e.g. Friedrich Ratzel’s Lebensraum hypothesis, Carl Meinhof’s Hamitic hypothesis, Hans F.K. Günther’s Rassenkunde des deutschen Volkes – the subject matter elicited much public discussion and entered the domain of popular culture.

This day long interdisciplinary symposium, to be held at the University of Edinburgh on September 13th, will explore the (dis)continuities of cultural narratives of race and its surrounding discourses in 19th and 20th century German history. Further objectives are to investigate the impact of race on popular cultural narratives and vice versa, to identify implicit mechanisms of appropriation in cultural production, and to question the use race as a monolithic conceptual framework for understanding or conceiving of a German nation and people.

We are very pleased to announce a keynote lecture by Tina Campt, Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University and author of Other Germans: Black Germans and the Politics of Race, Gender and Memory in the Third Reich (2004) and Image Matters: Archive, Photography and the African Diaspora in Europe (2012).  We invite 20-minute papers on topics connected with cultural narratives of race in the 1871-1945 period, including:

• Intellectual discourse and popular culture

• Perceptions of nationhood

• The intersection of history and anthropology

• Narratives of technology, innovation and science

• Travel, boundaries and Kulturmission

• The German reception of international racial theory

• Comparative perceptions of indigeneity, race, and nationality

A peer-reviewed publication of selected papers is intended.  A number of travel bursaries will be available to postgraduate contributors by an Innovation Initiative Grant of University of Edinburgh and the Centre for the Study of Two World Wars, School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

Please submit abstracts of 250 to 300 words by 1 May 2012 online at: or by email to the symposium organisers: Lara Day Benjamin and Oliver Haag


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