On May 24 and 25, 2022, the fourth annual conference of the ERC Nepostrans project took place in Bratislava at the Faculty of Law of Comenius University.
Throughout the four-year term of the project, the research had a particular object each year, which was, at the same time, the key theme of each annual conference: state, elites, identities and discourses. The research group aims to formulate through these topics a new narrative of the transition after the First World War in the successor states of the Habsburg Empire, focusing on the local level. All four topics have conceptual research questions, which can be answered by analyzing contemporary texts. But the topic of the last year’s conference requires discourse analysis to be the most important methodological approach of the papers, and the main sources should be texts created by influential thinkers, writers, charismatic politicians and even historians.
FIRST DAY (MAY 24)
The first panel focused on collective identities, coming up with three different perspectives on the topic. The first and the third presentation outlined the thoughts of individuals, a politician and a historian, both of them patriots and each one concentrating on regional or minority issues in the so-called peripheries of the Habsburg Empire. In contrast, the location of the debates analyzed in the second presentation is the imperial capital, Vienna, and the focus is on the Jewish Austrian identity and its representation in the high culture.
Piotr Kimla (Jagiellonian University, Kraków) opened the panel by showing the impact of the transition on the attitude of a Polish socialist politician – Ignacy Daszyński – towards the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The political thinking of Daszyński was shaped by three ideas: Polish independence, democracy and socialism. He started his political career in the Habsburg Empire, and he was critical of some of its legal and political practices, but the presentation shows that his stance towards the Monarchy was more nuanced. From the perspective of the panel’s theme, I would highlight Daszyński’s thoughts on the Austro-Hungarian-Polish Monarchy and his influence on the political culture of workers in Galicia.
Caroline Schep (Leiden University) made a case study about Wiener Werkstätte’s fashion department in order to examine the apparition of Jewish Austrian identity in the sources, newspapers and internal documents of the Werkstätte. Schep aims to get closer to such questions to be answered as how the Viennese Jews did respond to the collapse of the multinational Habsburg Empire, an event which forced them to find new ways of emancipation.
Cody James Inglis (Central European University – Institute of Political History, Vienna – Budapest) rounded off the panel with analyzing the historical work of Antonin Vrabka, a practitioner of Heimatkunde from Southern Moravia. Comparing Vrbka’s prewar and postwar works, Inglis shows that the local historian slightly changed his point of view after the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. However, the German nationalist elements in his texts on the concept of Heimat before the First World War must be seen in their contemporary context, for such elements appeared even in German liberal papers. After the formation of the first Czechoslovak Republic, Vrbka preserved Heimat as a key concept in his historical narratives but rejected its German nationalist nature. He began to publish in Czech as well, and in turn created a specific, hyper-local southern Moravian Heimatkunde which was employed and expanded by Czech-speaking authors.
To be continued…