The Foundation supported the following workshop:
27-28 February 2020
Sovereignty, Nationalism and Homogeneity in Europe between the Two World Wars
This one and a half day workshop organised by Emmanuel Dalle Mulle, Davide Rodogno and Mona Bieling gathered 18 scholars specialised in different aspects of late 19th and early 20th century European history at the Graduate Institute Geneva to discuss intergroup relations and, more specifically, minority-majority relations in interwar Europe. The papers presented at the event showcased the complexity of minority questions by using different approaches and emphasising various aspects of minority-majority relations. While some participants examined majority-minority relations in different European countries from a broad comparative perspective, others looked more closely at specific cases or questioned the appropriateness of using the categories of majority and minority to refer to such groups. Others yet followed minority representatives and other individuals concerned with minority questions across borders and into interwar organisations and networks of activism.
The overall result was a rich exchange that highlighted how after the Treaty of Versailles, regardless of whether they lay in the ‘civilised West’ or the still ‘backward East’ (to quote some stereotypical views prevalent at the time), European states tended to fit the populations living within their borders into neat ethno-cultural categories and, although to different extents, to promote homogeneity through a wide range of nation-building strategies. Minority representatives and organisations vocally denounced violations of minority rights and fought for better protection of their cultural peculiarities, but, at the same time, often exaggerated the importance of group identity for the wider populations they claimed to speak for and the homogeneity of minorities themselves. At times, ordinary people followed the injunction of minority representatives; sometimes, however, they showed signs of ‘national indifference’ and based their behaviour on considerations and interests not directly linked to their purported national identity—of which in many cases they were not even aware. The rich, and sometimes contradictory, tapestry of perspectives stemming from the different panels highlighted the need for a multi-dimensional approach to interwar intergroup relations; one taking into account different actors, contexts and motivations for action. Apart from advocating such a ‘multi-dimensional’ approach, the workshop also contributed to bridging the East-West divide currently existing in the literature, whereby minority issues are still implicitly considered as a ‘Question of Eastern Europe’ (to quote the title of a famous interwar work on the subject) while the international history of majority-minority conflicts in Western Europe remains in its infancy.