A Storybook Homecoming? Remigration in Context
Symposium at the University of Vienna, Department of German Studies,
and the Vienna City Library
19–21 February 2015
Call for papers
The Austrian critic and author Hans Weigel called his return to Austria after his exile in Switzerland in autumn of 1945 a „storybook-homecoming“. He quickly gained ground (again) in Vienna’s cultural life. But Weigel was an exception, in terms of the early date of his return as well as his attitude towards those who stayed behind and his position that those who came back were “even”.
As rule it is continually maintained that returnees to postwar Austria and Germany neither felt, nor were in fact, welcome. Exiles were invited only very sporadically to come back by the postwar-governments. If they still decided to come back, reémigrés were confronted not only with destruction and deprivation but also with heterogeneous agendas within the economical, political and structural rebuilding. Emerging ideological tensions between the Western Bloc and the Eastern Bloc contributed to a climate of prejudice and reservation.
This symposium focuses on the return of exiles to postwar-Austria, on their social, financial, cultural and political environment and on their impact in culture and science, but also wants to look into remigration in the dividing and divided Germany post-1945.
Theories on remigration – setting a course within migration-theory since the 1970s – were at first predominated by geographical, sociological and economical approaches, but gradually the questions posed by contemporary history and cultural/literary studies broadened the methodological spectrum. Research questions emanating from the studies on migrant labor remained more or less the same within the last decades: What variables influence the motivation to return or not to return, what impact do returnees have on their land of origin, how can the sustainability of return be measured and can types of reémigrés be determined?
A main aim of this symposium is to connect research on the postwar-era with the developments of systemized migration-theory, as well as the link to current research on the return of „guest workers“ into their countries of origin.
Our discussion would like to build on research on remigration in the German-speaking countries, which up till now has mainly been oriented toward individual fates, and on the insights of the well-established exile studies. It is our aim to internationalize and systemize this field of research and to strengthen structural approaches to help to close the regularly mentioned academic voids. Thus, this symposium wants to create momentum for further research on this previously neglected phenomenon in the Austrian research landscape.
The discussion will center on approaches by literary studies, cultural studies, contemporary history and biographical research and textual scholarship. Input from other fields of research or interdisciplinary approaches is very welcome.
Topics of interest might include:
- Set-up of transnational networks by the exiles and their impact on remigration
- Assimilation and acculturation within the country of origin, experiencing inclusion/exclusion
- Biographical and other narratives of remigration
- Constitution and construction of gender-identity and cultural identity, conception and function of social relations and individually mirrored anthropological capacities like religion, work, culture in the life of returnees
- Forms of anti-Semitism connected with the Jewish remigration to postwar-Austria/Germany
- Jewish remigration beyond the „prominent“ case-studies; requirements of „successful“ („storybook homecoming“) and „failed“ remigration
- The return of estates and connected problems of provenience and restitution
- „Ideological“ Influence of the returnees on the postwar-societies – keywords: „Westernization“, Anti-communism
- The significance of remigration for institutions (universities, political parties, the „Österreichisches College/Forum Alpbach“, etc.)
- Employment opportunities and working conditions of returnees
- Politics of remigration: (attempted) exertion of influence of states and organizations on remigration
The conference is free of charge. Speakers are responsible for their own travel, accommodation and other associated arrangements and costs. In exceptional cases (very high travel costs) we will try to contribute financially. The proceedings of the conference will be published.
Proposals for papers should be sent with a 2000-word abstract to Wolfgang Straub, Department of German Studies (University of Vienna), firstname.lastname@example.org by 30 June 2014. (Answers will be made by 12 August 2014.)