Since the emergence of the first nation states in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, political parties have become one of the most important and influential actors in Western political systems. It is hard to imagine a functioning Western democracy without the presence of political parties, yet they have always been accompanied by criticism and rejection. As parties developed into elementary components of constitutional states and their tasks and responsibilities expanded, an intense theoretical preoccupation with the potential dangers they posed took place, especially in Britain. This debate about parties was marked by conflicting views, but the repetition and recurrence of similar lines of argument by authors at different times throughout the nineteenth century is striking.
Continue reading Perspectives on Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Britain
This post has been adapted from a talk by Joseph Cronin, a former Researcher at the GHIL and now a lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, delivered at the Holocaust Research Institute’s New Directions in Holocaust Studies workshop, which was held at Senate House London on 4 November 2021. He would like to thank Sandra Lipner and Kate Ferry-Swainson for giving him the opportunity to speak at this event. The talk was prompted by and reflected on Joseph’s perceptions of the ‘German Catechism’ debate that took place in the summer of 2021.
Continue reading The Future of Holocaust Studies in Light of the ‘Catechism Debate’: Reflections from an Observer
‘The Women’s Affairs unit…is based on the recognition of the fact that German women are in a decisive position either to promote or retard the development of Germany as a democratic state.’ This statement appeared as part of a 1949 report by the Women’s Affairs branch of the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS). The post-war ‘surplus’ of women meant that there were an estimated 7 million more women than men across occupied Germany. As such, the Western authorities (in this case, American) invested time and resources in the late 1940s and early 1950s in ‘retraining’ programs for women.
Continue reading Sustaining ‘Information for Women’: The Informationsdienst für Frauenfragen, the American Military Occupation, and Women’s Politics in West Germany, 1951–1990
In 2014, my colleagues at the Cairo-based Women and Memory Forum (WMF) and I decided to establish a women’s museum in Egypt. I was motivated by two things. The first was the absence of feminist narratives in museums in Egypt and across the Arab region. While Egypt hosts more than seventy museums, not a single one is dedicated to women’s history and only a handful of these museums are specialized biographical museums on famous women figures. The second was the expanding collections of archives and objects of material culture housed at WMF.
Continue reading ‘Doing Well, Don’t Worry’: Exhibiting Archives as a Feminist Practice
If you walk down the streets of Kathmandu, you can’t fail to notice its vibrant street art scene. When I first visited the city in 2018, I was taken aback by the juxtaposition of heritage buildings and slick urban iconography that defined the capital and its environs. Outside the Zoo in Patan, for example, a long grey wall is adorned with girls’ hand-prints. The prints flow from the pen of a schoolgirl, painted in her uniform, drawing on the wall with her back to the viewer. Above her, the English words ‘Wall of Hope’ float in a deliberate scrawl. In the corner of the work just visible is the signature ‘Pink Riches’—a Minneapolis-based street artist.
Continue reading Framing Women’s Rights in Nepali Street Art
The newly published anthology Ethiopia Illustrated: Church Paintings, Maps and Drawings is a result of my appointment as Associate Fellow of the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences in 2017. The suggestion was aired to publish a volume with my research articles on Ethiopian manuscripts and paintings, which had previously appeared in a variety of journals accessible to readerships in Europe and North America, but which were not easily accessible in Ethiopia. Such a project necessitated obtaining permission to republish the articles, which fortunately was quickly forthcoming. But it also necessitated obtaining funding to print not only seven articles, but also no fewer than 146 illustrations in one volume. The Ethiopian Academy Press was keen to do so, but asked if financial assistance was available.
Continue reading Ethiopia Illustrated: Manuscripts and Painting in Ethiopia – Examples from the Seventeenth to the Nineteenth Century
In the early 1970s, a slim pink book designated as the first issue in a series titled Frauen(raub)druck (Women’s (Bootleg) Print) became a best-seller in the burgeoning women’s movement in German-speaking countries. To categorise the influential publication is, however, a challenging task for more than one reason. Bearing two titles but no year of publication, the book lacks unambiguous and comprehensive bibliographic information. Also, the editors remained anonymous, and beyond a connection with the West Berlin Women’s Centre (Frauenzentrum Berlin), it is difficult to ascertain their place in the feminist milieus of the 1970s. But importantly, by linking the movement with two distinct historical and political contexts (early twentieth-century German research on gender roles in ancient societies and 1960s US-American radical feminism), the book raises questions about how to conceptualise historical awareness in 1970s feminism. To better understand the specific relationship between past, present and future the editors imagined, we have to go back to the critical feminist thinking on the production of historical feminisms that has developed since the 1990s.
Continue reading The Production of Historical Feminisms, Part One: Historical Awareness and Political Activism
In 1964 the first of composer Benjamin Britten and writer William Plomer’s ‘Church Parables’—Curlew River—was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in St. Bartholomew’s Church in Orford. Britten had been working on the project off and on with his librettist Plomer following Britten’s encounter with Noh theatre during a visit to Japan in 1955. Though the initial intention was simply to set the famous Noh play Sumidagawa to music, it was decided in 1959 that, given that the work was to be premiered in St. Bartholomew’s, it should be ‘a Christian work’ and set in medieval England in the form of a mystery play.
Continue reading Britten’s Virtual Mystery
In her captivating autobiographical novel Buiten het gareel [Out of Line], the Indonesian author Suwarsih Djojopuspito painted a vivid image of her experiences as an activist teacher during the last few years of Dutch rule in Indonesia. The book, published in Dutch in 1940, tells the story of Sulastri, an idealistic young teacher who runs a non-governmental school for Indonesian children together with her husband, Sugondo.
Continue reading Not your Average National Hero: Scattered Archives and the Women of the Indonesian Anticolonial Movement
Most people who know me will tell you that I enjoy fewer things more than foraging in archives. I have been an archive rat since my days as a researcher on a national historical commission. My love of unusual nuggets (an asbestos sample), dust-encrusted fingers, and the tangible vestiges of previous researchers (documents bedecked in cigarette burns), is even becoming a monograph about one archive and its uses and abuses in the post-World War II era.
Continue reading The Spaces Between: Interstitial Archives and Childbirth Activism in 1970s West Germany and the United States