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Forschungsstelle für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte

CfP: Utopias of Nonviolence. Ideas, Regulations, and Blindspots in Europe since 1945

International Workshop, 1–2 December 2022
Department of History
University of Zürich

Ideals of nonviolence have been central in shaping European societies after World War 2. Nonviolence has become a guiding principle in social and political spheres as diverse as conflict resolution or education. At the international level, the United Nations’ emphasis on peacefulness as a first recourse supports assumptions that violence has mainly become delegitimised in conflict situations. Similar shifts can be observed in the domestic and public sphere: campaigns to end all forms of violence against children, for example, highlight the salience of nonviolence ideals in education and child-rearing. The expansive definition of violence at the core of these campaigns is also evident in other spheres and debates. This suggests that different forms of violence, including physical but also psychological, verbal, and structural violence, have been problematised over the years.

Are we, therefore, witnessing signs of a paradigm shift regarding ideals of nonviolence in politics, social relations, and public discourse in Europe? Numerous examples highlight apparent tensions between these ideals and lived experiences of violence in different spheres. However, what does it mean to advocate for nonviolence in a world that continues to experience high levels of violence? We will explore these questions and the fields of inquiry they open up: what are the genealogies of concepts of nonviolence in different European societies? Which authors and texts were influential? What roles did various scientific disciplines, organisations, and actors play in popularising and entrenching concepts of nonviolence? Whose experiences, voices, and interests were centred or marginalised in different fields and debates? When, how, and why were ideals of nonviolence invoked, embraced, or contested—and by whom? Which forms of violence have been delegitimised, and which ones have been entrenched, normalised, and rendered invisible in discourse? In which spheres and to what effect have expectations of nonviolence become institutionalised? How do ideals of nonviolence relate to ideology, power, political interests, and forms of exclusion? Moreover, has the discourse on nonviolence impacted how violence is framed and spoken about, or vice versa?

We invite abstracts with paper titles that engage with the history of nonviolence in Europe in the second half of the 20th century. Topics may include, for example, the role of nonviolence in civil and human rights, transnational movements, healthcare, refugee policy, gender and sexuality, anti-racism and social justice, and education and child-rearing. Abstracts (in German or English) should be between 250 and 500 words and must be submitted by 1 August to Accepted papers will be grouped into panels, and authors will be notified shortly afterwards. Depending on the pandemic situation, the workshop will be held in person, hybrid or online. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered for selected participants.