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Marcia C. Schenck


Photo: Marcia Schenck

Ongoing Projects

Historical Migration Research from Antiquity to the Present: DAAD Visiting Professorship for Professor Elena Isayev

Migration studies are a current topic in research in the humanities and social sciences, and in recent years have seen a relevant increase in university courses dedicated to the topic. Yet, as part of this development, the historical perspective has not often been the focus - and historical migration research, where it exists, rarely spans the full chronological breadth of history, from antiquity to the present. The aim of this project is to make a relevant contribution to sustainably anchor the topics and methods of historical migration research as part of the course offerings at the University of Potsdam through an international visiting professorship for Prof. Dr. Elena Isayev (University of Exeter). The professorships of Global History and History of Antiquity, which successfully solicited the visiting professorship from the DAAD, will support Prof. Isayev in the implementation of a lecture series "The History of Migration and Displacement" and two seminars "Migration and People Out of Place Then and Now" and "Ancient Journeys and Migrants" as well as in the creation of podcasts and the implementation of workshops and lectures. Thus, historical migration studies will be widely represented at the University of Potsdam in the summer semester of 2022.


Military Cultures of Violence — Illegitimate Military Violence from the Early Modern Period to the Second World War

DFG Research Unit FOR 2898
The research group ‘Military Cultures of Violence’ aims to fill an important gap in scholarship on both military history and research on violence: the introduction of the concept of ‘military cultures of violence’ is designed to allow for the systematic description and explanation of sometimes very divergent acts of violence on the part of regular European armed forces that were viewed in contemporary assessments as illegitimate. Such acts are already documented in numerous individual studies, though as yet neither on this chronological and geographical scale nor as part of a wider collaborative and comparative project. ‘Military cultures of violence’ are defined as the violent practices proceeding from members of a collective military agent of violence belonging to a state or a state-like entity, and the associated interpretative ascriptions and discourses.

The research group investigates how and to what extent specific military cultures of violence developed in the regular armies of the European great powers from the early modern period to the end of the Second World War. In the framework of the sub-projects, an attempt will be made to identify in synchronous and diachronic studies the military cultures of violence subjected – like all cultural phenomena – to continual transformation, map out their determining factors, and classify their significance and their explanatory value for military acts of violence on the part of the respective regular agents of violence. The focus of scholarly interest here is physical violence regarded by contemporaries as illegitimate in times of both war and peace, for which reason the question of the changing yardsticks of legitimacy and illegitimacy of violence and conditions for their transformation will be repeatedly posed.

Six positions for doctoral students and two positions for postdoctoral scholars have been approved. The participating institutions are the Humboldt University Berlin, the Free University Berlin, the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF) and the Universities of Göttingen and Bochum. In addition, the Centre for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr (ZMSBw) in Potsdam will cooperate with the research group. The speaker of the research group is Professor Sönke Neitzel.

Sub-Project 6:
Military Cultures of Violence among British and Commonwealth Armed Forces in the First and Second World Wars (1914–1945)
Principal investigators: Sönke Neitzel and Marcia C. Schenck
Postdoctoral researcher: Alex Kay
Doctoral candidate: Anna La Grange

 “Decolonization, Cold War, and the Organization of African Unity: The Creation of the African Refugee Regime in Global Perspective”

The book project examines the role of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in relation to refugee protection programmes as well as policies and legislation.

There currently exist two legally binding regional refugee protection regimes worldwide, one in Africa, the other in Europe. While the European context has been studied extensively, little is known about the African context. Even less understood are the historical circumstances under which African refugee protection regimes and their specific aspects and policies were formulated, in particular the OAU’s Convention of 1969, which remains the legal cornerstone of refugee protection in Africa today. Starting from this point, the book will examine the debates and projects of the OAU on refugee protection since its inception. It will thereby explore how the OAU perceived the so-called "refugee problem" from the 1960s onwards and how its involvement led to specific projects and policies of relevance until today.

The History Dialogues Project

The History Dialogues Project (HDP) is a so-called "blended-learning" project for applied historical studies that was developed for local students and students with refugee experience. It was developed in cooperation with the Global History Lab at Princeton University and is being carried out together with our partners on four continents, including Africa. The project enables students with different disciplinary backgrounds to formulate and conduct their own historical research projects based on, among other things, oral history interviews and to present and discuss them in an international learning environment.

A video of the project can be found here.

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Past Projects

“Socialist Solidarities and Their Afterlives: Histories and Memories of Angolan and Mozambican Migrants in the German Democratic Republic, 1975–2015”

This project examines the state-sponsored educational and labour migration between the People's Republics of Angola and Mozambique and the German Democratic Republic in the late 1970s to 1990s. During the Cold War, the political and economic relations between the "Second World" and the "Third World" opened up migration routes for young African men and women to work and study abroad. The migrants were to acquire technical skills and knowledge in order to contribute to the development of their emerging post-colonial home countries after their return. This project traces Angola and Mozambique's political transitions from decolonization, to socialism and finally to market-based democracies through the lived experiences of these migrants. Based on 268 life history interviews with former workers, students and government officials, triangulated with archival sources, collected during two years of fieldwork in Angola, Mozambique, Portugal, South Africa and Germany, this project centres the memories and life experiences of Angolans and Mozambicans who immigrated to the GDR to work and study

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