“War’s End? The Legacy of Migration and Displacement, Europe 1918-2018”

From Thursday, November 8th to Saturday, November 10th the Center for German and European Studies (CGES) and the Center for European Studies at UW-Madison hosted a conference entitled, “War’s End? The Legacy of Migration and Displacement, Europe 1918-2018.” This conference celebrated the 20th anniversary of CGES and also marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. Funding for this event was provided primarily by the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant awarded to the Center for European Studies. Over the course of these three days, scholars from around the world spoke on topics ranging from “Canadian Nationalism and Songwriting in the First World War” to “Wars and Displacement in the Former Yugoslavia, Syria, and Iraq.” Also featured was a keynote address by associate editor of the Financial Times, Wolfgang Münchau and a special conversation with His Excellency David O’Sullivan, Ambassador of the EU to the U.S.

Mr. Münchau spoke at length about the issues that are fragmenting the center parties across Europe right now, with polarizing topics such as immigration and the role of the EU pushing people toward fringe parties. He looked specifically at the UK, France, Germany, and Italy in his analysis of the political landscape in Europe. He concluded that the center can hold, but only newly created ones as the centers of old are diminishing rapidly.

His Excellency David O’Sullivan spoke on a wide range of topics surrounding the European Union, including politics, his role as a diplomat, and his contributions to the EU. Professor Mark Copelovitch did a short Q&A session with the Ambassador on immigration, the EU’s role in the world, Brexit, Ireland, and other EU policies before allowing questions from the audience.

As an example of some of the exciting topics covered during this three day event, Hans-Jörg Albrecht of the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law in Freiburg, Germany discussed how the media may be contributing to the polarized coverage of mass migration to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. He cited work that shows that reported violence against migrants in Germany has actually been lower than what the media has been reporting. During the Q&A portion of this panel discussion, a member of the audience asked Professor Albrecht if perhaps the reason for his findings was actually because migrants feared reporting incidences of violence to the authorities due to lack of trust. Professor Albrecht acknowledged that this was a possibility. This example demonstrates some of the rich discussions that were being had between academics, students, and the general public during this conference.

A poster session held by graduate students from a range of departments was held on Friday, November 9th. In this session, faculty, students, and community members alike were able to discuss various topics of research that were being conducted by UW-Madison graduate students. Many of the guest speakers seemed to enjoy this less structured session to discuss different research topics that related to the theme of Migration and Displacement in Europe from 1918-2018. Some of the topics that were presented on included Italian responses to the European migrant crisis, Vietnamese migration to the Czech Republic in the second half of the 20th century, and the rise of far-right political parties in Europe during recent years.

This three day conference would not have been possible without the support of faculty, students, and staff from various departments around the UW-Madison campus. It is also important to acknowledge the presenters that shared their work and thank them for traveling to Madison for this event. Finally, it should be noted that this event is helped made possible by the continued support of The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Centers of Excellence Program that helps fund the Center for German and European Studies at UW-Madison.