Between April 23 and 26 the Tenth Edition of the European Social Science History Conference took place in Austria, Vienna. More than two thousand people attended the conference, mostly of European origin, although researchers from a variety of countries including the United States, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey, among others, were also present. This massive attendance is the best indicator of the good health this meeting enjoys, being also a site for the exchange of historical knowledge. The conference reunites every two years and takes place entirely in English.
The event, promoted by the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, was held in the premises of the University of Vienna and opened with the presentation of the “Jan Lucassen” award, which went to Athan Biss, from the University of Wisconsin, and a lecture by Professor Andreas Hecker on the transformations of the concept of “work” in Africa. A reception for attendees was held afterwards at the City Hall.
The conference was structured around different work groups, a total of 26, including Economy, Ethnicity and Migration, Work, Sexuality, Women and Gender, Religion, and others, with a specific network of Oral History. The nature of the congress was very inclusive and multidisciplinary, and almost all of the sessions, which were held simultaneously, attracted great interest with regard to issues and debates. However, for reasons of space and convenience, these lines will focus on what happened in the Oral History network, which was also organized in different thematic sessions that grouped various communications on the same subject.
Among the contents of the panels we emphasize the widespread presence of papers devoted to different aspects of the study of World War II and the Holocaust in Europe, such as the construction of testimony archives of forced labor, concentration and extermination camps, processes of traumatic remembrance, or a session devoted to forced displacement of the Jewish population in different European countries. The interest aroused by these communications was logical, given the importance attached to this subject in a context –the Austrian– whose memory has been marked by the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.
Numerous other papers dealt with different experiences of everyday life in the Soviet bloc countries, in the years after World War II and during the transitions that started after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is worth noting the feeling that, in recent years, the vigorous practice of Oral History in these countries seems to have widened greatly regarding areas of study, from politics –still very present– to issues more closely related to cultural history and everyday life.
Other sessions addressed the silences and narrative shifts linked to the crisis of the left in Western Europe around 1968, as well as the role played by the so-called second wave of feminism in those years and the relationship of this movement with leftist forces, a relationship marked by a context of political conflict.
Finally, we would like to point out the presence of a large number of papers addressing different issues concerning the way in which museums, the arts, Internet, or entertainment industry employ Oral History and the challenges and questions that this implies for the future.
Finally, we seize this opportunity to congratulate the organization for the good work demonstrated in the various editions of the Conference, especially by the promoters of the Oral History network: Timothy Ashplant, Graham Smith and Andrea Sturtz. Similarly, we extend congratulations to all those attending, for contributing to the relaxed atmosphere and mutual respect. The mood of the gathering facilitated an ongoing debate over the three days regarding the contents dealt with in the various sessions and was very satisfactory for the majority of those present, as was seen in the internal meeting held on the 24th, which gives good prospects for future editions of this conference.David Austria