Dr. Élise Rezsöhazy, CEGESOMA (Brussels)
A historiographical renewal has emerged in recent years with regard to the military occupations in Europe during World War One. Still, as yet, few historians have tried to connect and compare these occupations at the European or even global level, to question the transfers between them, and finally to consider them more comprehensively in the long run or in the broad perspective of imperial regimes of domination. The aim of this conference is to understand the different forms taken by the occupations during the First World War and to develop better categories of analysis. In so doing, this conference will deploy a broad perspective on the European occupations of the WWI era.
First, scholars are encouraged to look beyond Central Powers occupations towards Entente military presences that may or may not be defined as occupations: not only the German occupation of Belgium, Romania or Poland, or the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Serbia and Montenegro; but the British presence in northern France; the lasting settlement of the Armée d’Orient in Macedonia; the Russian invasion and occupation of East Prussia and Galicia; the Russian support to the Romanian army; etc. The geographical framework will thus encompass all fronts: Western, Italian, Russian, Ottoman, and Balkan fronts.
Second, we welcome papers that look beyond the traditional chronological limits towards the Greater War, which, past the Armistice, continued in Eastern Europe and on the margins of empires. Occupation regimes endured beyond, or emerged from the Armistices: German forces remained in the Baltic and Ukraine; Entente forces occupied the Rhineland, the Danube and Constantinople; etc. Meanwhile, new state actors, born on the rubble of the Central Powers, occupied territories they considered their own (Polish occupations in Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine, successive reoccupations of the Caucasus, etc.). Even as we look beyond the Armistice, we will also look beyond the summer of 1914 to consider the decades leading up to the conflict, and how they may have left legacies that influenced the First World War’s military occupations.
This conference aims to reconsider those occupations in their economic, cultural, political and social dimensions, and to examine the diversity of the occupation regimes set up by the belligerents during the Great War. The occupation is the result of a military situation, but its nature is profoundly hybrid by confronting civilians and military, occupiers and occupied, political and security considerations. We will thus emphasize the efforts of coordination of the agendas of the various actors. To what extent did occupying institutions adapt to the realities of the occupied territories or shape them? And how did they reflect and cope with the tensions between occupying civilian and military actors, but also between them and the occupied authorities left in place and invited to cooperate?
Occupations were not just pragmatic responses to geostrategic contingencies. Even if numerous practices were essentially improvisations or ad hoc solutions, they were also thought, theorized and conceptualized, anticipatively or fueled by current or subsequent feedbacks. This conference will be an opportunity to discuss the intellectual or legal frameworks in which occupations operated, or which were generated by them; as well as frameworks transferred from one occupation regime to another. What practices have been transferred, and how have they been adapted? And what were the vectors of these transfers? What genealogy can be traced with the occupations that preceded it, and with those that followed?
The conference also welcomes papers highlighting economic and material issues. What tools and methods did the occupiers use to take advantage of the resources of this dominated space, in relation to the needs of war as well as to the longer-term prospects? To what extent did they clash with the realities of the occupied population? And what tensions did they cause with the other actors of the economic, military and political spheres, outside the occupied territory? Given the progress of scholarship on these matters, this is a particularly good time to consider them in a transnational perspective.
We also encourage scholars to send in paper proposals that deal with occupied communities, whose status under occupation oscillated between objects of knowledge, political subjects, strategic adversaries, and negotiating partners. How can we map out occupied citizens’ agency? Finally, on the experiential level, we may ask the question of how occupation affected daily and material life, social relationships and networks; what emotional regimes it engendered; and what were the limits of the intrusion of the "occupation" reality into the lives of individuals. In the process, we will pay especial attention to what cultural productions arose from these different experiences.
The conference will be held at the CEGESOMA (Study- and Documentation Centre for War and Contemporary Society) in Brussels from 23 to 25 June 2022. It will be conducted In English.