During the Cold War, and despite the contrary image of relative seclusion suggested by states and political Blocs, diverse groups of workers crossed for professional reasons not only national borders, but also moved from one political system to another. For shorter or longer periods of time, all kinds of workers crossed from Communist states in Eastern Europe or from right-wing dictatorships in Southern Europe to Western Europe, but also from Western Europe to Eastern and Southern Europe. These workers, while not carrying the political authority of either diplomatic representation or political exile, were indeed part of transnational networks across otherwise (relatively) closed political borders. They can be interpreted both as seemingly unpolitical in the ordinariness of everyday work life and as extraordinary in their defiance of the political order of national isolation.
For our two-day conference, we are interested in research on a wide variety of transborder workers (both blue-collar and white-collar) moving between the political Blocs of Cold War Europe (Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and Southern Europe in any combination), be it:
- Regular and frequent border crossers (such as pilots, truck drivers, smugglers),
- One-time or short-term transborder workers (such as lecturers on a visiting fellowship, architects or engineers working on a construction site), or
- Long-term transborder workers (work migrants or “guest workers” who stayed abroad for months or years before returning to the home country; this might also include personnel in embassies and other official agencies abroad below the diplomatic ranks, teachers in schools abroad, missionaries…).
We ask for contributions covering various aspects such as (but not limited to):
- Practices and experiences of everyday life (how was life and work abroad or on the road experienced? What did it mean to the participants and to those they had left at home? How was the relationship to both homeland and guest country perceived?),
- Transnational work relations (how was transnational work organized? How was the relation between the employer and the employee abroad or between the employer and the foreign employee? What did it mean to work with an international crew?), or
- Political and institutional dependencies (how were these workers perceived, how were they supported or constricted by government institutions of both the home country and the guest country?).
The conference will be held on March 24–25, 2022, at Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain). Accommodation and reasonable travel costs will be covered by the organizers.
We invite the submission of abstracts of not more than 500 words and a short biographical note until Nov. 15. Abstracts as well as any questions regarding the conference should be directed to Dr. Sarah Lemmen (email@example.com).
This conference is organized by José M. Faraldo, Carolina Rodríguez-López, Carlos Sanz, and Sarah Lemmen, members of the research project “Transborder Workers and places of encounter in Cold War Europe: A microhistory of temporary migrations” of the Universidad Complutense de Madrid.