Mediated Occupation. Historical Agents and Cultural Mediators in between Nazis´ “New Order” and Local Cinema Traditions

Brno - Leuven
Masaryk University; Catholic University of Leuven
Skopal, Pavel - Vande Winkel, Roel

We propose to look at film industries and cinema cultures in the countries occupied by Nazi Germany (1939-1945) from a point of view of individuals (film professionals or cultural officials) who were following a variety of diverse goals. The German attempt to reorganise the film sectors of occupied territories will be understood as mediated by “middle-men” moving between occupation authorities and the structures of the occupied film industry, by creative personalities with limited or significant power to promote their intentions, by producers who were able to maintain their (non)material sources and kept a power in the production milieu, or by various collective agents (as those composed by, e.g., cinema managers, press reviewers, or film crew). We will analyse these middle-men from a historical perspective, taking into account their career before the occupation and, when relevant, also paying attention to what happened to them after war. The perspectives of all of these “historical agents” can substantially contribute to an understanding of the way top-down orders or haphazard signals coming from the occupying administration were moulded, adjusted, or distorted in the process of their translation into the pre-established local structures of the invaded country. In fact, detailed perspectives on individual actors as cultural mediators can breach simplifying distinction between occupying and occupied agency, as every decision became a part of the everyday reality of an occupied society. The book project intends to replace the traditional vocabulary of collaboration and resistance by a reconstruction of a scale of options people faced in their decisions. In other words, we want to investigate how the Nazi occupation was “mediated” and co-created by individual (or collective) agents, either German or citizens of occupied territories.

The situation of living and working under a totalitarian regime imposed by an occupation is particularly suitable for examination of the tension between agency and structure – tension which has been scrutinized by historians, anthropologists, or sociologists (prominently by, e.g., William H. Sewell, Pierre Bourdieu or Thomas Lindenberger). The producer Miloš Havel in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, or the leader of the Dutch Film Guild Jan Teunissen in Netherlands had rather vast economic and social capital in comparison to a cinema-owner in a Norwegian city or a Czech camera operator shooting a movie for the German company Prag-Film. Still, all of them can be understood as agents and their behaviour analysed as an attempt to use their more (or less) limited sources to achieve a goal (and, potentially, to change a structure). A research on agents´ activities, although they might be limited in their scale and effects, would be important for productive explanation of possible structural changes (or, contrarily, structural inertia), cultural transfers, or habitus’ modifications.

The proposals could deal with (but certainly are not limited to) following topics:

Official: the ways an official used his power coming from his position of a mediator between the German administration and the local film industry
Producer: strategies of a producer to keep (or increase) his position in the field of production
Exhibitor/Distributor: practices of a distributor or an exhibitor in framing German movie(s) for the local market
Producer/Actor/Director/Cinema Manager: The gains in economic or social capital reached by their specific decisions and strategies
Producer/Cinema Manager/Director: Examples of significant redistribution of material or immaterial sources between individual agents (or social groups) in a field (typically, effects of Aryanization in the sphere of production or exhibition)

Submitting a proposal:
Each proposal should be no longer than 2 pages and include:
1. An abstract, typeset Times New Roman 12, no longer than 1 page. This text should summarise your contribution, include information on the (published and unpublished) sources you will be using and mention how much time you will need to submit your finalised text to the editors.

2. A short CV and a selected list of publications. CV and list of publications should also be no longer than 1 page (Times New Roman 12) altogether.

Please send these documents to before March 1, 2019
The editors will carefully read all proposals and make a selection. As soon as they have come to an agreement with a publishing company, guidelines regarding length, reference systems etc. will be sent out to all selected contributors.
Deadline for the first drafts of the chapters: will be specified (preliminary: September 30, 2019)

Roel Vande Winkel is Associate Professor of Film & TV Studies at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven). He teaches at the LUCA School of Arts and is associate editor of the "Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television". His research is usually media-historical and focuses among other things on Belgian and European cinema (production, distribution, and exhibition), historical films and media propaganda during the interwar period and during World War II. He undertook extensive research in international archives on European cinema under the German occupation (including the importance of the Film Guild / Guild du Film in occupied Belgium), on which he is preparing several publications. He contributed articles to many international journals and published books such as “Cinema and the Swastika. The International Expansion of Third Reich Cinema” (with David Welch, 2011 revised) and “Silencing Cinema. Film Censorship around the World” (with Daniel Biltereyst, 2013).

Pavel Skopal is Associate Professor at the Department of Film Studies and Audiovisual Culture, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic. Between 2010 and 2012 he stayed at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen “Konrad Wolf” in Potsdam, Germany (a research on post-WWII East German cinema industry and cinema culture supported by Humboldt Foundation). His recent research projects have been focused on local cinema culture, culture transfer, or cinema co-productions. Recently he has published a book based on a comparative research on cinema distribution and exhibition in Czechoslovakia, Poland and GDR in the period 1945-1970 (The Cinema culture of the Northern Triangle. Movies, Cinemas, and Cinema-goers in the Czech Lands, East Germany and Poland, 1945-1970. Brno: Host, 2014), and co-edited a book comparing East German and Czech film industry in the 1950s: Cinema In the Service of the State (co-editor Lars Karl, London-New York: Berghahn Books, 2015). His ongoing research project supported by the Czech Grant Agency is entitlted „Czech Cinema Culture and the German Occupation: A Research on Cultural Transfer“.



Masaryk University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Film Studies and Audio-Visual Studies

Mediated Occupation. Historical Agents and Cultural Mediators in between Nazis´ “New Order” and Local Cinema Traditions, 03.01.2019 Brno - Leuven, in: H-Soz-Kult, 11.01.2019, <>.
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