Since 2015, one research focus of the German Historical Institute (GHI) Washington DC has been the history of flight and forced migration. In this context, the institute has jointly organized two conferences on Jewish refugees in global transit between the 1930s and 1960s with external partners: one in 2018 in Kolkata, India, and another in 2019 at the GHI Pacific Regional Office in Berkeley. In 2020, the online workshop “Jewish Refugees in Global Transit: Spaces – Temporalities – Interactions” inspired a more general, conceptual, and theoretically informed exchange about “transit.” The participants discussed its analytical potential and connections to other innovative fields of historical research like refugee history, imperial history, and postcolonial history.
The fourth event in the series – the online workshop “Archives of Global Transit: Reconsidering Jewish Refugees from Nazi Europe” in October 2021 – builds on the previous meetings and advances our discussion with a focus on methodological questions and the sources available to approach transit and in-betweenness: does a candlestick or a photograph, perhaps a passenger list or a language, promise new insights into our understanding of Jewish refugees in global transit? What sources can help us analyze the perspectives, experiences, and emotions of those who have been in transit? How do we study and write the material history of transit? How is transit visually represented, staged, and narrated in photographs, images, and films? And how do we as researchers cope with the often multilingual written sources produced in transit settings? To what extent can approaches from postcolonial studies, global history, everyday history, or other fields, such as “othering” or “intersectionality,” generate new perspectives on our sources?
Centering on the empirical dimension of transit in history, the workshop will launch a conversation on the advantages and challenges presented by different types of historical sources and archives relevant to the study of Jewish refugees in global transit. It aims at creating a bridge between theoretical-conceptual reflections and concrete research practices.