Anti-Semitism in an Era of Transition. The case of Post-Communist Eastern Central Europe

Funded by the Rothschild Foundation (Europe)

Antisemitism in an Era of Transition: The Case of Post-Communist Eastern Central Europe is the culmination of a research project initiated in 2006 by the late Professor John Klier at the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Building on earlier work led by Professor Klier into contemporary antisemitism in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Project now continues under Dr François Guesnet. Main Investigator is Dr Gwen Jones who joined as Postdoctoral Research Associate in January 2009, and Project Assistant is Ms Agnieszka Oleszak, a PhD candidate in the Department. The Project works in collaboration with the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies, and is generously funded by the Rothschild Foundation, Europe.

The Project investigates the scope and significance of antisemitic attitudes, organisations and practices in Eastern Central Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary), by contextualising it in the broader perspective of societies in transition after the fall of Communism. Its activities comprise research, preparation of bibliographies, hosting forums for academic exchange concerning post-Communist antisemitism, and publication.

A substantial bibliography of existing scholarly literature on post-Communist antisemitism has been compiled by Aga Oleszak, while Gwen Jones is working on an annotated bibliography of republished primary antisemitic texts in Hungarian, as well as on the online culture of antisemitism.

In June 2009, the Project held a two-day international workshop, Antisemitism in an Era of Transition: The Case of Post-Communist East Central Europe, at which invited speakers from the UK, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Holland and the US discussed the pre-history, transformation and mediality, and ideological contexts of antisemitism in post-Communist Eastern Central Europe.

Developing lines of enquiry from the 2009 workshop, a two-day international conference, Antisemitism in Hungary and Poland: Genealogies, Transitions, Practices, Impact will take place in May 2010 as the closing event of the Project. The conference dedicates the first day to the specific genealogies of antisemitism and focuses on four crucial arenas: religious traditions, the popular press, visions of the body politic, and the Communist movement; the second day investigates the role of antisemitism in the period of transition by focusing on the image of ‘the Jew’ in the 1980s in Polish and Hungarian culture, the function of antisemitism in cultural memory, antisemitism and new media, constituencies of antisemitic ideology, and the conflation of other exclusionary visions such as anti-Roma racism and homophobia.

An edited volume of selected papers from the workshop and conference will be published to document the results of the Project.