CfP: Citizenship, Migration and Social Rights – Historical Experiences from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century

Call for papers, deadline 15 September 2020

Citizenship, Migration and Social Rights – Historical Experiences from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century
Date: 4 – 5 March 2021
Location: Humboldt University Berlin, International Research Centre Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History (re:work), Georgenstr. 23, 10117 Berlin
Organizers: Beate Althammer, DFG-Project “The Borders of the Welfare State: Migration, Social Rights and Expulsion (1850-1933)”, in cooperation with re:work
Deadline for proposals: 15 September 2020

In current academic and political debates, the tensions between European conceptions of the welfare state and transnational migration are a heatedly discussed issue. How can promises of social security be kept in times of globalization? Is welfare only feasible in ‘closed’ nation states with tight border controls, or is migration, to the contrary, necessary for sustaining welfare systems? To what extent are social rights a privilege of national citizens, to what extent, and under what conditions, are they also due to foreign immigrants? Such questions have become an explosive and intensely scrutinized subject. Much less, however, is known about their historical dimensions. There exists by now a rich historiography on the origins of modern welfare policies; migration history is flourishing too; and in recent years, the history of citizenship has attracted increasing attention. Yet, these have largely remained three separate fields of research. Few works have studied in detail so far how European welfare states dealt with the challenges of migration in their formative phase, and what experiences, in turn, migrants have made with the social services of their host societies.

The project “The Borders of the Welfare State: Migration, Social Rights and Expulsion (1850-1933)” is attempting to fill this gap. Taking as its starting point the frequently postulated, but probably too simplistic hypothesis that the status of aliens deteriorated inversely to the expansion of citizens’ rights with the emergence of modern national welfare states, it explores the interrelations of labour migration and social policies in the decades around 1900. The project compares national discourses and legal frameworks of various European countries, analyses concrete administrative practices at the local level, and looks at the beginnings of international agreements on the reciprocal treatment of citizens who moved across borders. The aim is to write a transnational European history of the negotiations over the social entitlements of migrants in the early days of modern welfare-state building.

Despite its transnational approach, the scope of the project is necessarily limited, in geographical and temporal terms as well as in terms of the aspects of ‘welfare’ and ‘migration’ it is able to take into account. Therefore, the planned workshop wants to open up its horizon by bringing together researchers who are working on related topics. Invited are historians, but also scholars from neighbouring disciplines (sociology, political sciences, anthropology, etc.) with a research interest in the interrelationships of migration and social policies from the eighteenth century to the present. Although the focus of the workshop will be on the evolution of European migration and welfare regimes, papers that offer extra-European perspectives are very welcome too. And although the focus will be on the impact of migration on ‘modern’ social policies and vice versa, also early modern historians are addressed who can help us to understand continuities and changes during the transition to modernity.

Possible approaches of papers that explore the interrelationships of migration and social policies include:

  • Theoretical reflections on long-term developments
  • Semantics of welfare, belonging and social rights
  • Comparisons between national migration and welfare regimes
  • Case studies on local constellations and experiences
  • Case studies on specific migrant groups or specific sectors of welfare provision
  • Case studies on periods of disruption, e.g. in the wake of wars or economic crises
  • Transnational studies on the cross-border coordination of migration and social policies

The workshop is funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation) and will take place in Berlin from 4 to 5 March 2021 at the premises of re:work. The organizers will provide accommodation as well as (limited) reimbursement of travel expenses. Should travel restrictions or other impediments to on-site events due to the Covid-19 pandemic still be in force, we will consider switching to an, in parts, digital format. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. We plan to publish a selection of revised papers.

Please send proposals comprising a title, an abstract of about 300 words and a short CV, to beate.althammer [at] by 15 September 2020.