Winner of the Konrad H. Jarausch Essay Prize for Advanced Graduate Students in Central European History in 2020
The prize committee advertised the prize widely and received a considerable number of stellar submissions from across North America. The decision was anything but easy, and we are proud to announce this year’s winner: Peter B. Thompson (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Department of History) for his article draft The Pale Death: Poison Gas and German Racial Exceptionalism, 1915-1945. It emerged from his recently completed dissertation entitled Grasping for the Mask: German Visions of Chemical Modernity, 1915-1938.
The committee was very impressed with the skillful and innovative ways in which Thompson’s contribution and larger dissertation links and weaves together histories and philosophies of technology, culture, war, race and racism to present an intriguing argument about the construction of an ethno-German nation in a set of racialized discourses that have not yet received sufficient scholarly attention. Going far beyond any previous work on gas warfare and masks and combining the Imperial, Weimar and Nazi periods, it convincingly makes the case that Germans set themselves apart for their alleged ability to resist gas exposure and live in a chemically altered world, a “chemical modernity,” on the basis of their imagined racial distinctions. All the while, the piece offers a sound conceptual and theoretical framework and a fascinating array of sources from the scientific writings of the “gas specialists” to artefacts of popular culture. The contribution is in firm and remarkable command of a broad literature, well written, and meticulously and thoughtfully analyzed. In so doing, the work combines many of the best characteristics and strengths that German history and studies have to offer.
Peter B. Thompson will present his dissertation with a lecture in NCGS seminar and workshop series 2020-2. For the program see the NCGS website.
ames Chappel (Hunt Family Assistant Professor of History, Duke University, Department of History)
(James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Department of History)
Thomas Pegelow Kaplan (Levine Distinguished Professor of Judaic, Holocaust, and Peace Studies, Appalachian University, Department of History)