Ex Oriente Lux: Emigré Culture in Interwar France

Isabel Jacobs's picture
Call for Papers
April 15, 2023
United Kingdom
Subject Fields: 
Eastern Europe History / Studies, French History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, Intellectual History, Russian or Soviet History / Studies

1-2 September 2023, Queen Mary University of London

In the 1920-30s, France was a transnational laboratory of ideas, with Paris hailed as the capital of modernity. However, new intellectual and artistic trends were often imported by immigrants, many of them from Central and Eastern Europe (Fotiade 2001; Tihanov 2004). After Berlin declined as a diasporic capital in the early 1930s, thousands of Eastern Europeans settled in Paris. The influx of innovative currents of thought (Marxism; phenomenology; existential thought) and artistic avant-gardes (Dadaism; Futurism; Surrealism) from Central and Eastern Europe radically shifted cultural life in France between the wars. The significance of Paris as the capital of Russians who fled the Revolution and Civil War is relatively well-explored (Livak 2003; Rubins 2015). However, “Russian Montparnasse” was also the home of other émigrés from Central and Eastern Europe, many of them Jewish. 

This diasporic “archipelago” was by no means unified, especially concerning aesthetics and political affiliation. Many of the émigré networks, journals and institutions of interwar Paris are still relatively little explored, especially when it comes to the contemporary relevance of women or non-Russophone authors in exile. With this international conference, we want to give a voice to scholarship on émigrés who have remained so far in the marginalized space beyond all canons, excluded from both the history of French and Soviet letters. Papers that focus on “smaller” languages, underrepresented figures or queer authors, artists and philosophers are very welcome.

Hosted at Queen Mary’s School of Languages, Linguistics and Film, our International Conference has a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary scope. We particularly encourage proposals by graduate students and early career scholars in comparative literature, art history, Eastern European, Central Asian and Caucasian studies, cultural studies, geography, philosophy, Jewish studies, modern history, French studies, among other disciplines. 

Confirmed keynote speakers: 

Alexandra Smith & Leonid Livak


Possible topics include:

– transnational exchange of ideas

– gender and sexuality 

– identity construction

– migration, mobility, diaspora

– critical, postcolonial and queer perspectives

– translation and multilingualism

– institutions, networks, print culture

– culture, science and politics

– global avant-garde movements

– conflicts and cooperation in exile

– literary criticism, aesthetics, theory

This is an in-person event but online presentations can also be arranged if necessary.

Please send us your abstract of around 300 words to emigreconference@gmail.com by 15 April 2023. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 1 May 2023.

Organizers: Veselina Dzhumbeva & Isabel Jacobs

Contact Info: 

Veselina Dzhumbeva & Isabel Jacobs