Imaging Emigration––Translating Exile: Cultural Translation and Knowledge Transfer on Alternative Routes of Escape from Nazi Terror in/via Austria

Philipp Strobl's picture
December 31, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, European History / Studies, Immigration & Migration History / Studies, World History / Studies


Triggered by the “Bedenkjahr” 1988 (commemorative year of 1988), the academic discussion about Austrian Jewish refugee exiles from National Socialism has evolved comparatively recently. Initially, research reflected upon the exile literature and the concept of the “exile” presented in the literature. Soon, however, academics from different fields became interested in wider aspects of exile and its manifold cultural implications. In addition, the cultural turns have affected questions asked in and approaches taken to exile research and, subsequently, set new trends in the field. Studies conducted by researchers on the history of knowledge have shown that the transfer of cultural capital that has been triggered by refugees has led to the circular exchange of ideas, which has affected developments in both the sending and receiving countries. This mutual cultural mediation has particularly affected developments in the cultural and artistic worlds. Recently, authors of various research studies have highlighted and commented upon the importance of cultural translation and translators. 

Cultural translation as strategy used to master the challenges and difficulties of a life spent in exile or emigration, however, has still received little attention. Moreover, the question of how persecuted people have imagined exile or even considered emigration is poorly researched. This is of particular interest, since the question of how they imagined their future lives spent in exile before, during and after they emigrate has the potential to influence the cultural activities they undertake and their opus in their new homelands. Additionally, the different routes that refugees take during emigration and transmigration to and via Paris, London, New York and Shanghai have been well-documented and carefully researched, whereas others still remain unknown.

            This conference has been organized to pursue two wider objectives. Firstly, we seek to present alternative routes of emigration taken by musicians, writers, singers and other artists who came from Austria or passed through Austria after the 1938 “Anschluss”. Secondly, inspired by the translational turn in cultural studies, we intend to focus on exiles and emigrants as cultural translators and/or mediators. We will ask which cultural capital did artists import? How did they translate and adapt this capital to their new living contexts? And how would the refugees' imagination of their emigration translate into their exile? More specifically, we are interested in addressing the question of how refugees conceptualised emigration and exile and how they translated cultural capital in their professional work. 


The conference will take place at the University of Music and Applied Arts in Vienna from 1 - 3 April  2019. Presentations can be given in either German or English.


The organisers look forward to receiving abstracts of not more than 300 words (including a brief CV) by researchers from all relevant disciplines. Please send the abstract plus brief CV per mail (to and susanne.korbel@uni-graz.atby 31 December 2018. The abstracts must address at least one of the following lead questions: 


  • How did artists envision their alternative routes of escape?
  • Where did the specific routes lead to?
  • How did their perception of escape, exile and emigration affect their artistic work?
  • Which impact did their cultural translations have on societies in their new homes?
  • To what degree did they include the experiences they made on their alternative emigration routes in their artistic work?
  • Which function did cultural translations perform as performative strategies with respect to their professional work or as part of the process of knowledge transfer?
  • How important were institutional and personal networks for translation processes?  
  • “Failure in exile”––to what extent could people translate their capital in their new context? If these attempts failed, when and why did they fail?


The organisers intend to secure travel allowances for those participants who have no academic affiliation or are unable to cover their travel expenditures. In the abstract, please indicate whether you would like to apply for a travel allowance.


When: 1 – 3 April 2019

Where: Center for exil.Arte at the University of Music and Applied Arts Vienna, Austria

Conference organisers: SusanneKorbel (Center for Jewish Studies, University of Graz) und Philipp Strobl (Institute for Contemporary History, University of Innsbruck)

Contact Info: 

Philipp Strobl, Institute of Contemporary History, University of Innsbruck - Austria, e-mail:

Susanne Körbel, Center for Jewish Studies, University of Graz, e-mail: