Skip to Content

EIHS Lecture: "Longing to Stay or Go? East-West Migration and the Making of the 'Free World'"

Thursday, January 21, 2016
12:00 AM
1014 Tisch Hall

Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies <br> Thursday Series <br> Tara Zahra, University of Chicago

Abstract: Beginning in the nineteenth century millions of East Europeans left home. Their departures and returns reflected intense longings as well as bitter disappointments: the desire for economic security or prosperity; dreams of political freedom; longing to be reunited with family members (or to escape them); yearning for the security and familiarity of home. For states as well, managing emigration came to be seen as a tool for realizing diverse visions of the future. Attempts to control mass migration gave rise to new forms of border control, humanitarian activism, social protection, colonial fantasies, and ethnic cleansing. And while many migrants insisted that they were leaving home out of longing for freedom and prosperity, others claimed that emigration led only to new forms of slavery and exploitation. The movement of people from east to west ultimately shaped competing definitions of freedom itselfone linked to individual geographic and social mobility and another centered on social solidarity and the freedom to stay home.

Tara Zahra is Professor of East European History at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD from the University of Michigan’s History Department in 2005. Her research and teaching focus on the transnational and comparative history of modern Europe, migration, childhood and the family, nationalism, and European international history. Zahra is also co-chair of the Pozen Center for Human Rights and a member of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Chicago. She has recently completed a book about emigration from East Central Europe to the west from the 1880s to the present, entitled The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World, which will be published by Norton in Spring 2016. She is also the author of Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Cornell, 2008) and The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011).

Free and open to the public.

This lecture is part of the Thursday Series of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. It is made possible by a generous contribution from Kenneth and Frances Aftel Eisenberg and with support from the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies..

Speaker:
Tara Zahra, University of Chicago