This special issue of the journal Frontiers builds upon a podcast series entitled “Sleepwalking through the Assault on Democracy”; produced by the four international Holocaust scholars Andrea Pető, Tali Nates, Björn Krondorfer, and Steven Alan Carr over the last six months. The scholars will also serve as editors for the special issue.
The podcast explored how precise historical analogies to the Holocaust and other genocides can help us better understand the current and complex assault on democracy in such varied fields as medical science, gender, education, religion, and media. For example, the podcasts have explored the use of fake medical information, debate about critical race studies, gender aspects of far-right mobilization, defunding higher education based on ideological considerations. This special issue invites mainly, but not exclusively, articles that explore the relationship between past and present crises related to these topics, reflecting also on the methodological and theoretical difficulties in making careful historical comparisons.
Christopher Clark in his book Sleepwalkers (2014) analyzed how the WWI started as a result of mutual misunderstandings and unintended signals in communication and decisions of the political elites in Vienna, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Paris, London, and Belgrade. The podcast series Sleepwalking through the Assault on Democracy moves beyond this normative description based on retroactive wisdom of the historian but rather uses “sleepwalking” as a metaphor for analyzing structural obfuscations of different factors together with malicious agendas and intentions to cause harm and reverse progress.
This metaphor maps the developments, concerns, restrictions, and connections which in certain historical configurations can lead unintentionally to self-destructive actions and alliances. The starting point of the analysis is that political, cultural, economic, and social transformations are always driven and shaped by actors who follow what they think is their best interest. To differentiate sleepwalking from the term of false-consciousness, sleepwalking is an active, analytical term which gives full agency to the actors who influence and create different events and tendencies but often with a destructive and harmful outcome. The unequal access to power and resources might shape but not necessarily determine the success of sleepwalking, the process of implementing change. The aim of a change can be destructive, change is not always a positive category. Sleepwalking also questions the teleological understanding of change that it can and should necessarily lead to something better or more just.
The special issue is looking for contributions addressing potential and limits of historical analogies in the following fields and beyond: comparative Holocaust and Genocide studies, Human rights, media studies, cultural studies, gender studies, memory studies, museum studies.
Submit your abstract till 30 June, 2022 here
The authors of the selected abstracts are invited to an online workshop scheduled during the week of 19-24 September 17-20 CET to discuss the final papers due by 30 March, 2023.