Humanitarian Missions: An Italian-German Conversation on Europe, the United States, and the ‘Global South’ from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century

Humanitarian Missions: An Italian-German Conversation on Europe, the United States, and the ‘Global South’ from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-First Century

Sönke Kunkel (Freie Universität Berlin), Silvia Salvatici (Università degli Studi di Milano), Ilaria Scaglia (Aston University, Birmingham)
Villa Vigoni, German-Italian Center for European Excellence, Loveno di Menaggio, Italy
Loveno di Menaggio
From - Until
18.11.2019 - 21.11.2019
Soenke Kunkel

Sponsored by Villa Vigoni in cooperation with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, “Humanitarian Missions” seeks to inquire into the historical ideas, practices, and concerns that moved European and American actors to provide aid to distant people in need. Historians have increasingly addressed the international ramifications of humanitarian aid and humanitarianism in recent years, but often treat European and American activism in isolation from each other. This has left transatlantic entanglements, exchanges, transfers, and in-between spaces of humanitarianism as well as forms of conflict and competition since the nineteenth century somewhat underexplored. The workshop’s goal is to address such entanglements. At the same time, we would also like to discuss comparative perspectives: How did ideas and practices of aid differ across the Atlantic? How was helping others shaped and re-shaped in the public and in realms such as mass culture? What visions of humanity did Europeans and Americans formulate? How did specific continental, national, or regional experiences, social settings, norms, and traditions shape European and American approaches? What difference did colonialism or American forms of racial exclusion make? How did international institutions process European and American ideas?

We invite contributions that provide a lens on specific North American or European approaches to humanitarianism since the nineteenth century, or that address transatlantic and international connections. Themes may include – but are not confined to – the history of humanitarian aid, disaster and famine relief, global refugee work, human rights activism, children rights, medical humanitarianism, prisoners of war, disability, global social work, or the overlaps between humanitarianism and development.

The workshop will take place at the German-Italian Center for European Excellence Villa Vigoni, in Italy (

8 Grants cover travel expenses as well as accommodation at Villa Vigoni. PhD students interested in participating in the workshop are welcome to submit proposals of max. 500 words and a CV to Sönke Kunkel (, Silvia Salvatici ( and Ilaria Scaglia ( Deadline is May 10.

Please note that PhD students have to be based at German or Italian institutions, but they do not have to be Italian or German citizens.

We conceive of this symposium as a ‘discussion workshop’ that focuses on in-depth discussions of individual papers (which may also be draft chapters from ongoing dissertation projects). Workshop participants are therefore asked to hand in a paper draft of 5000 – 7000 words before the workshop and will discuss their draft in small groups. We also envision publishing contributions either with a well-established university press or a high-ranking journal in the field.

PhD students are welcome to direct questions to


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Soenke Kunkel

John F. Kennedy-Institut, FU Berlin

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