Place, Displacement, Memory and Commemoration in the New Europe

Initiated by Prof. Kockel in 2010, this is an interdisciplinary and comparative research programme studying youth movements in an international context from the perspective of European ethnology/cultural anthropology. As part of this research programme, we are now inviting PhD-proposals that address intercultural actions, norms and representations with particular focus on social movements that have evolved around reference to shared experiences and memories of displacement.[1] The main geographical focus is on Central Europe, especially Germany.


Drawing together different aspects of, and perspectives on, the intercultural negotiation of memory, heritage, place and displacement, the programme is based on, and built around, an ethnological investigation of the 'German Youth of the East'  [Deutsche Jugend des Ostens (DJO)].

The often turbulent negotiation of identities in the DJO over successive generations –DJO Oststein between a 'backward' glance at lost homelands and the 'forward' embracing of European 'unity in diversity', from irredentist nationalism to integrationist multiculturalism – makes this organisation a fascinating case study of controversial politico-cultural social change. Established in 1951 to draw together organisations of refugee/expellee youth from areas of German settlement in Eastern Europe, the DJO was perceived during its early decades as 'cadre-forge' of nationalism.[2]

In 1974, it was re-constituted as DJO-Deutsche Jugend in Europa, a part of the European movement. Following German unification, it became an umbrella organisation for immigrant youth groups, and for its 50th anniversary commissioned a history entitled 'We want(ed) to be a bridge!'[3] Apart from this 'internal' history, journalistic articles and a few unpublished dissertations, there is a surprising dearth of research on the DJO, although its transformation revolves around key concerns of contemporary cultural research (such as migration, belonging, and integration) in terms of concepts, policy and practice.

Established with initial support from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service), Heriot-Watt University's School of Management and Languages, the Institut für Kulturanthropologie/Europäische Ethnologie at Ernst-August-Universität Göttingen, and the Archiv der Deutschen Jugendbewegung, Burg Ludwigstein, the programme is now moving into the next stage of development. Work on the core case study continues and will be complemented by research on various topics related to it.


Your Project

Your research may contribute directly to the core case study. Suitable topics include in-depth studies of specific periods in the development of the DJO; the DJO's relationship with other institutions both within Germany and abroad; or particular issues, such as the role of music and dance in the DJO.

However, we would particularly welcome proposals that creatively cross disciplinary boundaries and help us locate the core case study within the broader field of inquiry into the intercultural experience, memorialisation and commemoration of place and, specifically, displacement.

The following are only a few examples of potential topics:

  • representations of flight and expulsion in literature, drama, art or cinema[4]
  • autobiographical narratives of flight, expulsion and (dis-)integration[5]
  • a comparative analysis of constructions of ethnicity in different expellee/refugee groups
  • an analysis of annual celebrations, such as the Tag der Heimat (Homeland Day), over time
  • representations of place in the Heimatbücher or Heimatzeitung of a particular region[6]


Essential and Desirable Skills

Candidates should hold or expect to receive a good postgraduate Master's degree or equivalent. The subject of the degree is not a decisive factor, but candidates should be able to demonstrate familiarity with one or more of the disciplines or interdisciplinary fields relevant for this research, such as literary criticism, socio-cultural anthropology, cultural history, cultural geography, human ecology, heritage, media and cultural studies.

Given that the main geographical focus is on currently and formerly German-speaking regions, a good working knowledge of German is essential, and candidates should expect their abilities to be tested during the interview. Knowledge of other languages spoken in Central and Eastern Europe would be an advantage.


Further Information

If you would like further information, or discuss a project idea informally before drafting a full proposal, please contact

Prof. Ullrich Kockel or Dr Margaret Sargeant.



[1] Kockel, U. (2012), "Toward an Ethnoecology of Place and Displacement." In: Ullrich Kockel, Máiréad Nic Craith and Jonas Frykman (eds), A Companion to the Anthropology of Europe, (Malden: Wiley-Blackwell), 551-571.

[2] Spoo, E. (1970), Deutsche Jugend gen Osten. Die DJO – Kaderschmiede des Nationalismus (München: Demokratische Aktion).

[3] Becker, J. (2002), Wir woll(t)en Brücke sein! Zuwanderung – Jugendverbandsarbeit – Integration (Berlin: DJO).

[4] This particular field of inquiry has become quite well developed in recent years, and certain authors, films etc. have already been widely examined; your proposal will need to demonstrate significant originality if you would like to focus on any of these, and you might like to concentrate on new authors/artists/films.

[5] Apart from some good trauma-related work in psychology, there is a rather mixed body of journalistic or amateur historical work that largely presents edited collections of narratives with limited commentary. Your proposal is likely to draw on these collections but needs to demonstrate considerable analytical depth.

[6] Some of these regions and/or publications are quite well researched while others are not covered at all. Your proposal needs to demonstrate a good overview of what research is there already. You might also consider a comparative/contrasting study; this is something that has not been done much.