Panel 8: Unusual suspects: local actors and the microdynamics of political conflict
This panel focusses on lesser known (groups) of actors in political conflicts, presenting three microhistories in the contextual framework of coercive states (French colonial Algeria; Italy after the Risorgimento and during the early years of the fascist era; Nazi-occupied Netherlands). Much of the research of political violence and conflict has been dedicated to the macro-level, i.e., the central goals, policies and ideologies of regimes and higher authorities (Finkel & Straus 2012; Demmers 2017). It is only more recently, and particularly in the subfields of Conflict Studies and Holocaust- and Genocidestudies, that micro-level research has begun to gain scholarly interest (Verwimp, Justino & Brück 2009; Zalc & Bruttmann 2017). The result is an impressive body of small-scale, in-depth studies of individual communities, towns, and regions studies that draw attention to the agency of local actors, highlighting their strategic choices to either support or oppose, speed up or slow down, initiate or follow the political line designed at the central level of power (Finkel & Straus 2012; Bergholz 2019). While the impact of local actors appears to be particularly high in more decentralized states (Kalyvas 2003, 2006), this panel aims to explore their agency and autonomy in the setting of more coercive states and to establish the agency and autonomy of local actors in that specific setting. Following the conceptualization proposed by Straus (2008), the panel examines “spaces of opportunity” of actors on the ground level of political conflict. We look at their motivations, actions, objectives, and most of all at the political constellations in which they were embedded. Offering a micro-comparative analysis across time and space, the panel aims to highlight the impact of local scripts, local actors and local dynamics on the course and vigor of three cases of political conflict which have been until now mostly interpreted as echoes of macro-level cleavages, ideologies, and policies.
Chronologically, the papers presented in our panel could be listed as follows:
- The first contribution (Dr. Roberta Biasillo, Political History, Utrecht University) elaborates on the case study of Terracina, i.e. most of the southern area of the 19th-century province of Rome falling within the Pontine wetland region. Covering the period 1871-1928, it studies the history of this municipality and the management of the Pontine Marshes as environmental history, highlighting as unusual suspects local administrators, landowners of the Hydraulic Consortium, “ordinary” rural families in their processes of negotiation and inner power dynamics in wetland management.
- The second contribution (Dr. Valeria Galimi, University of Florence, SAGAS Department), offers a microhistorical study of ordinary violence and “street antisemitism” in the French town of Oran during the interwar, explaining the role of local actors in fanning or smothering the flames of anti-Jewish resentments in the 1930s. In particular it will pay attention to the role of the Abbé (abbe) Lambert, a priest and the maire of this town in Algeria from 1934 to 1941, his relations of power with the other political actors (French Governor, muslim and European communities, etc.).
- The third contribution (Dr. Geraldien von Frijtag, Political History, Utrecht University) focuses at the Dutch town of Hilversum on three different occasions of the Holocaust and investigates how the local political constellation in this town evolved and affected the course of the genocide. Besides the mayor the unusual suspects in this paper are leader(s) of the local section of the Dutch Nazi-movement and member(s) of social local elites. The paper aims to explain the nature and extent of engagement of these three parties by focusing on the local political constellation before and during the Holocaust.
Chair: prof. dr. Ismée Tames (NIOD / University of Amsterdam)
Dr. Roberta Biasillo is assistant professor at the section of Political History at Utrecht University. Her research interests lie at the confluence of environmental history and political history. She has focused on how marginal environments – such as forests and wetlands – embedded in Italian nineteenth century liberalism and on the role of African colonial environments in shaping Italian fascist state and empire.
Dr. Valeria Galimi is an associate professor at the Sagas (Storia, Archeologia, Geografia, Arte e Spettacolo) Department of University of Florence, Italy. She has research experience in several areas of contemporary history, in particular the history of France and the history of European antisemitism, the Second World War and the Holocaust in Italy. Galimi is currently writing a volume on ordinary violence and “street antisemitism” in France in the 1930s in four cities: Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon and Oran.
Dr. Geraldien von Frijtag is assistant professor at the section of Political History at Utrecht University. She publishes widely on the Nazi-era and the Holocaust. In her most recent research, Von Frijtag engages with micro- and local history, which resulted in 2020 already in a monograph of the town of Hilversum during the Nazi-occupation.
Political history today: exploring new themesRegistration website for Political history today: exploring new themes
Researchschool Political Historybureau@onderzoekschoolpolitiekegeschiedenis.nl
Researchschool Political Historybureau@onderzoekschoolpolitiekegeschiedenis.nlhttps://www.aanmelder.nl/politicalhistorytoday2022
Political history today: exploring new themesPolitical history today: exploring new themes0.00EUROnlineOnly2019-01-01T00:00:00Z
Conference venue: KNAW TrippenhuisConference venue: KNAW TrippenhuisKloveniersburgwal 29 1011JV Amsterdam Netherlands