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Online Public Lecture: Reinterpreting political violence in Twentieth-century Europe: a comparative perspective.

Julián Casanova
Wednesday, December 2, 2020, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

The analysis of indomitable violence in Europe that I propose in my new book breaks with the widely accepted division of the twentieth century into two halves, contrasts, one very violent and the other peaceful. That chronological division reflects a “Western European” approach, elaborated above all in Great Britain and France, which plays down the importance or ignores altogether the different historical processes in a broad region of Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean countries.

In breaking with those widespread approaches and ideas in the historiography of the West, which are laden with clichés and superficial representations of other countries, I argue for a different narration and interpretation, in both space and time, of manifestations of recurring and sometimes continuous violence, which from the anarchist terrorism to the wars of succession in Yugoslavia marked the history of twentieth-century Europe in blood and fire.

As there is no one single history of Europe, but multiple histories which overlap and intersect with one another, I have tried to situate the principal manifestations of violence in a transnational shared context. Nor is there any general theory about violence, and nor do the specific cases help in themselves to establish what has been my main argument: to discover and conceptualise the logic of violence through the similarities and differences amongst different historical periods. And in that logic to highlight as common threads the ideologies of race and nation, the moments of crisis generated by wars and the revolutions and projects of totalitarian utopias.