Austria and the Czech Republic as Countries of Immigration: Transnational Labour Migration since 1780 in Historical Comparison

The Permanent Conference of Austrian and Czech Historians (SKÖTH)

International Conference,

in cooperation with the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET) at the University of Vienna.

September 16-17, 2021

Austria and the Czech Republic as Countries of Immigration:

Transnational Labour Migration since 1780 in Historical Comparison

Austria and the Czech Republic have been immigration countries for a long time, experiencing an asynchronous yet similar development that provides an excellent setup for historical and contemporary comparison. Austria became an immigration country (again) by calling for guest workers from Yugoslavia and Turkey and through flight-migration from communist Europe. The Czech Republic became a country of immigration (again) as well, in particular after the transformation in 1989 and the partition of Czechoslovakia in 1993, benefiting from its location in the center of Europe, its good economic data, and its entry into the EU. Both countries share the fact that they do not perceive themselves as immigration countries, though both depend on labor migrants in various sectors of their economy such as manufacturing, services, construction and trade. In Austria and the Czech Republic, migration has contributed to economic growth and a generational balance in their aging populations. However, the influx of migrants has been politically contested and caused social conflicts on a local basis. Recent political disputes, e.g. about mass immigration/the “refugee crisis” in 2015/16, also should not be ignored. The conference will deal with these issues under the premise that, despite refugees’ different motivations and standing in international law (codified in the Geneva Convention and subsequent regulations), the results of “flight migration” upon arrival can in many ways be compared with other forms of migration.

For the first time, the conference will compare the immigration history of Austria and the Czech Republic from a longer-term perspective. Especially the urban centers of both countries had already been destinations for domestic migration during the Habsburg Empire. Following the Josephinian reforms, labour migration between the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Austrian hereditary lands increased. Another focus is on the interwar period, when voluntary immigration declined apart from the opposite in certain occupational groups and there was remigration from Vienna to Czechoslovakia, which continued to some extent after 1945. In the post-war period, both countries recruited so-called "guest workers", although the ČSSR did so to a lesser extent and only from other socialist states. While Austria ended this form of immigration after the first oil crisis, there was no such break in the ČSSR. Moreover, in the 1990s the Czech Republic, the only post-communist country with a positive migration balance, began targeted recruitment of workers from the Ukraine and other countries. The conference, organized by the Permanent Conference of Austrian and Czech Historians in cooperation with RECET (which studies transformations through migration as one of its research foci), will compare primarily migration processes, but also address their political and social handling, as well as the techniques of integration adopted by the state and Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs). Voluntary activities can be an important tool of integration that reinforce the ideal of a democratic civil society.

Both paths in the history of migration can only be understood within the larger framework of Central Europe, where Germany in particular has historically and more recently been a destination for labor migrants from both countries. Though the conference will focus on immigration, emigration and remigration in the larger Central European region and on a global level will also be considered. The conference will mainly focus on long-term migration. Possible, but not exclusive, thematic foci include:

- The causes, practice, and consequences of labor migration in the history of Central Europe with a special focus on Austria and the Bohemian Lands.

-  Guest workers as coveted workers during economic booms, and as unwanted immigrants during crises; comparative political and legal regulations of labor migration.

-  Services in historical comparison. From the maids and day laborers of the 19th century to the 24-hour workers and suppliers of today.

- Centers and periphery of migration and the emergence of ethnically-based migrant neighborhoods in history.

Submission guidelines:

Abstracts can be submitted in English, German or Czech and should not exceed 400 words.

The working language of the conference will be mainly English, but we also accept speakers who prefer to speak in their native languages.

Deadline for submission: 30 June 2021                        

Announcement of acceptance: 14 July 2021

Please send electronic submissions of abstracts incl. a short academic CV as well as enquiries to:

Mojmir Stransky, MA
Spitalgasse 2, Hof 1.1.
A-1090 Vienna

Participation in the conference is free of charge. Subject to funding, travel and accommodation costs may also be covered. We are planning an onsite conference at the University of Vienna, but are also prepared for an online format, if needed.