In connection with the 30th anniversary of German unification on October 3, I gave several interviews about my research on the GDR.
The first was a radio interview by Sumi Somaskanda on KCRW Studio Berlin, with Anke Domscheit-Berg and myself on the topic “How Connected are Germans Really 30 Years after Reunification?”
The second was with David Broder of Jacobin magazine talking about East German conceptions of human rights: A Human Rights Contradiction
Finally, I spoke about my recent book with Marc-William Palen of the Imperial & Global Forum, the Blog of the Centre for Imperial and Global History at the University of Exeter: The Human Rights Dictatorship
The book launched officially in April, but with global supply chains disrupted by the pandemic, it took a while before it was available outside of the UK. But now The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany is available everywhere that books are sold. If you want to buy a copy, it can be ordered from independent booksellers pretty much anywhere.
It is also a huge help to ask your local library to order a copy!
From the blurbs on the back:
‘In this pioneering book, Richardson-Little upends conventional wisdom that human rights are the natural enemy of authoritarian regimes. With great range and verve, he shows how the East German socialist state used human rights ideologically and diplomatically to stabilize and legitimate its fledging socialist republic, and only in the last decade of the regime did human rights emerge a source of dissent and resistance against the state. This is a model revisionist account of the protean and multi-directional nature of human rights under socialism.’
Paul Betts – University of Oxford
‘Finally a book on human rights history by someone deeply conversant with socialist thought, state-socialist regimes, and current human rights historiography. This is a rare and valuable book as well as a good read. It will be a reference point for years to come.’
Lora Wildenthal – Rice University, Texas
‘By showing the centrality of human rights to both the legitimacy and the downfall of the GDR, The Human Rights Dictatorship makes a major contribution to the global history of human rights. In this richly textured history, Ned Richardson-Little shows how East Germans instrumentalized human rights in the name of numerous shifting ideals: socialism, anti-fascism, anti-imperialism, Christianity, peace, the environment, democracy, and ultimately, the creation of a unified German state.’
Celia Donert – University of Liverpool
‘Eagerly anticipated, Ned Richardson-Little’s book breaks important new ground. Overcoming simple narratives of the GDR’s erosion, he impressively uncovers the multiple meanings with which East German actors infused human rights – including state elites seeking to buttress their socialist project. Richly nuanced, the book advances our understanding of the twisted trajectory of human rights history in the 20th century.’
Jan Eckel – Eberhard Karls-Universität Tübingen
I talked with Bob Whitaker of the history and video game YouTube series History Respawned about anti-fascism, resistance to the Nazis and Through the Darkest of Times. Here it is:
Check it out at Geschichte der Gegenwart in English or auf Deutsch
In February 2020, my first book “The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany” will be coming out with Cambridge University Press. You can pre-order The Human Rights Dictatorship on Amazon now!
The cover art is a photo by Sibylle Bergemann (1941-2010) from her series Das Denkmal on the construction of the Marx-Engels Monument that is still in downtown Berlin. © Estate Sibylle Bergemann, OSTKREUZ; Courtesy Loock Galerie, Berlin.
Location: Erfurt, Germany
Date: July 9-10, 2020
Application deadline: September 30, 2019
At the beginning of the 21st century, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime oversaw a complex network of international conventions that aimed to combat narcotics smuggling and the illicit trade in arms, and human trafficking for purposes of exploitation. Today, law enforcement organizations argue that these three fields are fundamentally linked together by transnational organized crime to support their demands for global police cooperation. At the beginning of the century however, when activists and diplomats first created prohibition regimes aimed at addressing these issues, they understood them as distinctly separate problems, each requiring radically different solutions. In the early 20th century, international drug control initially stemmed from lobbying by missionaries concerned about widespread addiction in China due to legal traffic in opium. Controls on small arms were sparked by imperial fears that unrestricted trade could destabilize colonial rule. ‘White slavery’ was seen as a radically new problem, distinct from other forms of forced labour, in which individual pimps lured European girls and women abroad to exploiting their sexual labor for profit.
This conference aims to answer the question: How did the trafficking in humans, arms and narcotics become entangled over the long 20th century – in terms of actual illicit flows of people, guns and drugs, but also in terms of public perceptions and prohibition regimes?
The conference is looking for papers that will address themes including:
- When and how were networks of trafficking between these fields actually interconnected?
- How did global events such as the World Wars, Decolonization, or the collapse of State Socialism act as catalysts for the entangled proliferation of trafficking or prohibition across these fields? What were the local effects of these macro-events?
- How did regional and global legal systems linking these fields interact with local norms and practices of law enforcement and prohibition?
- Under what circumstances have these fields been linked together or separated by different actors and institutions including civil society activists and NGOS, the media, academics, bureaucrats, politicians, police, diplomats, clergy, medical authorities and global legal frameworks?
- How have moral panics in one area been used to legitimize prohibition campaigns against other types of cross border movement and traffic?
- How have demands for and opposition against state nationalization/regulation or for liberalization and decriminalization been interconnected between these fields?
- How have ideas about race, class and gender linked these fields together?
- What role has money laundering and other forms of illicit finance acted to link these fields together both by criminalized actors and control regimes?
- How did the interconnection of these illicit flows intersect with broader economic and political trends, including globalization, free trade and neoliberalism?