​​​​​​2016 ISSEI conference 

The University of Lodz, Poland

Chair: Markus Meckl

University of Akureyri, Iceland

Every age appears to create its own heroic figures and myths. The 19th century, for example, saw the invention of the national hero. Yet by the middle of the 20th century this heroic ideal, representing the virtues and values of a nation, often portrayed as soldiers marching to their death singing the national anthem, had become obsolete.

Fifty years ago European countries commemorated their experience under Nazi occupation by underlining the heroic deeds of its people (in France the Pantheon grew after four years of occupation). Similarly, the Holocaust was memorialized through the heroic acts of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In 1954, at the World Zionist Congress, Isaac Schwarzbart summed this up: “the imagination and hearts of people cling to deeds of courage, sacrifice, heroism, shining examples of self-defense, strength and pride, rather than to mourning over general calamities, passive defeatism, and destruction.”

The shift from the ideal hero to the ideal victim was apparent by the end of 20th century. A simple example of this shift is that the commemoration of the Holocaust no longer takes place on the day of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising but on the day of the liberation of Auschwitz. The cult of the hero has been replaced by that of victims striving for recognition of their unique suffering.

This workshop seeks to discuss and compare constructions of identity through tales of heroism and victimhood in the past and in the present.

Please submit a 350–500 word abstract before 31 March 2016 to Markus Meckl at: markus@unak.is

Workshop: Constructing and Reconstructing Identity through Tales of Heroism or Victimhood