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Overview of the  NCGS Program in 2020-21

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Because of the Covid-19-pandemic, we will hold the NCGS Seminars in the fall 2020 and spring 2021 online and organize them via Zoom.

We will communicate the Zoom URL for each NCGS seminar  before the event via our NCGS list serve.

If you are not on this list serve please contact the NCGS organizers MAX H. LAZAR ( and MICHAEL SKALSKI (mskalski@live.unc.eduand ask them to be added the NCGS list serve or request the URL for a specific event.

The NCGS  organizers  will also  take care of the  technology of the Zoom Seminars. For our NCGS Online Seminars Etiquette click here.


Friday, 4 December 2020

UNC Chapel Hill   I  4:00 – 5:30  pm Online Seminar  I  Zoom URL will be communicated via the NCGS list serve


Graduate Student, Duke University, Department of History

THE SOCIOLOGY OF THE EMPIRE: German and Habsburg Theories of Multinational Statehood, 1848-1914


Over the past twenty years, historians have dramatically reevaluated the Habsburg Monarchy. Whereas scholars once characterized the Monarchy as a “prison of nations,” they now emphasize the effectiveness of its institutions and its subjects’ loyalty to the dynasty and indifference to nationalist propaganda. And yet, despite its stability and “modernity,” Habsburg Austria came to be categorized in the decades before World War I as an “empire,” an archaic polity fundamentally different from Western European “nation-states.” This lecture will examine how and why Central European jurists attempted to define the Habsburg Monarchy as an “empire” and the Habsburg effort to undermine this definition through a new and globally influential sociological critique of the state. I will show that German nationalist legal scholars used “empire” to distinguish the Monarchy from other similarly composite European states and that Austrian sociologists recognized the analytical inadequacy of this category more than a century before the “imperial turn.”

THOMAS R. PRENDERGAST is a PhD Candidate in History at Duke University. His research explores the intellectual history of modern East Central Europe from a global and Jewish perspective, specifically the formative role this region played in shaping concepts of imperialism, federalism, internationalism, and decolonization.

Moderation: CHAD BRYANT  I  UNC-Chapel Hill, Department of History

Co-Conveners: Duke University, Department of History, and UNC-Chapel Hill, Department of History, and and Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies

PDF of the flyer



Winner of the Konrad H. Jarausch Essay Prize for Advanced Graduate Students in Central European History in 2020

The prize committee is proud to announce this year’s winner:


PETER B. THOMPSON  I  University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign, Department of History

for his article draft

The Pale Death: Poison Gas and German Racial Exceptionalism, 1915-1945

which emerged from his recently completed dissertation entitled

Grasping for the Mask: German Visions of Chemical Modernity, 1915-1938

The committee was very impressed with the skillful and innovative ways in which Thompson’s contribution and larger dissertation links and weaves together histories and philosophies of technology, culture, war, race and racism to present an intriguing argument about the construction of an ethno-German nation in a set of racialized discourses that have not yet received sufficient scholarly attention. Going far beyond any previous work on gas warfare and masks and combining the Imperial, Weimar and Nazi periods, it convincingly makes the case that Germans set themselves apart for their alleged ability to resist gas exposure and live in a chemically altered world, a “chemical modernity,” on the basis of their imagined racial distinctions. All the while, the piece offers a sound conceptual and theoretical framework and a fascinating array of sources from the scientific writings of the “gas specialists” to artefacts of popular culture. The contribution is in firm and remarkable command of a broad literature, well written, and meticulously and thoughtfully analyzed. In so doing, the work combines many of the best characteristics and strengths that German history and studies have to offer.


He will present his work in the NCGS Seminar on January 29, 2021

We appreciate the large number of excellent submissions and encourage graduate students who will not have defended their dissertation before March 2021 to apply again. For the new Call for Proposals see below.



North Carolina German Studies Seminar Series

An Open Letter: in Solidarity against Racism

June 6, 2020

Dear Friends,

We hope that this message finds you safe and healthy in these turbulent times in which different crises currently combine to show us, once again, the systemic and institutionalized racism of politics, economy and society in the United States. Along with the rest of the world, we have been outraged and deeply affected by the recent events. The killing of George Floyd and the violent response of the police against mourning and protesting demonstrators are appalling and troubling. We are therefore reaffirming our commitment to support the struggle against racism and anti-Blackness here and elsewhere on the globe. 

The NCGS Steering Committee is committed to countering racism, anti-Blackness, and violence at home, in Europe, particularly Germany, and across the world. We aim to foster dialogue on, and broaden the visibility of resources about the history of structural racism, anti-Black violence, and many related issues. 

Germany’s twentieth century history has much to teach us about the rise of Nazism and more current populist right wing movements and their inherent racism, as well as about the persistence of structural racism and the difficulty of combating it. It shows that the only way forward is to address and study, without any hesitation, the dark past—discussing it in public, even if this courts controversy, in order to teach not only students but also the broader public. This was and is a painful process for the racially discriminated, suppressed, and killed minorities: in twentieth century German history mainly, but not only, Jewish people. It is also painful, and necessary, for the descendants of the discriminating, suppressing, and persecuting majority, who are not only forced to confront the history of their ancestors, but also their own prejudices and ongoing, often unwitting, racist thinking and behavior. German history also shows that a democratic civil society, including critical media and very active grassroots movements, are needed to foster change. In Germany, as in the United States, this work is not complete, as right-wing populism, xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism are rising again.

We therefore strongly support the current movement of the Black community and their interracial coalitions in the United States whose members have been trying to come to terms with their pain, anger, sadness, and frustration over a struggle against racism and inequality that has persisted on American soil since the seventeenth century. Everybody who stands behind this agenda needs to support this movement and listen and learn from its proponents. Its calls can and should not be ignored any longer.



On behalf of the 

The NCGS Steering Committee


Dr. James Chappel (Duke University)

Dr. Karen Hagemann (UNC Chapel Hill) (Speaker)

Dr. Konrad H. Jarausch (UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Priscilla Layne (UNC Chapel Hill)

Dr. Jakob Norberg (Duke University)

Dr. Thomas Pegelow-Kaplan (Appalachian State University)

Dr. Andrea Sinn (Elon University)


Interview with Dr. Priscilla Layne (UNC Chapel Hill) on racism in the United  States on the German television   talk show “Maischberger” of the public station ARD on June 3, 2020.


The open letter as a  PDF


Call for Proposals

The Konrad H. Jarausch Essay Prize for Advanced Graduate Students in Central European History 2021


Deadline:  May 31, 2021


The North Carolina German Studies Seminar and Workshop Series is proud to announce the third  annual Konrad Jarausch Essay Prize  Competition for Advanced Graduate Students. In recognition of the longstanding commitment to graduate education of Konrad H. Jarausch, who is the Lurcy Professor of European Civilization at the History Department of the University of North Carolina, this prize serves to celebrate and cultivate outstanding new talent in the field of Central European history.

The prize will award the best article or chapter-length piece of writing by a current graduate student working in the field of Central European history. The recipient of this prize will receive an honorarium of $500 and an invitation to present their dissertation with a lecture at the first North Carolina German Studies Seminar (NCGS) in September 2021, which will be held on a Friday afternoon at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. In addition, the will be invited to a writing workshop for graduate student in history on the same day, in which the submitted chapter will be discussed by accomplished scholars, who will make suggestions on how to revise and  prepare it for submission to a first-rate academic journal. Both events will provide an opportunity for the winner to receive feedback from an interdisciplinary group of experts. Prizewinners will be encouraged but not required to submit their revised essay for publication. We will cover the costs for travel (economy class flight), hotel accommodation and dinner after the lecture.

The NCGS series was started in 2007 by an interdisciplinary and inter-institutional group of scholars in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, which is home to nationally and internationally recognized graduate programs in German Studies. The series has traditionally emphasized graduate education. This prize, which will be awarded annually, is meant to both honor and further that legacy.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Applicants must be enrolled in a PhD program at a North American university.
  • They must not have defended dissertation before March 2021.
  • They must plan to be plan to be resident in North America in the fall 2021,

Requirements for the proposal:

  • An up to five-page statement describing the outlines of your dissertation project, its state of completion, and what you hope to gain by presenting at the seminar.
  • A copy of the CV with a clear indication when you intend to defend your dissertation.
  • A writing sample, ideally a chapter from the dissertation, of between 8,000 and 10,000 words (not including notes) that you want to turn into an article.

If you are interested, please send the following application materials to Dr. James Chappel (, Dr. Karen Hagemann ( and Dr. Thomas Pegelow Kaplan ( by 31 May 2021. The Decision will be announced in early June. Any questions about the process or the opportunity can be addressed to James Chappel (  


For a PDF of the Call for Proposals, click here



Carolina Seminars I Duke University: Department of Germanic Languages & Literature I Department of History I The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages & Literatures I Department of History and


Speaker: Karen Hagemann
, James G. Kenan Distinguished Professor of History,  UNC-Chapel Hill, Department of History (