Locating the International: The Geographies of the International Studies Conferences 1928-1939

Authors: Michael Heffernan*, University of Nottingham
Topics: Political Geography, History of Geography, Geographic Thought
Keywords: Internationalism, interwar, conferences
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper considers the attempts by agencies linked to the League of Nations, specifically the Paris-based International Institute of Intellectual Co-operation (IIIC), to develop a new, inter-disciplinary project of international studies during the 1930s, in optimistic defiance of the political climate at the time. Particular attention is paid to the twelve International Studies Conferences organised by the IIIC in various European cities, from Berlin in 1928 to Bergen in 1939, at which leading internationalists from academia, politics, journalism and diplomacy debated how a new science of internationalism might be deployed to help resolve the great problems of the age, from excessive population growth to economic protectionism. Drawing on published and unpublished records from IIIC archives in Paris and Geneva, the paper re-considers the curiously naïve schemes promoted at these previously over-looked conferences to reconfigure traditional academic disciplines associated with the old politics of nationalism and imperialism (including geography) into a new educational project dedicated to the ideals of internationalism, cultural understanding and pacifism. These ideals were encapsulated by the complex geographies of the conferences themselves, enacted and performed by a continually expanding list of delegates who assembled and re-assembled in hotels and university lecture theatres across Europe, a triumph of hope over experience as the world moved seemingly inexorably towards World War Two.

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