MoH Conferences 2019

For the last year and a half, the Myth of Homogeneity Team has been busy with everything that belongs to a History research project: visits to the archives, secondary research, source analysis, the organization of a workshop, putting down our first ideas on (virtual) paper – and trying to keep the sugar intake at a humanly level while doing so. As part of our work – arguably the most important one – is to share our knowledge with the world, we have also been preparing for the participation in several conferences in 2019.

We are thus happy to announce our participation in three conferences this year:

1. 29th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of Ethnicity and Nationalism (ASEN): Nationalism and Self-Determination
(Edinburgh, April 24-25)

At this year’s ASEN conference, we will present a paper entitled “Was there a Wilsonian moment in Western Europe?  Self-Determination in Catalonia, Flanders and the Italian New Provinces in the immediate post-IWW period”.

In this paper, Emmanuel and Mona are taking somewhat of a bird’s-eye view onto the post-WWI international arena that started to be shaped increasingly by President Wilson’s 14 points, particularly his principle of national self-determination. While in the mind of the negotiators at Versailles the principle’s application had to be limited to the new states arising from the dissolution of the Eastern Empire, its implicit universal nature appealed to a wider audience of peoples and minorities throughout the world. The traction of the principle of self-determination among stateless peoples and national minorities in Western European countries has not yet been studied in a comparative perspective. Looking at the arguments and strategies of nationalist movements in Catalonia, Flanders and the Italian New Provinces in the years 1919-1923, this papers aims to provide a clearer picture of the popularity and expediency of self-determination in those years. It thus tackles some of the central themes of this year’s ASEN Conference such as: the practice of self-determination, the League of Nations and minorities questions, nation without states vs. nation-states, and the nation-state as the key objective of nationalist movements.

For more information, see:

2. 26th International Conference of Europeanists (CES): Sovereignties in Contention: Nations, Regions and Citizens in Europe
(Madrid, June 20-22)

In Madrid, Emmanuel will be joining the panel Claiming vs. keeping sovereignty with a co-authored paper by him and Mona entitled “Sovereignty and Homogeneity, 1919-1939: A History of Assimilation in Interwar Western Europe”.
This paper works as an update on our project’s progress so far, incorporating some of the results from archival research conducted in both Italy and Belgium. The paper employs a comparative perspective on national assimilation in interwar Western Europe, specifically comparing Italy, Belgium and Spain.
The panel will be addressing broader questions of assimilation and sovereignty in Europe with case studies from Spain, France and Hungary. The conference promises to be a stimulating experience, especially considering it taking place in the capital of a nation-state which borders are currently being questioned.

For more information, see:

3. University of Vienna, Institut für Zeitgeschichte
(Vienna, November 14)

Following a personal invitation from our colleague Sarah Knoll, Emmanuel and Mona will be visiting Vienna for a presentation on the updated version of our paper “The Ambivalent Legacy of Minority Protection for Human Rights”, which we have presented at our workshop at the Graduate Institute in December 2018. We will be using the time in Vienna to connect with Sarah and her colleagues from the Institut für Zeitgeschichte and to receive feedback to finalize our paper for journal submission.

If you are planning on attending any of the above events, leave us a comment so we can connect in person.
For further inquiries about the project or conference participation, contact either Emmanuel or Mona under

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at Seventy: Juridical and Historical Perspectives

On December 5, 2018, the Myth of Homogeneity (MoH) Team at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, along with the Geneva Academy of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, organised a seminar on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The event brought together historians and international lawyers discussing the background, main characteristics and legacy of the UDHR. The one-day seminar was closed by a public lecture by Philippe Sands on the ‘Individual and the group: the UDHR and the Genocide Convention at 70’.

The symposium was also the occasion to present some preliminary results from the MoH’s project. Emmanuel Dalle Mulle and Mona Bieling opened the day with a paper on ‘The Ambivalent Legacy of Minority Protection for Human Rights’, where they argued that the current literature on the history of human rights tends to paint too stark a contrast between the minority protection system of the League of Nations and the human rights regime put in place under the aegis of the United Nations after the Second World War. In this perspective, and mostly on account of its collective character, interwar minority protection is often portrayed as being incompatible with human rights—these latter being conceived of as having an exclusively individual nature. The paper develops three critiques of the current literature.

First, while it is correct to highlight the discontinuity between the League and the UN rights systems, this interpretation loses sight of the fact that the minorities treaties contained a hybrid bundle of rights mixing individual and collective provisions and extended some rights to the entire population of the countries concerned, while at the same time reserving others for members of minority groups. Hence, the minorities treaties were a pragmatic and sui generis scheme rather than a theoretically coherent whole, but one that, as other authors have noticed, allowed interwar supporters of human rights to see the universalist provisions contained in them as a model for the adoption of human rights instruments.

Second, authors focusing on the 1940s ‘triumph of individual human rights’ tend to overlook the fact that the first human rights instrument ever adopted by the General Assembly (a day before the UDHR) was the Genocide Convention, a legally binding treaty defending group rights that, although it did not openly mention minorities, was drafted with those in mind.

Third, the ‘triumph of individual human rights’ perspective fails to notice the continuing currency of some of the most distinctive elements of the minority protection regime during the negotiations of the Genocide Convention and the UDHR. As a matter of fact, the countries of the Soviet bloc, joined by a few others, strove to obtain the inclusion of an article on cultural genocide in the homonymous Convention, as well as of provisions on protection against assimilation within the Declaration. Although they did not manage to pass their amendments, and their commitment might have been more the product of incipient Cold War politics than a sincere dedication to the minority cause, their struggle is an unmistakable reminder that, despite the failure of the League’s system, some clauses of interwar minority protection still enjoyed support among a substantial share of state representatives in the late 1940s.

For a more extensive description of the event and the full programme click here.