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Celia Donert

Celia Donert

Celia Donert

I joined the Faculty of History in October 2019 as University Lecturer in 20th century Central European History. I am an historian of contemporary Europe, with particular research interests in East Central Europe, global socialism, nationalism, gender, and the history of human rights. Before joining the faculty at Cambridge I taught for seven years at the University of Liverpool, where I was promoted to a personal chair in 2018. I received my PhD from the European University Institute, Fiesole, Italy, and I’ve held research fellowships in Berlin, Bratislava, Potsdam, Paris, and Prague. In 2018 I was visiting professor in the history of human rights and democracy at the University of Vienna. I am a co-editor of Contemporary European History and an editorial board member of Social History.

My first book, The Rights of the Roma: The Struggle for Citizenship in Postwar Czechoslovakia (Cambridge, 2017) uncovered the story of Romani struggles for citizenship rights in socialist Czechoslovakia. One of the first archive-based histories of Romani activism in East Central Europe, this book also makes a broader argument about the evolution of human rights in postwar Europe: Socialist regimes, typically excluded from conventional narratives of human rights, developed their own norms and practices of social rights and citizenship. Thus the human rights movements that emerged in post-communist Europe, for which the Roma were the ideal symbol, were less a continuation of the dissident movements of the 1970s – as historians have previously argued – than a response to the collapse of socialist citizenship after 1989.

Since 2017 I have been leading an AHRC research network on the Legacies of the Romani Genocide in Europe since 1945, which brings together historians from eastern, western, and southern Europe to explore the various ways in which Romani families and communities lived with the legacies of the genocide in both the communist East and liberal democratic West. A collected volume of essays is forthcoming with Routledge, and we have sought to bring our research to wider audiences through our public events at venues such as the Václav Havel Library in Prague, the Museum for the History of Immigration in Paris, and the Wiener Holocaust Library in London.

My current book project is a history of women’s rights in twentieth-century Europe told from the perspective of French, Czech, and German communist women. Supported by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship, I have also been exploring the global dimensions of this history in collaboration with a number of scholars studying women’s rights and global socialism in India, Chile, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, South Africa, and elsewhere. As part of this project I have been collaborating with the Women’s Studies Centre at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, and have been a Visiting Fellow at the Global History Department of the Free University in Berlin. This has been a wonderful opportunity to think about the place of contemporary Europe within global history, a particular challenge for those of us researching and teaching contemporary European history today.