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Alon Confino

Professor and director of the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies History

Confino headshot

confino@umass.edu

(413) 545-5872

Herter Hall 739

I grew up in Jerusalem and educated at Tel Aviv University and UC Berkeley. I am broadly interested in the theory and practice of writing history displayed in particular in the topics of memory, culture, and nationhood. My work has often taken modern German history as a point of departure, yet has consistently cast its net wider. As a historian, I have sought to reach in my work the edges of the historical discipline, those areas of research and theory where the historical method meets ethnography, literature, anthropology, and cultural studies. In my writing over the years, I have sought to craft a narrative weaving together story telling with critical analysis. But in recent years I have been particularly interested in probing into different possibilities of historical narration. Among my book publications are The Nation As a Local Metaphor: Württemberg, Imperial Germany, and National Memory, 1871-1918 (1997) and Germany As a Culture of Remembrance: Promises and Limits of Writing History (2006). In the last few years I worked on the Holocaust and wrote Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust As Historical Understanding (Cambridge University Press, New York, 2012) and A World Without Jews: The Nazi Imagination from Persecution to Genocide (Yale UP, 2014). It explores the German sensibilities in the Third Reich that underlie the persecution and extermination of the Jews, making them conceivable and imaginable; the project was awarded a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Completing A World Without Jews, I sought a new challenge, in terms of method, sources, and interpretation, and chose to work on a topic squarely within Jewish and Israeli history. My current project, Imagining Palestine and Israel, 1948: Jews and Palestinians between Local Experience and Global History crafts two narratives: one is based on the experience of Arabs, Jews, and British based on letters, diaries, and oral history, and the second is placing 1948 within global perspective of decolonization, the break-up of the British Empire, human rights, and, in particular, modern forced migrations and partitions. I am the recipient, among others, of grants from the Fulbright, Humboldt, and Lady Davis Foundations, the Institute of Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University, the Social Science Research Council, the Israel Academy of Sciences, the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at Washington, DC.

 

Awards and Accolades

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC, 2016-2017 for the project “Imagining Palestine, 1948: Jews and Palestinians between Local Experience and Global History.”