Nationality and Citizenship in the light of Nationalhumanismus. An attempt of reshaping Zionism after the World War I

Research project by Dr. Stefania Ragaù                    

The research deals with the notion of Nationalhumanismus, a neologism that some Zionist thinkers — including Hans Kohn (1891-1971), Felix Weltsch (1884-1964), and Max Brod (1884-1968) — used in their writings at the beginning of the 1930s in order to concentrate «on the creative rather than destructive elements of nationalism» (S. Spector, 2004). With the exception of George L. Mosse and more recently Scoot Spector, this topic represents a historical matter that historians have not yet sufficiently dealt with. According to Mosse, Nationalhumanismus represented an example of  «good nationalism» in contraposition to the rise of the Revisionist Movement.

This kind of interpretation is pretty questionable, since it is founded on a teleological perspective which considers history as a regressive process. Thus, in order to avoid such teleological readings, this research focuses on the core-questions of nationality, citizenship, and belonging within the territories of the Habsburg Empire after its dissolution. In particular, the investigation concentrates itself on the political-philosophical elaborations of German speaking Jewish intellectuals in Prague during the interwar period. The main goal is to compare some of the recurring elements of empires (territory, religion, belonging), asking to what extent Zionism did share these attributes, and what the legacy of the imperial structure in the new Czechoslovak Republic was. Moreover, the project aims to examine the notion of national humanism in light of the idea of Jewish national autonomy promoted by Simon Dubnow, Karl Renner and Otto Bauer.  In doing so, I am focusing on the study of archival materials (diaries, letters, drafting papers), periodical journals, and printed sources which are located in university archives or special collections, or privately owned collections.