Sie sind hier: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2021/22 Prof. Dr. John C. Swanson

Prof. Dr. John C. Swanson

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Department of History

External Senior Fellow (Marie S. Curie FCFP)
Januar 2022 - Juni 2022


I am a historian of modern Central and Eastern Europe with interest in questions concerning minorities, belonging, and nationness. I also have worked as a documentary filmmaker.

At the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga I teach courses on Central Europe, Eastern Europe, general European history, and historical methods. I have led study tours to Europe for American students concerning the history of the Holocaust. I also served as Department Head in Chattanooga for six years. Prior to moving to Tennessee, I taught for fifteen years at Utica College in upstate New York. My Ph.D. is from the University of Minnesota, and I received a B.A. in music and political science from Boston University.

My most recent long-term project examined a minority population in Central and Eastern Europe: German speakers in Hungary. That project culminated in 2017 with the publication of my book: Tangible Belonging: Negotiating Germanness in Twentieth-Century Europe (University of Pittsburgh Press), which won the 2018 Barbara Jelavich Book Prize and the 2019 Hungarian Studies Association Book Prize. It appeared in German translation in 2020 (Pustet Verlag). This project examines the issue of minority making and the imbedded struggle within minority formation over the meaning of such categories as “German.” My main query is how these “German-speaking Hungarians” became Volksdeutsche (ethnic Germans) by the 1930s. This is not a story of individuals gaining German consciousness, but rather I document the process by which the meaning of “German” changed in reference to the Swabians of Hungary—the largest non-Magyar group in post-First World War Hungary. This project also resulted in the documentary film About a Village, which has been screened at festivals and conferences in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, and Japan.

Publikationen (Auswahl)

  • Fassbare Zugehörigkeit: Deutschsein im Ungarn des 20. Jahrhunderts. (Pustet Verlag, 2020).
  • Tangible Belonging: Negotiating Germanness in Twentieth Century Hungary. (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017).
  • “Explaining German Expulsions through the Lens of Postcatastrophy: New Discussions concerning the Shoah and the Expulsions,” in The Afterlife of the Shoah in Central Eastern European Cultures: Concepts, Problems, and the Aesthetic of the Postcatastrophic Narration, edited by Anna Artwinska and Anja Tippner. (Routledge, 2022), 192-204.
  • “Ouvrir des portes : les photographie comme moments épisodiques,”  [photographic essay] Siggi, le magazine de sociologie, printemps 2 (2021), 32-39.
  • “Thinking Historically: The Holocaust Study Tour,” in After the Holocaust: Human Rights and Genocide Education in the approaching post-witness era, for edited book, edited by Charlotte Schallié, Helga Thorson, and Andrea van Noord (University of Regina Press, October 2020), 206-216.
  • “The State arrives in Hungarian Villages: Magyarization and the Making of Minorities at the Village Level,” in Kooperatives Imperium: Politische Zusammenarbeit in der späten Habsburgermonarchie, edited by Jana Osterkamp. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018), 285-296.


Superfluous Humanity: Lili Jacob, Bilky, and the Auschwitz Album

My project examines the life of Lili Jacob (1926-1999) and the story of her home community of Bilky (today in western Ukraine) in order to tell the history of Jewish life in a borderland region of Europe in the decades before the Holocaust; as well as to tell the history of the Jews who appear in the images that today have become so common in publications and museum exhibits (photographs contained in the Auschwitz Album). By employing a microhistorical methodology to the study of Lili and her village, I will be able to delve deep into the local, rural world of Subcarpathian Rus’ (western Ukraine) in order to discover what microhistorians call: "the fundamental experiences and mentalités of ordinary people.”