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Anna Delius

Delius, Anna

Freie Universität Berlin

Human Rights Under Pressure - Ethics, Law and Politics

Department of History

PhD Candidate

Field of Research: Contemporary European History, Comparative history, human rights history, history of social movements, labor history, memory politics and collective memories

Boltzmannstraße 3
—14195 Berlin

Anna studied Modern History, Politics and Polish Philology at the universities of Freiburg, Potsdam and Berlin (Free University). Parallel to her studies, Anna did internships related to European integration and foreign affairs, e.g. with the German Bundestag and the Körber-Foundation. She also worked as a student assistant at the Federal Foreign Office’s International Diplomats Training and the Office of Former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker. After graduation, Anna worked as a research associate at the Institute of Sociology at Free University Berlin examining collective memories and identities in Germany, Poland, the UK and Spain.

„Languages of Rights and Repression. Negotiating Labor in Francoist Spain and in State Socialist Poland 1960-1990”

Writing her PhD in comparative contemporary European history, Anna focuses on the realm of labor in two authoritarian regimes on the semi-periphery of Europe: Francoist Spain and state Socialist Poland. In this context, she sheds light on the years between 1960-1990 and highlights different phases of oppositional activism.

Spanish and Polish workers both lacked the right to join and form independent trade unions, the right to free assembly and association, and the right to strike. They constantly protested against these conditions whereby they were supported by other social groups.

Apart from political repression, workers faced concrete problems in their everyday work life, including low salaries, extra working hours, incompetent managements, and deficits in safety and hygiene. In this context, (partly illegal) magazines for workers emerged. Being an alternative to the state press system, these independent publications provided new arenas for exchanging experiences. They advertised strike actions all across the country, called for united action and explained national legislation and globally binding labor rights and norms. These “alternative publications”, constitute the analytical base for this project.

Spanish and Polish workers both were supported by intellectuals being either left-leaning or Catholic or both and engaging in the publishing of alternative press. The workers’ struggle served as a trajectory for broader debates on democracy and is regarded as of being one of the major factors of democratization processes. Having in mind broader contemporary European and global history processes, Anna considers Spanish and Polish workers and their allies to be symptoms of transnationally entangled, anti-authoritarian social dynamics that shaped the decades between 1960 and 1990.

In this context, Anna explores how repression and everyday conflicts were connected with labor rights and the concept of democracy in two authoritarian regimes and finds answers to the following research questions:

•       Which were the most pressing demands of workers and their allies? How were they translated into political activism?

•       Which role did internationally binding labor norms and human rights play in this context?

By comparing workers’ protest and related debates in Francoist Spain and in state socialist Poland, Anna’s study offers an alternative narrative to the traditional East-West divide in European historiography, conceiving the non-democratic experience of the South and East of Europe as an alternative model of development of the 20th century. This way, the history of state socialisms but also the Francoist dictatorship are not regarded as ‘deviations’ or ‘exceptions’ but become part of a broader European history narrative highlighting the diversity of socio-political developments in the sense of “multiple modernities” or “multiple Europes”.


Articles in peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes


      • Delius, A. (2018). Review of: Arbeitskreis Menschenrechte im 20. Jahrhundert, Fritz-Thyssen-Stiftung, Köln (Eds.): Quellen zur Geschichte der Menschenrechte, in: H-Soz-Kult, 17.02.2018. https://www.hsozkult.de/webreview/id/rezwww-173 
      • Delius, A. (2018). Die ganze Welt schaut aufs Ghetto: Wie Polens Regierung per Gesetz versucht, die Geschichte zu vereinfachen. [The whole world looks at the Ghetto. How Poland’s Government tries to simplify History by Law.] Opinion article, Berliner Zeitung, 8.2. 2018
      • Delius, A. (2016). Conference Report: Human Rights after 1945 in the Socialist and Post-Socialist World, 03.04.2016 – 05.04.2016 Warsaw, in: H-Soz-Kult, 25.06.2016, <http://www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-6577>
      • Breuer, L./ Delius, A. (2015).  Jak jest zrobiona pamięć wernakularna? Wybrane wyniki międzynarodowego badania w Niemczech, Polsce, Hiszpanii i Wielkiej Brytanii [How is vernacular memory being done? Selected results from an international study in Germany, Poland, Spain and Great Britain], in: Kultura Współczesna [Contemporary Culture], 3(87), pp. 27-36. [in Polish]
      • Riebau, A. M. / Leidinger, A. (2013). Wer sind ‚wir’ in Europa? Doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft und Einbürgerung im deutsch-polnischen Vergleich ["Who is 'us' in Europe? Double Citizenship and Naturalization in Germany and Poland compared"], in: Zeitschrift für Ausländerrecht und Ausländerpolitik, 10, pp. 379 -385.
Freie Universität Berlin
The Minerva Center for Human Rights
Menschenrechtszentrum Uni Potsdam
DFG - Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Einstein Foundation Berlin
Dahlem Research School