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Social Participation and the Formation of Identity

The struggle for political, economic and cultural involvement in Luxembourg in its European context between 1930 and 1980

This project studies the causes, manifestations and limits of social participation in Luxembourg and its neighbouring regions from the 1930s to the late 1970s. It examines the historic origins of the division of contemporary Luxembourg society into citizens and nationals on the one hand, and those who are resident foreigners or who cross the border in order to earn their living on the other hand. It also analyses the processes and functions of social cohesion, which work to counteract this division.

The project’s focus is on the creation of the Luxembourg nation as an argument for the independent nationhood of the country and as an instrument of social inclusion and exclusion. In the 1930s the creation of the nation of Luxembourg, which since the 19th century had been repeatedly threatened, then accelerated then delayed, was facing the political ‘völkisch’ agitation of the Nazis, who considered the Luxembourgers to be part of their ‘German ethnic community’. The project begins with the interwar period and then concentrates on the effect of the occupation of the country by German troops and the ‘take-over’ of Luxembourg and its people by the ‘Greater German Empire’.  Beyond the period of war and occupation, it examines the competition between the groups of victims in the political sphere and in the domain of memory culture in Luxembourg and its neighbouring countries, which continues until the present day. These groups were resistance fighters, enforced recruits, Jews as victims of the Nazi ideology of racial belonging (‘Volkstum’) and those opposed to the Nazis for political and ideological reasons. Their struggle for recognitionmay be seen as a reflection of their own persecution by the Nazis and the crimes of the German army. The project will also examine the boundaries between enforced cooperation and collaboration.

A second strand of the project will analyse the processes of mutual segregation and adaptation of these specific Luxembourg identities and cultures of memory in the face of a marked increase in both commuters from neighbouring regions and migrants since the 1960s. This development took place under the influence of the process of European integration and the transformation of the Luxembourg economy from its 19 th century dependence on coal and steel to a far more diversified one,  dominated by the service industries.  At the same time democracy became more firmly anchored in society.  This will be demonstrated on the one hand by the example of women’s emancipation, which reached beyond the rights of political participation granted as early as 1919, and on the other hand by the partly institutionalised cooperation between the government and influential sectors of society. It was again the process of European integration which created the framework for these developments, since it strengthened the opportunities for immigrants to participate while at the same time guaranteeing independent nationhood and the creation of the Luxembourg nation state.

Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, the project examines the forms and extent of participation and representation, the internal and external processes which influence the creation of identity within various groups of society, and the conditions determining social cohesion. The focus is on migrants and members of cultural minorities, those employed in the business and service sectors, and women.  A further perspective will be opened by embedding the specifically Luxembourg developments in European and global contexts.  Historical comparisons with other European countries and regions will be combined with new approaches which are oriented towards social and cultural spaces rather than political and geographical units and can be understood as entangled histories.

Research Project of the University of Luxembourg / Research Unit IPSE (Identités,Politiques,Sociétés,Espaces):

  • Funded by the Fonds National de la Recherche (FNR)
  • Project start: 15 January 2012
  • End of project: 15 January 2015

Project Leader:

  • Prof. Dr. Jean-Paul Lehners (Project Director until April 2013)
  • Ass. Prof. Dr. Sonja Kmec (Project Director since April 2013)
  • Apl. Prof. Dr. Norbert Franz (Co-Director and coordinator until November 2013)
  • Thorsten Fuchshuber, PhD-Candidate (project coordinator since November 2013)

Research Associates:

  • Dr. Vincent Artuso (until March 2014)
  • Thorsten Fuchshuber (PhD-Candidate, until January 2014)
  • Renée Wagener (PhD-Candidate)

Completed PhD projects (linked to PARTIZIP 1):

  • Joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Winfried Thaa, University of Trier:
    • Michel Dormal (2009-2013): Politische Repräsentation, kollektive Identität und nationalstaatliche Demokratie: Die Entwicklung des luxemburgischen Parteiensystem und Parlamentarismus zwischen Inklusion und Exklusion.
  • Joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Lutz Raphael, University of Trier:
    • Dominik Trauth (2009-2013): Die Transformation der ländlichen Gesellschaft in Mitteleuropa. Agrarmodernisierung und ‚Entbäuerlichung’ auf dem Dorf zwischen Luxemburg und Trier im Vergleich (1840–1940).
  • Joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Gabriele B. Clemens, University of the Saarland
    • Fabian Trinkaus (2009-2013): Industriearbeiter zwischen Nationsbildung und Migration: Luxemburg und das Saarland im historischen Vergleich (1840-1940).
  • Joint supervision with Ass. Prof. Dr. Christel Baltes-Löhr, University of Luxembourg:
    • Heike Mauer (2010-2015): Intersektionalität und Gouvernementalität: Die Problematisierung der Prostitution in Luxemburg 1900-1939.

Ongoing PhD projects (linked to PARTIZIP 2):

  • Joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Lutz Raphael, University of Trier:
    • Eva Klos (since April 2013): Zwangsrekrutierung im zweiten Weltkrieg in den nationalen Erinnerungskulturen Luxemburgs, Frankreichs und Belgiens.
  • Joint supervision with Prof. Dr. Michel Pauly, University of Luxembourg:
    • Thierry Hinger (since October 2013): The development of the socio-political organizations amonst Portuguese migrants in Luxembourg in light of the „Comunidades Portuguesas“ emigration polity (1974-2000).
  • Joint supervision with Dr. Jean-Noël Grandhomme, University ofStrasbourg
    • Elisabeth Hoffmann (since March 2014): La mémoire de la Résistance (1940-1945) : Regards croisés entre Luxembourg, Alsace-Lorraine et Eupen-Malmédy.




  • Norbert Franz, Jean-Paul Lehners (ed.), Nationenbildung und Demokratie. Europäische Entwicklungen gesellschaftlicher Partizipation (Tagungsband), Frankfurt ; Bern, 2014. ISBN 978-3-653-02461-6 (eBook).

Thorsten Fuchshuber, Renée Wagener (Hg.), Émancipation – éclosion – persécution. Le développement de la communauté juive luxembourgeoise de la Révolution française à la Seconde Guerre mondiale, Fernelmont, EME Editeurs, 2014.  ISBN 978-2-8066-1105-5 (eBook)





  • Den Krieg erinnern: Erinnerungsforschung über den Zweiten Weltkrieg in Luxemburg und den benachbarten Regionen. Walferdange, 23. Mai 2013.





  • Samuel Hirsch - Religionsphilosoph, Emanzipationsverfechter und radikaler Reformer. Jüdische Identität im 19. Jahrhundert am Beispiel von Werk und Wirkung des ersten Oberrabbiners Luxemburgs. Kulturzentrum Abtei Neumünster, Luxemburg-Stadt, 17.-19. Oktober 2010.


  • Nationenbildung und Demokratie. Europäische Entwicklungen gesellschaftlicher Partizipation. Internationaler Workshop an der Universität Luxemburg, Campus Walferdange. 10. bis 12. Dezember 2009.