Unité d'histoire contemporaine


History of International Organizations Network

Le Groupe d’Histoire des Organisations Internationales. Lebut de ce groupe est de fédérer les forces nombreuses mais dispersées à Genève autour de l'histoire des Organisations Internationales.

Dans un premier temps (année 2008-09), nous nous intéresserons principalement aux Organisations Internationales ayant leur siège et leurs archives à Genève. Le séminaire abordera en premier lieu des thématiques suffisamment larges et susceptibles de stimuler la discussion. Nous voulons commencer par donner la parole aux archivistes de ces organisations qui seront ainsi pleinement associés au projet.

Le séminaire veut également être une occasion utile pour les étudiants de master, de doctorat, pour les chercheurs (universitaires et indépendants) dont les sujets de recherche portent sur les organisations internationales de présenter leur travaux, qu'il s'agisse de ‘work in progress’ ou de projets avancés. Enseignants, chercheurs et archivistes seront vivement encouragés à participer activement aux débats informels qui suivront (les langues de travail seront le français et l'anglais). À plus long terme nous envisageons d'organiser un grand colloque international et à donner une visibilité et un rayonnement transnational et international à cette initiative.

Sandrine Kott (Université de Genève) et Davide Rodogno (HEID – septembre 2008) constituent le « steering committee » du groupe.

Patterns of transnational regulation: how networks and institutions shaped societies and markets throughout the 20th C.

Sandrine Kott en collaboration avec les Prof. Martin Lengwiler (UNIBS, lead applicant) in collaboration with Dr. Matthieu Leimgruber (UNIGE, co-applicant), Prof. Jean-Christophe Graz (UNIL, co-applicant), Prof.Thomas David (UNIL), and Prof. Davide Rodogno (IHEID/Graduate Institute, co-applicant).

The emergence of late 20th C. century globalization has led many social scientists to investigate the international, supranational and «global» dimensions of humanitarian intervention, environmental issues, markets mechanisms, consumer societies, or the diffusion of cultural goods and production. The «Americanization» of Western, or even world, societies has constituted another red thread of many of these investigation. The growing role of the US economy, of its organizational modes, its commercial and marketing style, as well as its cultural models, have also figured prominently in the current phase of internationalization and globalization. Heated debates about the so-called «knowledge society» and «post-industrialism» have also constituted a leitmotiv of this historical phase. Among these questions, our sinergia research network will focus on the regulation of market societies through social and private insurance, the definition of international standards, as well as cross-border philanthropy. These three dimensions constitute complementary empirical fields dealing with the regulation of social and market risks inherent to our contemporary societies. Our research groups will study these fields in the long-term historical perspective rather than focusing on recent developments, as most of the «globalization» scholarship. Our network thus contributes to the currently emerging research field in the history of globalization well as to those international relations studies emphasizing and historicizing new patterns and agents of change beyond states and markets. The members of our research network will examine a variety of international organizations (International Labour Organization, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Standards Organization, etc.), private foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc) or specialized associations (International Congress of Actuaries, International Social Security Association, etc.). We will look at them as laboratories and places of interaction where vectors of internationalization were shaped. We will investigate the actions of the individuals who worked in or brought to life these institutions. We will pay attention to the networks that linked these actors, and how these institutions used these networks as levers for their action. Instead of taking as our starting point institutions, such as civil society or international organizations, or multinational enterprises and consider them as visible markers of the constitution of a global world community, we study individual actors to highlight the transnational circulatory patterns they enhanced and fostered these evolutions. We argue that the bottom-up reconstruction of the genesis of the components that have crystallized into a «global community» formed neither above nor against nation-states, but genuinely between and in collaboration with them. This emphasis on circulation between nations and investigation of shifts from the local to the international levels, in passing by the national level, is what we mean by using the word transnational. text

Projet FNS: Shared modernities or competing modernities? Europe between West and East (1920s-1970s).

Octobre 2014-octobre 2017. Postdoc Michel Christian, Ondrej Matejka. Sous la direction de Sandrine Kott.
The proposed project examines the pathways by which the project of modernity, which represented the historical horizon of Europe and other parts of the world from the 1920s to the 1970s, spread from Western to Eastern Europe, examining how it was implemented in what would become the two blocs and then exported to recently decolonised countries, fuelling Cold War competition between East and West. The project makes three major contributions:

  1. It opts to focus on the realities and practices of exchanges and circulations within the European space by selecting multiple areas of investigation: development policies and economic planning, training programmes and social security.
  2. It seeks to situate these exchanges within the longue durée from the 1920s, characterised by the first planned development projects, to the 1970s, which saw state actions and development policies increasingly called into question. This long chronological span allows for the tracing of the trajectories of a generation of actors who, across successive changes in regime, were able to promote exchanges and circulations, despite the Cold War context.
  3. In order to go beyond the usual focus on superpower rivalry, this project opts to concentrate on Europe. Europe was the testing ground for the first development projects, became a contested space between two rival models of development and then contributed to exporting these models to developing countries, often former colonies. While they do not form the central focus of our research, the USSR and United States are nevertheless crucial for our approach owing to the influence that they exerted on European actors.



Rockefeller fellows as heralds of globalization: the circulation of elites, knowledge and practices of modernization (1920s-1970s)

Supervision: Ludovic Tournès (UNIGE), Thomas David (UNIL), Davide Rodogno (IHEID). In cooperation with the Rockefeller Archive Center (www.rockarch.org). Contact: Ludovic Tournès: Ludovic.Tournes(at)unige.ch
FNS project (1 September 2018-31 August 2022).

This project critically explores processes of globalization (or the lack thereof), using the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship Program (hereafter RFP) as a point of entry. The program ran from 1917 to 1970 and involved more than 10,000 fellows from 88 countries and a great variety of disciplinary fields in natural and social sciences, medicine and humanities. Through this program, the Rockefeller Foundation (hereafter RF) trained scientists and practitioners from all over the world; it intended these fellows to contribute to modernization processes in their home countries and, eventually, to contribute to building international peace, open markets (creating prosperity) and stable nation states.

Through its policies, the RF thus worked toward the development of knowledge in multiple disciplines and fields. It selected fellows to translate knowledge into “modern” practices designed to solve contemporary problems, such as preventing epidemics, regulating the world economy, or establishing national administrations in newly created states. Rockefeller fellows were the heralds of this agenda, which had global aims. Our research project covers the RF’s vision, how its projects were designed, and the individuals involved, as well as the implementation of its programs and the discrepancies between the original ideas and the eventual outcomes. The research project is structured chronologically and covers the period 1920-1970 in order to highlight possible continuities between then interwar years and the post-1945 period. Finally, we take into account transnational circulations that took place during the Cold War by studying contact between the Eastern and the Western blocs.

We center our attention on the fellows themselves and the ways in which they adhered to, accepted, appropriated and contributed to (or not) the foundation’s vision. We tell the story of what happened before, during and after the fellowships by tracing the career paths and transnational circulations of fellows over the long term, throughout their lives and careers.

This project is innovative in several respects:

It combines four different historiographical fields of research: the history of philanthropy, the history of knowledge, the history of elites, and the history of development programs. Past research has sometimes crossed the boundaries between these fields, but our approach offers a more sophisticated and thorough historical analysis.

It focuses on individuals (the fellows) to offer a different take on the history of globalization, one that studiously avoids teleological interpretations and considers the gaps that exist between global theoretical views – such as that of the RF – and the reality of local situations and individual career paths.

It offers a multi-layered analysis by combining a quantitative approach – indispensable for elucidating patterns in fellows’ career paths – with a qualitative one based on case studies compiled using various archives in a select number of countries. The database created for the project will be made available online as an open-source tool for the international research community; it will be hosted on the website of the Rockefeller Archive Center. The database is also designed to be expanded over time and thus used and adapted for further research.