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Publishing Anti-fascism, CBCP annual conference, 11-12 September 2023

We are delighted to announce the Provisional Programme for our conference on Publishing Anti-fascism.

This international conference will bring together scholars of anti-fascist publishing activity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, from any linguistic or geographical context. Our aim is to broaden the understanding of anti-fascist publishing by drawing attention to previously neglected publications, publishers, and perspectives – from Europe and beyond.  

Despite the frequent focus on national contexts, much anti-fascist publishing was transnational in scope. While refugees from fascism crossed borders from one country to another, their anti-fascist texts could appear around the world in multiple translations simultaneously. In the 1930s and 40s, global institutions such as the Communist International and the British Ministry of Information (responsible for propaganda across the whole of the British Empire), gave many anti-fascist texts a truly world-wide reach. 

Since the end of the Second World War, anti-fascism has not become superfluous as a movement although it is often misunderstood. As Braskén, Featherstone and Copsey have argued, ‘political myths and misrepresentations of anti-fascist histories are constantly used in contemporary debates’ (Anti-fascism in a global perspective, 2021). Whilst taking a broad approach to the history and legacy of anti-fascist publishing, this conference seeks to fully contextualise these activities in order to understand to what degree they still offer a counterpoint to today’s political right. After all, as Bill V. Mullen and Christopher Vials have pointed out, the USA’s anti-fascist tradition goes back to the 1920s, long before the existence of Antifa (The US Antifascism Reader, 2020). 

Though we hope to expand current knowledge of European anti-fascist publishing history and practice, this conference also welcomes contributions which look beyond a white European setting, perhaps exploring the intersections of anti-fascism, anti-racism, and anti-colonialism in publishing cultures. For instance, in 1933, after Nazis ransacked his offices and deported him to England, the Black pan-Africanist journalist George Padmore argued in an editorial for his communist publication, The Negro Worker, that ‘fascism is the greatest danger which confronts not only the white workers, but is the most hostile movement against [black people].’ He also drew an explicit comparison between the Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, writing that “the fascists in Germany are preaching race hatred and advocating lynch law” (The Negro Worker vol. 3, no. 4-5 [Apr-May 1933]). Yet these historical parallels and continuities are often overlooked in discussions of anti-fascist history. 

We are excited to offer two additional events as part of the conference. One is a screening of Steve Hatton’s 2011 documentary film, Heilig, about the Austrian anti-Nazi journalist Bruno Heilig, and his son, Gerhard, who came to England as a refugee on the Kindertransport. The film will be introduced by a talk by the filmmaker. The other is a tour of Reading University’s collection of anti-fascist Spanish civil war posters, housed by the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication. 

The conference will be hosted by the University of Reading’s Centre for Book Cultures and Publishing, and will take place in Reading. Virtual attendance will also be possible, as the conference will take a hybrid form. There will be minimal or no cost for attendance. 

Organising committee at the University of Reading: Ali Brown, Dr Sophie Heywood, Prof Daniela La Penna, Dr Ellen Pilsworth, Dr Marta Simo-Comas, Dr Nicola Wilson, Dr Ute Wölfel.

Image credit: Wisconsin Historical Society, Image ID: 14802. Can be viewed online at https://wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Image/IM148402



11th September 2023
12th September 2023


Ellen Pilsworth