Radomír Luža Prize for the Best Manuscript in Austrian/Czechoslovak Studies in the World War II Era
The Radomír Luža Prize for an outstanding work in the field of Austrian and/or Czechoslovak World War II studies is named after the distinguished historian Radomír Luža, who was professor for European and German history at Tulane University, New Orleans, for more than 25 years. He published the first academic studies about Nazi persecution and resistance in Austria: “Austro-German Relations in the Anschluss Era” (1975) and “The resistance in Austria, 1938-1945” (1984).
The prize has been awarded since 2012 by the American Friends of the Documentation Center of Austrian Resistance and Center Austria: The Austrian Marshall Plan Center for European Studies of the University of New Orleans and bestowed since 2020 by the German Studies Association (GSA). It seeks to encourage research in the above-mentioned fields focusing on the time period of the 1930s and 1940s and carries a cash award of $1,000 financed by the Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich.
2022 Recipients of the Radomír Luža Prize
Zachary Doleshal, In the Kingdom of Shoes. Bata, Zlín, Globalization, 1894–1945 (University of Toronto Press, 2021)
Laudatio from Reader 1:
With his book In the Kingdom of Shoes, Zachary Doleshal presents a story which has been told several times, but mostly by Czech historians for Czech readers, and mostly as an undoubted success story. Doleshal’s book is different. It puts the efforts of the Baťa family into the context of global economy, de-regionalizing Baťa as a Zlín or Czech phenomenon. Doleshal sees Jan Baťa as a modern businessman who just happened to grow his operations in Moravia, but one can assume that he would have been as successful in any other corner of the world.
Each chapter of the book is an individual story of the keystone periods of the Baťa business, starting with the first steps in the end of the 19th century and concluding with the nationalization of the whole company after the end of World War Two. The global context of the book is underlined by the author’s understanding of uneasy international trade conditions in the early 20thcentury, as well as in the interwar period. Thus, Doleshal points out an important factor of Baťa’s success – bypassing import tariffs by building factories across the world or building machinery tools on the spot in Zlín instead of importing them from the United States.
The deep knowledge of the regional history is a significant added value of the book. It not only portrays history of a company, but also cultural history of the Zlín region, whether one speaks of the Easter habits, parades or dance parties. The author also depicts an important element of Baťa’s activities which are mostly overlooked by other historians – the complicated relationship with the political elites. While Jan Baťa’s utopic ideas coinciding with the Nazi expansion strategies prior the beginning of World War Two are the “usual suspect” in the discourse in the Baťa story, Doleshal analysis takes on the Baťa’s approach towards local and national politicians and political parties. Doleshal also opens a topic of gender roles and appearances when he demonstrates Baťa’s misogynist attitude towards the female workers in the Zlín factory.
Laudatio from Reader 2:
A carefully prepared book about a great corporate story, which goes far beyond the limits of telling the history of Baťa Shoe Company and presenting Baťa's corporate philosophy. The well-designed chapters provide a window into globalization in general – we follow how the multinational corporation has evolved, we can get acquainted with a detailed study of corporate culture and we are motivated to think about the impact of the successes and failures of modern capitalism. Those who are interested in historical sociology will appreciate an objective view on Batismus – the corporate philosophy – with its civilization-making desires and high levels of social control of its employees in their work and home life.
Personally, I was most interested in the last two chapters, perhaps because my professional interest lies in the same period, but rather because it brings a more critical view of this stage of Baťa's business than we are used to from older studies published in the Czech Republic.
The summaries of each chapter are very kind to the reader.
Chad Bryant, Prague: Belonging and the Modern City (Harvard University Press, 2021)
In this study, Chad Bryant, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, describes modern Prague as a place – like other capital cities – for imagining nations as political communities, places where the nation became imaginable one the one hand.
Using the examples of an aspiring Czech-language guidebook writer, a German-speaking journalist, a Bolshevik carpenter, an actress of mixed heritage living in the shadow of Communist terror, and a Czech-speaking Vietnamese blogger, he shows how fundamentally Prague, which had been a multicultural home of Czechs, Germans, and Jews before the Nazi rule of 1938-1945, since the fall of Communism into a global city since the fall of Communism had changed its character into a global city.
In each chapter of his book he goes back to historical roots, dating back in the emergence of Czech nationalism in the 19th century.
By analyzing the writings of the five Praguers whose biographies serve as examples for this unconventional story of the city, the author shows how they have puzzled through their respective relationships with the city, national imaginations, and their fellow Praguers. None of these people appear in the traditional canon of writings about Czech Prague. In fact, their very existence complicate that canon. They also reveal, through their lives and writings, alternative ways of imagining the city. They challenge us to ask what it means to belong.
Of special topic interest is the role of the Vietnamese diaspora. Among the twelve recognized minorities in the Czech Republic, only the Slovak and Ukrainian communities, are larger. By 2008, nearly one out of every 100 Praguers belonged to the Vietnamese community. The author emphasizes that few cities in the world have the ability to evoke visions of the past as Prague does. “The challenge is to imagine the past in a way that provokes a sense of empathy and historical understanding, while inspiring hopeful visions of the future.”
Previous recipients of the GSA/DAAD Article Prize
Rachel Applebaum, Empire of Friends: Soviet Power and Socialist Internationalism in Cold War Czechoslovakia (Cornell UP, 2019)
Rachel Applebaum displays a deep knowledge of the Czechoslovak space and the "soul of the nation". She finds the right elements and highlights the most important moments which marked the changes in the attitude of Czechs towards the Soviets (I underline the word Czechs, as the Slovak perception is not emphasized except as a short notice about the puppet Slovak State in 1939-1945). Applebaum arrives at original and intriguing new interpretations; she adds a new function to the process of "normalization" and describes it as a transnational policy designed to restore the Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship after the 1968 events. She also illustrates the routinization of the obligatory Czechoslovak-Soviet friendship with interesting examples, such as the mandatory Russian learning in schools. With Russian, according to the textbooks for eight-graders, the pupils would be able to welcome Russian pioneers and correspond with Soviet pen-pals. The thorough work with archival documents from multiple countries and languages is much appreciated, as well as the high volume of usage of press and literature. Overall, Applebaum’s book is a high-quality book, putting the Czechoslovak-Soviet relationship into a new light. I believe this book truly demonstrates what the awarding of the Radomir Luža Prize is intended for.
Abigail Weil, “Man is Indestructible: Legend and Legitimacy in the Worlds of Jaroslav Hašek” (Dissertation, Harvard U, Slavic Literature)
The dissertation by Abigail Weil deals with the life and work of Jaroslav Hašek, author of Good Soldier Švejk, one of the best known and legendary Czech novels. She examines Hašek's experience during WWI, life in Russia, fascination with Bolshevism, activities in interwar Czechoslovakia, and analyses how all these affected his masterpiece Good Soldier Švejk and more than 1,500 short stories, poems, jokes and articles he wrote. "Haškology"“" is a specific discipline in Czech literary science, and there are many researchers who tried to frame a thorough analysis of Hašek's work in the past. It is obvious that Weil didn't just compile the opinions of her predecessors but formulates her own conclusions based on her research. It is my sincere hope the dissertation defended at Harvard University will be published soon to revisit the importance of Jaroslav Hašek to non-Czech readership.
Radomír Luža Prize: Call for Nominations
To be eligible for the Radomír Luža Prize competition,
- the book or dissertation must have been published (or a dissertation defended) between January 1 and December 31 of the year previous to the announcement
- authors must be citizens or resident aliens (holders of “green cards”) of the United States or Canada
- dissertations must have been awarded by a North American University
- the language of the work must be English.
To be considered for the Radomír Luža Prize competition, please send a copy of your work electronically to Dr. Winfried Garscha at firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is August 15 of the year the prize is announced and the winner will be announced at the GSA annual conference banquet later in the fall of that year.