Workshops: Call for papers “Widows, widowers and widowhoods in Europe in the contemporary period (19 e -20 e centuries)”

indexThis project arose from the fact that there was no general study on widowhood in Europe in the contemporary period, unlike other historic periods. Despite being almost invisible today, mainly because of the improvement in living conditions and transformations in family structures, widowhood has still been an important demographic phenomenon between the beginning of the 19th century and the 2000s. Because of its legal, social, cultural and psychological impact, widowhood constitutes an interesting prism through which to analyse the history of the practices and representations of European societies. As such, the present call for papers is addressed to the various disciplines of the human and social sciences : history, sociology, law, economy, political science, management, psychology, and literature, in order to compare different approaches and points of view.

Futhermore, the weight of national borders and the local or state frame of legislation has strongly influenced, until today, the way of conceiving legal, social and cultural phenomena such as widowhood. One of the objectives of this project is to review this conception by inspiring comparative or transnational studies. The studies can take place at two levels : the internal level, observing the diversity of widowhoods in Europe, comparing them and trying to understand possible interactions and mutual influences ; the external level, seeking to define similarities and characteristic differences between European societies regarding widowhood and the specificities of European widowhoods compared with the rest of the world.

This project, finally, aims at thinking of widowhood in its gendered dimension, in particular, avoiding the assimilation of widowhood exclusively to a feminine situation. Indeed widowers are the forgotten people of historiography and it would be interesting to analyse the reasons and the consequences for this absence in social policies and cultural representations. To think about male widowhood will allow a better perspective on the peculiarities of female widowhood and will highlight the social relationships and power relations in the context of differences in treatment or situation by sex.

Three transverse axes have been defined, each introducing three dimensions : multidiscipinary, European and gender. Every axis will be the object of a workshop.

Workshop 1 : Institutions and widowhood in Europe

The term « institutions » includes here as much public authorities (municipal, regional, state, European) as private authorities (corporatist, religious). What place does widowhood hold in the eyes of diverse private or public institutions ? Is widowhood considered by these institutions a state worthy of interest ? Which institutions are most interested in these 4populations according to place and time ? What relationships do these institutions maintain among themselves (in particular between the public and the private) ? Do they have relations of influence, of competition ? How do widowers and widows manage to be recognized by these institutions ? Three sub-axes can guide researchers:

  • Diversity and influence of institutions concerned by widowhood
  • Modalities of intervention by institutions relating to widowhood
  • Actors and actresses in the institutional recognition of widowhood

Workshop 2 : Norms, practices and representations of widowhood in Europe

Widowhood involves numerous practices at the social level. If today the conventions surrounding this marital status more or less have gone out of use, these conventions were very salient in European societies of the past. What were these conventions ? To what extent did individuals, confronted with needs and diverse desires, respect them, resist them and/or develop them ? To what extent do representations of widowhood incorporate the evolution of these conventions and practices of widowhood ? Three sub-themes will guide the paper proposals:

  • The traditions and the laws surrounding widowhood
  • The social realities of widowhood
  • The cultural representations of widowhood

Workshop 3 : Wars and widowhood in Europe

The term « war » includes all the conflicts which involved the European countries from the 19th century to the beginning of the 21st century, the Napoleonic wars to the civil wars of the Balkans. We can also consider modern conflicts, in particular terrorism (September 11 attacks in the United States, Karachi 2002, Madrid 2004, London 2005 but also the attacks in the Spanish Basque Country). What is the impact of war on widowhood ? In what way does war modify legislation and the social uses and rites of widowhood and mourning ? In the context of war, are individuals more free in their movements or, on the contrary, more supervised by State and society ?

  • Institutions and war widowhood
  • Practices of mourning and widowhod in the context of war

Steering committee

Peggy Bette (CERHIO, Rennes 2) and Christel Chaineaud (CAHD, Bordeaux)

Scientific committee

Peggy Bette (CERHIO, université Rennes 2), Christel Chaineaud (CAHD, université Bordeaux), Magali Della Sudda (centre Emile Durkheim, Sciences Po-Bordeaux), Françoise Leborgne-Uguen (université de Bretagne occidentale-Brest), Yannick Marec (GRHIS, université Rouen), Simone Pennec (université de Bretagne occidentale-Brest), Paulette Robic (IEMN-IAE, université Nantes), Bruno Valat (centre universitaire Jean-François Champollion-FRAMESPA-université Toulouse 2), David G. Troyansky (Brooklyn College et le Graduate Center, City University of New York ), Olivier Vernier (ERMES, université Nice-Sophia Antipolis), Fabrice Virgili (IRICE, université Paris 1).

  • Day 1 : Institutions and widowhood, on Monday, december 8th 2014, Bordeaux
  • Day 2 : Standards, practices and representations of widowhood on 2015
  • Day 3 : Wars and widowhoods on 2016

Forms of the proposals of communication : text from 2 to 3000 signs in French or in English with name, university or institution. The text must include sources and methods. Deadline of submission : in june 20th, 2014 for the first workshop. A new call for papers will be made for workshop 2 and 3 but all proposals are welcome.

Thanks for sending your proposal of communication to veuvages.europe [at]

For more enquiries : veuvages.europe [at]