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Queen Mary historian secures major funding award for collaborative UK-German research

Dr Daniel Lee, Lecturer in Modern French History in Queen Mary’s School of History has successfully secured a collaborative research award under the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).

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Dr Daniel Lee of Queen Mary University of London's School of History
Dr Daniel Lee of Queen Mary University of London's School of History

The research project, Jewish Pimps, Prostitutes and Campaigners in a Transnational German and British Context 1875-1940, is a collaborative project with the Center for Research on Antisemitism (Zentrum für Antisemitismusforschung, ZfA) at Berlin’s Technical University (Technische Universität Berlin).

Dr Daniel Lee will work with Dr Stefanie Fischer on the project which received almost £700,000 in funding and encompasses disciplines including Modern and Current History, Religious Studies as well as Jewish Studies. The project is expected to begin in 2020 and will run for three years until 2023.

A multi-disciplinary project

The research project will draw on the expertise of a project group specialising in the study of gender, antisemitism and migration to investigate the phenomenon of Jewish involvement in the sex trade. While in the late nineteenth century up until the Second World War, Jews were consistently demonized by antisemites because of their role in the trade as prostitutes, pimps and brothel owners, they have featured only marginally in recent studies of prostitution that in recent years has experienced a renewed interest.

The study of Jewish prostitutes will place the women center stage and will unravel their agency behind moral politics, criminalization, and male fantasies. It will be the first study to consider Jewish women’s experiences as historical actors as they navigated unfamiliar relationships with men (pimps, physicians, judges and the police) who exercised control over their bodies.

Dr Daniel Lee said: “I am impossibly grateful to the AHRC and the DFG for funding this project that brings Jewish history and Jewish perspectives into dialogue with contemporary discussions that examine historic prostitution and trafficking from transnational and migratory perspectives.

“Above all, we look forward to working with non-academic partners (sex worker-led organisations, anti-trafficking foundations and NGOs) on future collaborative endeavours”

Professor Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History and Director of History Research at Queen Mary said: “Daniel Lee's new project is collaborative, ambitious and hugely timely. It will explore the history of exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable women in Europe and beyond. It operates at the intersection of histories of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, globalization, and colonial rule.

“Daniel Lee joined Queen Mary just a few months ago, but his intellectual impact is already much felt. Congratulations!”

UK-German collaboration

The AHRC and DFG research award brings together arts and humanities researchers in the UK and Germany to conduct outstanding joint research projects. The successful projects were selected through a competitive process, leading to a joint peer review panel meeting in autumn 2019. Demand for the awards was high with over 170 joint applications submitted.

AHRC Executive Chair Professor Andrew Thompson and former President of the DFG, Professor Peter Strohschneider, jointly stated: “We are delighted to see the launch of this first round of projects funded under the bilateral agreement between the AHRC and the DFG.

“Both organizations are strongly committed to supporting international collaboration and we are delighted to work in partnership to create this new collaborative funding opportunity. It sends a strong message that the first call generated such high levels of interest in both the UK and Germany and that through this first call we have been able to support such a fantastic range of outstanding projects, indicating the far reaching cross-national importance of arts and humanities research.

“We hope that this first cohort of projects will help to strengthen and deepen research cooperation between the UK and Germany in the arts and humanities and contribute to the growth of a transnational collaborative research culture in both countries.”

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