Member Spotlight: Interview with Denisa Nešťáková
As a means of highlighting the recent publications and scholarly work of current members, the SSA will post ‘Member Spotlight’ interviews at regular intervals.
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Denisa is a Research Associate at the Herder Institute in Marburg, Germany and a History faculty member at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia
Her work focuses on gender issues relating to Czech and Slovak history
When/how did you first develop an interest in Slovak or Slovak-area studies?
As a Slovak and a historian who lived, studied, and worked in Slovakia, I was not particularly interested in Slovakia or Slovak-area studies until I moved abroad and understood how much this field of study is under-researched, and thus misunderstood. Wanting to correct the marginalization of the history of Slovakia and to situate it within the broader history of “the East” thus definitely triggered my interest.
What is your current research/work project?
I am currently working on two projects:
- The first examines the social history of Czechoslovakia with a focus on Slovakia within a broader project entitled “’Family planning’ in East Central Europe from the 19th century until the approval of the ‘pill’.”
- The second investigates the impact of gender within the society of Jewish inmates in the Sereď camp, which functioned as a concentration and labor camp in Slovakia between 1941 and 1945.
Please say a few words about any activities or projects you’re involved in that link academia with society at large.
I wish to combine quality academic research with the popularization of historical knowledge. Thus, I take part in seminars for teachers comparing the regimes of Tiso and Horthy (along with my Hungarian colleague Borbála Klacsmann), and we discuss sexual violence during the Second World War.
Currently I am also part of a university seminar on Fascism and Neo-Fascism in a comparative perspective, where I give a lecture on Fascism and gendered violence. My recent article on clandestine abortions during the existence of the wartime Slovak Republic expounds on this theme: “Žena proti štátu. “Kriminálne” potraty v čase Slovenskej republiky 1939-1945” (“Woman against the State: ‘Criminal’ abortions in the Slovak Republic, 1939-1945”). It was published along with a current best-selling book on the Slovak market titled Tisovi poza chrbát (Behind Tiso’s Back), edited by Jozef Hyrja.
Lately I also took the opportunity to talk about my research on podcasts. Along with Andrea Pető from Central European University I discussed the Sereď Holocaust Museum, which opened in Slovakia in 2016.
As a guest of the podcast “V ženskom rode” I gave a glimpse into the history of attacks against women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and historical parallels with the current political and ideological discussions in Slovakia.
What Slovakia-related book or article would you recommend to readers who wish to learn more about some of Slovakia’s most pressing issues?
Since research and current public debates still discuss the difficult past of Slovakia as an ally of Nazi Germany, I would recommend the outstanding article by Hana Kubátová and Michal Kubát:
- Hana Kubátová and Michal Kubát, “The priest and the state: Clerical fascism in Slovakia and theory,” Nation and Nationalism, 2020, pp. 1-16.
And one of the most crucial and still relevant books on the Holocaust in Slovakia:
- Ivan Kamenec, On the Trail of Tragedy: The Holocaust in Slovakia (Bratislava: Hajko a Hajková, 2007)
What is your favorite place in Slovakia to visit and why?
My hometown of Hlohovec. It is where my family and my friends live, where I belong, and where I can feel history the most. Though, aesthetically I prefer Banská Štiavnica 🙂