A Plot-Driven People: Mennonite Narratives in the Age of Nationalism (1870-1945)

This year's Bechtel Lecturer in Anabaptist Studies is Dr. John P. Eicher, Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University-Altoona.

Eicher's presentation focuses on two groups of German-speaking Mennonites from Russia—one composed of voluntary migrants and the other composed of refugees—who settled in Paraguay’s Gran Chaco during the interwar years of the twentieth century. It examines how members of Russia’s Mennonite diaspora created vastly different narratives about the past, present and future based on their interpretation of scripture and their contrasting experiences as migrants and refugees. At the broadest level, the presentation shows that Mennonites’ national and religious identifications are embedded in highly malleable collective stories.

Reception to follow in the Upper Atrium (8:30 – 10:00 pm)
Public Lecture. All are welcome.

Dr. John P. Eicher, Associate Professor, History Pennsylvania State University-Altoona

Photograph of John Eicher, smiling, wearing a grey and blue suit.

John Eicher is an associate professor of modern European history. His research and teaching focus on the movements of people and diseases around the world.

In 2020, his prize-winning dissertation was published as a book titled Exiled Among Nations: German and Mennonite Mythologies in a Transnational Age, with Cambridge University Press. This work was supported by the German Historical Institute-Washington DC, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), the Religious Research Association, the Mennonite Historical Society, and the University of Iowa. It received five book awards and was reviewed in eight publications.

His current project, The Sword Outside, the Plague Within: A Cultural History of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Europe, compares the cultural impact of the 1918 flu pandemic across ten European countries using 1,000 first-hand accounts of those who survived it. This work is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (Fellowship and Summer Stipend), Project House Europe at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, the American Council of Learned Societies, and Penn State Altoona