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The Other Europe: Changes and Challenges since 1989

Friday, April 10, 2020, and Saturday, April 11, 2020

Schedule: : To Be Determined 

Location: Henry R. Luce Hall

Faculty Hosts: Edyta Bojanowska (Yale University) and Vitaly Chernetsky (University of Kansas)

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, now is a fitting moment to take stock of the cultural changes in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe over the past three decades and to reflect on the region’s conflicted and contested “Europeanness.” This is also a propitious moment to reexamine the existing analytical frameworks for writing the cultural history of this period, and to consider new possibilities. This international conference will explore these questions while focusing on the vibrant cultural production in this part of Europe in post-1989 literature, film, and visual and performing arts. It aims in particular to foster a broad conversation between North American and European scholars of culture.  The language of the conference will be English.  

The conference seeks to explore the following themes: 
I. Cultural echoes in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe of the geopolitical changes of the past thirty years, such as the accession of new members to the EU and NATO and the rise of populist regimes. How have political events fostered changes in cultural shifts and orientations?
  • What key tropes, ideologies, and cultural imaginaries have emerged in East Europeans’ self-descriptions? How do they conceptualize their Europeanness, and what intellectual histories and conceptual frameworks do they draw on? How do the spaces of the former GDR fit in the region’s changing self- imagination?
  • How do East Europeans negotiate the relations between Western Europe and Russia?To what extent do these Cold War hegemons remain the primary points of cultural reference and focal “others” against which East European identity is asserted?
  • The relevance of glocal perspectives that allow for the local variations of global visions.
  • Cultural representations of post-1989 borders, migrations, and movements of people.
  • What are the transnational connections and networks within the region? What are the institutions that support them?
  • How might cultural geopolitics, or a study of culture that emphasizes spatial and geopolitical dimensions, provide insight into cultural tectonics of these last decades?What might be gained by replacing the optics of time (history) for that of space?
II. How to write a cultural history of this recent past?
  • Do the cultural developments in the region over the past thirty years retain sufficient coherence to still be considered as one period?
  • To what extent does the concept of the “post-Soviet” retain relevance for today’s cultural landscape? What are its advantages and disadvantages? To what extent does the “post-Soviet” remain the manner of self-description for the artists in the region? Could or should scholars move beyond this taxonomy, and if so, what might the alternatives be?
  • Could such a history be forward-looking, that is, attentive to the inchoate future trajectories that might be observable in the present, while avoiding the pitfall of being predictive?