Winter Academy “Revisiting the Nation: Transcultural Contact Zones in Eastern Europe”
Prisma Ukraïna – Research Network Eastern Europe, Berlin and the Center for Governance and Culture in Europe, Universität St. Gallen, in cooperation with the New Europe College, Bucharest will bring together doctoral and postdoctoral scholars from the fields of anthropology, economics, geography, history, literature, political sciences, social psychology, sociology and other disciplines to take part in an international Winter Academy titled “Revisiting the Nation: Transcultural Contact Zones in Eastern Europe”.
The Academy will take place from 26 February to 6 March 2018 in Bucharest, Romania.
Ever since Mark von Hagen asked “Does Ukraine Have a History?” in 1995, there has been much debate about what constitutes Ukraine as a nation. In light of recent developments, it might seem that in Ukraine, this question is of particular significance. Still, it is important to understand that in the European context, Ukraine is not a special case in its nation building effort. Instead, it is exemplary in terms of its multiculturality, entangled histories, and the ever-changing relation between state and society. With regard to Eastern Europe, the preoccupation with ‘the nation’, its history and identity, and with similar categories that imply monolithic entities (state, culture, language) in political, social and even academic discourse has been prevalent at least since the final years and collapse of the Eastern bloc. It has been visible in a search for homogeneity and ‘essences’ in cultural, historical or political terms – a search that eventually seeks to discover true national identity and the sovereign subject, as well as its past and future.
Yet these efforts are thwarted by the realities in situ. It is not only that the newly found sovereignty of those nation states coincides with greater alignment with international legal, economic and military standards – what has been termed ‘voluntary imperialism’ (Cooper). Concepts like Mary Louise Pratt’s ‘contact zones’ (with their emphasis on transculturation, hybridity, and mediation) likewise draw attention away from monolithic concepts of nation and culture. Instead, they point to how cultural practices permeate and inform each other at the local level, how they are being (re)negotiated and hegemonic discourses and power relations subverted by overt or implicit alternatives. The ongoing transformations and cultural and political processes in Ukraine as well as in many places in Eastern Europe take place in this field of unresolved tension that causes constant frictions and renegotiations. This poses a very specific and potentially very productive challenge to Eastern European Studies – one that can benefit from the integration of various concepts and highly different disciplinary approaches.
The Academy’s rationale is to gather young scholars from diverse disciplines and with diverse approaches in order to facilitate exchange and contribute to a fuller picture of current transformations in the region. The aim is to challenge assumptions; to overcome simplifying categories and explanations; and to open discussion on new perspectives and research questions. Together, we want to reflect on the complexity and ambiguous nature of entanglements in historically grown condensed spaces of multinational (post-)imperial border regions and search for new vocabularies to grasp the diverse trajectories of their political and cultural developments. In this, Ukraine may be the main focus, but research on other countries and regions is welcome as well.
The Winter Academy is chaired by a group of scholars that includes Pascal Bonnard (Jean Monnet University, Saint Etienne), Rory Finnin (University of Cambridge), Susanne Frank (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Olena Haleta (Ivan Franko University, Lviv), Andrii Portnov (Prisma Ukraïna; Forum Transregionale Studien, Berlin), Ulrich Schmid (University of St. Gallen), and Annette Werberger (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder).