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South-Eastern Europe: History, Cultures, Boundaries
London, June 1999


Call for papers

SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE:  History, Cultures, Boundaries


Contributions are invited for a one-day conference entitled South-Eastern
Europe: History, Cultures, Boundaries, organized by the Centre for
South-East European Studies, School of Slavonic and East European Studies,
London, on June 19, 1999. 

Proposals (maximum length one page A4) should be sent with a covering
letter by not later than mid-March, 1999, to the organizing committee,
care of: 

Alex Drace-Francis  [adf@mailbox.ro]
and/or
Wendy Bracewell
SSEES
Senate House, Malet Street
London WC1E 7HU
UK
[w.bracewell@ssees.ac.uk]

Taking into account the dramatic changes in the shape of European
political and social structures in the last ten years, the organisers
propose a discussion aimed at examining definitions of the area, and at
establishing the place of South-Eastern Europe in the European whole.
South-Eastern Europe has for a long time been defined as marginal.

Whether this is a mere reflection of its geographical position and its
actual characteristics or rather a consequence of its treatment in
historical, cultural and other humanist study, is a moot point; and one
that has been the subject of increasing debate in both academic and
political circles. Its historical development has been substantially
different from that of Western Europe; but unlike other areas of the globe
(The New World, the Orient), that have been subjected to a discourse of
alterity, South-Eastern Europe is most often articulated by the West not
so much as an other as a transitional zone, between East and West, between
conceptions of the civilised and the barbarian, between Europe and Asia.
The region was deeply imbued early on with what are seen as founding
elements of European culture; but has also missed the material fruits of
such an inheritance, as enjoyed in the West.  South Eastern Europe has
been a major participant in, not just a witness to,the historical,
political and cultural experiences of twentieth-century Europe; and its
inhabitants feel the effects of fin-de-siecle (post-)modernity as strongly
as any other Europeans. 

Against this background a series of discussions will be organised which
address the many specific difficulties to be met when attempting to define
the region, and particularly the problems in situating study of
South-Eastern Europe within existing disciplinary and area categories,
whether old or new. 

Such a problem can be addressed from many different intellectual and
disciplinary positions, and contributions from the fields of history,
anthropology, literary and cultural studies, political science and
political theory, linguistics, sociology and geography (among others) are
welcomed. The organizers are particularly keen to interrogate the
problematics of the received disciplinary traditions (most of which
originated in Western Europe) in studying the region. European history and
literary studies tended to make light of South-Eastern Europe,
concentrating on the role and achievements of the Great Power states;
anthropology largely ignored it until recently, in favour of studying
non-European peoples. For the study of nationalism, on the other hand, the
region has been casually referred to for negative models at least since
the writings of Mill and Renan, while in international relations The
Eastern Question was viewed as a paradigmatic problem. 

The organizers have drawn up the following list of potential questions and
themes for debate. There will not be time to address all of them: rather,
a selection will be made following the receipt of proposals for papers.
Short, incisive contributions are sought, and the timing of presentations
should be limited to 15 minutes. Contributions are likely to be organized
into panels of four speakers each with a moderator. Contributors are
encouraged to grasp the problems of the region as a whole as far as
possible; local or national case studies are not excluded, but must be
aimed at addressing the stated questions of defining the region, and of
the problems of discipline or area study. 

1. Definitions
- Questions surrounding the terms Balkans and South-Eastern Europe.
- What is it that defines the region? Who gets to define, to what ends?
- Boundaries. How big is the region? What are its margins?
- Who and what is the region's "other"?
- How does South Eastern Europe- or component parts - stand in relation
  to Europe?

2. Making Cultures
- Is there such a thing as Balkan "culture(s)"?
- Problems of comparability and representativity of cultural products and
  processes.
- Who creates culture(s) and to what ends?
- Change & diversity in South-East European culture.
- Is there a distinctive culture/politics relationship in South-Eastern
  Europe?
- Political cultures: attitudes to authority, discipline, legitimacy,
  responsibility.
- Anthropological perpectives on cultural strategies in South-East
  Europe: agents & intentions in the construction of official culture;
  regional and global cultures.
- High/low and elite/popular cultures: problems of definition,
  origination, dissemination, appropriation, consumption.
- How are new factors affecting cultural politics?

3. History: creations and constraints
- To what extent is South-East European  history shared?
- How does South-East European history relate to that of the rest of Europe
- How is contemporary (political) action shaped by historical experience?
  And what are the relevant experiences?
- Do certain historiographical concepts constrain our understanding of
  the role of the past in shaping the present? (nation-building; frontier
  status; legacies?)
- How are interpretations of the past produced, imposed, contested,
  manipulated; and to whose ends? What factors constrain its reception and
  interpretation?
- The role of historical events and discourses in shaping collective memory.

Note: the adoption of the term "South-Eastern Europe" by the organisers
does not mean that it may not be equally exposed to debate during the
course of the seminar's proceedings. On the contrary: contributions
addressing this problem are especially welcome.