Together but Apart: Balkan Historians, the Global South, and UNESCO’s “History of Humanity”

by Bogdan C. Iacob

at New Europe College, Bucharest, 3 May, 2017.

The presentation showed how AIESEE (International Association for Southeast European Studies) and pressures from local political regimes propelled Balkan scholars into high profile positions within UNESCO’s project for a new world history entitled History of Humanity. I focused on the Cold War time frame of implementation of this global initiative: 1978 to 1989. History of Humanity aimed to create a universal narrative that reflected the radical transformations which had taken place since mid-1950s: de-colonization, the rise of the Global South in the UN-system, the critique of Eurocentrism/Westerncentrism, and, most importantly, the ever-growing emphasis on the originality of national cultures. This was UNESCO’s second attempt at a world history. The first was History of Mankind, which had been published from 1963 to 1976. I argued that the new edition created two horizons of opportunity for Southeast European scholars. First, the visibility they acquired within AIESEE consolidated their international academic status. Second and more importantly, many of the general issues debated within AIESEE were exported into the preparatory meetings for History of Humanity and later in its published volumes. Taking advantage of UNESCO and Romanian archives, the presentation discussed multiple levels of political and intellectual interaction – national-regional-global. History of Humanity was a context of epistemic internationalization within which Balkan historians could affirm regional and national identity on the basis of pre-existent conceptual, institutional, and personnel alignments. However, this cross-fertilization between local and international contexts cannot be detached from the tumultuous years of the late Cold War. By 1989, both Southeast Europe and UNESCO had suffered shocks that radically affected Balkan historians’ patterns of self-representation, both at home and abroad.

Socialist Experts and Trans-Systemic Networks of Economic Knowledge during the Cold War

by Vlad Pașca

at New Europe College, Bucharest, 26 April, 2017.

The presentation explores the main features of cooperation between economic experts during the pre-CSCE (Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe) era (1947-1975) under the aegis of the most comprehensive all-European organization of the period, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). At scientific and policy levels, contacts and exchanges between socialist and capitalist economic experts were circumscribed by common priorities and challenges faced by the UNECE staff and governments from both sides of the Iron Curtain. Continue reading Socialist Experts and Trans-Systemic Networks of Economic Knowledge during the Cold War

CFP: Spaces of Interaction between the Socialist Camp and the Global South

International Conference Spaces of Interaction between the Socialist Camp and the Global South.  Knowledge Production, Trade, and Scientific-Technical Cooperation in the Cold War Era

Date and location: 26-27 October, 2017, University of Leipzig

Deadline for submissions: 30 April, 2017.

International studies on Cold War history have overcome the simplified model of two superpower–dominated blocs defined by a rivalry along an impenetrable Iron Curtain. Transnational history approaches have reintroduced the explanatory axis of an economic divide between the Global North and the Global South. Other than in previous Cold War approaches, the (semi-)peripheries have taken centre stage. The recent debate has highlighted the significance of relations between Soviet bloc and developing countries in shaping the spatial order of the Cold War. “Socialist globalization” has become an integral part of the global post-war economic expansion. Contributing to this debate, our conference will focus on concrete spaces of economic East-South interactions. Transnational hubs, institutions, and infrastructures will be taken as a starting point to identify actors, interests, and power relations.

The conference is organized by Project B3 “East-South Relations during the Global Cold War”, which is part of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1199: “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition” at the University of Leipzig. The SFB is developing a historical narrative about the change of spatial orders under global conditions and a systematic approach that establishes a typology of spatial formats by exploring different scales of territories, networks, chains, enclaves, corridors, (special) zones, as well as the various indications of virtual and transnational spaces. Within this framework, Project B3 “East-South Relations in the Global Cold War” aims to challenge Cold War perspectives that take “Moscow’s” hegemony and centralized control by national communist parties for granted. To this end, the project asks to what degree were the borders of the Soviet bloc actually blurred and redrawn as a result of relations and interactions between the socialist camp and the Global South (with a special focus on African countries).

Read the rest of the announcement here.

 

CFP: Scientists and “Third World Countries” in the 1960s to 1980s

International conference, Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, 23-24 November, 2017

The conference focuses on the period starting in the 1960s, which saw great political and economic changes in the so-called “Third World Countries”. The process of decolonization, the emergence of independent countries created from former colonies and UN mandates and the efforts of other countries to break away from their dependence on Western powers, the nationalization of industry, whether oil fields in the Middle East or the Suez Canal in Egypt, brought a change in the political orientation of large areas of Asia and Africa. The situation in Cuba had a very specific development. The newly formed independent countries found themselves in the grip of the fight between Soviet and American influence. Continue reading CFP: Scientists and “Third World Countries” in the 1960s to 1980s

CFP: The United Nations and Decolonization after World War II

International Conference, New Orleans, Tulane University, June 8-9, 2017

In current debates about the origins of the United Nations (UN), is commonly understood that the organization was conceived as an instrument for the defense of the colonial powers’ interests. Guided by colonial paternalism, the UN established a distinction between “non-self-governing territories”, which were entitled solely to self-government, and the “trusteeship system”, which intended to conduct the colonies to independence. While the UN Charter stipulated that the colonial powers had to transmit technical and statistical information in respect to the conditions in the non-self-governing territories, it only established mechanisms for international supervision concerning the territories placed under the trusteeship system. Continue reading CFP: The United Nations and Decolonization after World War II

Theatricality and Socialist Realism in Romanian Theatre, 1946-1963

by Viviana Iacob

Originally published in Romanian > “Teatralitate şi realism socialist în teatrul românesc, 1946-1963”,  Studii şi Materiale de Istorie Contemporană, vol. 15/2016.

The article aims to show that when theatricality resurfaced in Romanian theatre debates after 1956, it did not replace the tenets of socialist realism altogether. It was rather a catalyst for the later to evolve into a more sustainable ideological construct in the context of de-Stalinization. The years after Stalin’s death produce in Eastern Europe tremendous changes culminating with the explosive ideological situation of 1956. At a cultural level, these changes unleashed important transformations without displacing however the socialist bedrock. The interwar debates dedicated to the burgeoning issue of theatricality and the western theatre tradition were still filtered through aesthetic coordinates that were put in place during the Stalinist period. The article focuses on debates generated around specific performances which premiered between 1946 and 1963. These events reshaped the socialist realist aesthetic by way of theatricality resulting in a reciprocally corrosive relationship in the following years. The article concludes that the recalibration of the socialist realist formula amounted to a selective process of appropriation that was done both laterally and diachronically. This approach engendered a new form of theatricality. Not a replacement of old socialist realist theatre aestetic but its refashioning.

Shakespeare as Détente: Cultural Diplomacy During the Cold War (1955–1964)

by Viviana Iacob, in Revista istorică, tom XXVI, 2015, nr. 3–4.

The article argues that events such as the visit of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Bucharest and the Romanian delegation at Stratford in 1964 were not singular and momentous achievements of détente cultural diplomacy. They were the most visible results of an exchange program with Great Britain that began in earnest in the mid-1950s. With the start of Khrushchev’s détente in Europe, the countries behind the Iron Curtain capitalized on points of contact that would speed up the cultural rapprochement. Consequently, when it came to engaging with a Western theatre tradition such as the UK’s, Shakespeare was always the starting point for transnational exchanges. From the mid-fifties onward, Romanian theatre practitioners and Shakespeare scholars pursued such interactions not only as a means to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries, but also as a medium for mutual cultural transfers with tremendous impact by the 1960s.