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.

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CFP: From Below and In Between – Narrating and Practicing the Cold War in South East Europe

Organizers: Janis Nalbadidacis (Chair for South East European History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Matthias Thaden (Chair for the History of Western Europe and Transatlantic Relations, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Date: June 1-2, 2017

Deadline for Applications: February 5, 2017

Venue: Berlin

The Cold War as a global geopolitical order after World War II had a profound impact on the comparatively small area of South East Europe. Ideological fault lines divided various countries from one another and resulted in an exceptionally fragmented political landscape: Rumania und Bulgaria joined the Warsaw Pact under Soviet influence, Greece and Turkey became members of the NATO, and Yugoslavia held a leading position in the Non-Aligned movement. Furthermore, Albania broke bonds with the Soviet Union in 1962 and became increasingly isolated. Not only in a Cold War-context, South East Europe is often seen as a periphery to the global centers. The workshop will challenge this perspective. Instead, we will approach the region as a center of ideological fractions during the Cold War, therefore treating it as a “burning glass” of geopolitical orders. Continue reading CFP: From Below and In Between – Narrating and Practicing the Cold War in South East Europe