Our activities

Conferences or workshops:

(13-14 July 2019) "The Politics of Classifying Linguistic Varieties"

With growing scholarly interest in the process of categorization, it is timely to situate linguistic categorization within the broader history of ideas. This conference invites case studies in the politics of linguistic classification that place linguistic debates within the broader context of political struggles. Selective reading of linguistic evidence can justify fanciful theories: what theories have caught the fancy of scholars? Since the politics of linguistic categorization has many dimensions, its study can be pursued on several levels.

First, heated debate has often taken place as to how a given variety relates to others: the politics of cladistics and/or language trees is often hotly contested. Sumerian, for example, has inspired numerous claims, many of them outlandish, regarding its relationship to other languages; some apparently derive from the desire to claim a connection with the people who first invented literacy. During the nineteenth century, scholars debated whether Hungarian was closer to Turkish or Finnish, with many Hungarian scholars preferring to imagine their distant linguistic relatives as steppe-dwelling conquerors on horseback, rather than forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. Claims to linguistic relationship are often taken to imply claims to kinship, and thus influence claims to indigeneity or distinctness.

A second type of debate has centred on the status of a given variety within a language family. The quintessential debate of this type is the ‘language vs. dialect’ controversy, where one group argues for the distinct languagehood of a variety, while another denies it: the first Czechoslovak Republic insisted, for example, that Slovak, now recognized as a separate language, was a dialect of a ‘Czechoslovak language’, and many scholars agreed. More exotic debates exist: during the heyday of Panslavism, scholars debated whether Slovak was a ‘dialect’ of Slavic, or a ‘sub-dialect’ of the Czech dialect of the ‘Slavic language’. Such debates often serve as proxies for debates about official recognition: many states mandate certain rights and resources to minority communities with distinct ‘languages’; few states assign the same rights and resources to minority ‘dialects’, ‘idioms’, ‘accents’, and so forth. Efforts to Romanize Chinese, Soviet language policy in Turkic central Asia, and missionary Bantu linguistics all offer particularly rich fields for examining the bestowal or withholding of prestigious linguistic status.

Finally, the debate may revolve around the applicability of descriptive categories. While some linguists once emphasized the Dutch origins of Afrikaans, in order to emphasize its European origins, recent scholars have preferred to emphasize its creole aspects, in order to mirror the diversity of post-Apartheid South Africa. We particularly invite investigations of political claims to linguistic categories we have not anticipated. Is there, for example, a politics of tonal language pride or agglutinative language chauvinism?

Send a one-paragraph abstract of 80-100 words by 15 June 2019 to: Alexander Maxwell: alexander.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz

The conference will take place at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

(25 August 2018) "The Boundaries of European National Literatures"

Patriots often express pride in national literature, claiming great works of art, or great novelists, as national icons. Literary figures may also imagine themselves promoting or embodying a national tradition. Whether novelists proclaim themselves national or are so proclaimed by others, however, the nation always has some boundary: as Benedict Anderson memorably put it, the nation is “inherently limited.” Even literatures whose boundaries are defined by a national language may have fuzzy boundaries, since the relationship of the national language to “dialectal” literature may be unclear. This conference explores the limits of the national language, either through an individual author, a literary circle or literary tradition, or in the minds of literary patriots.

Send an abstract by 15 July to: Alexander Maxwell: alexander.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz

The conference took place at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

(18 August 2018) "Balkan Urban Experiences"

Though frequently neglected in European studies, the Balkans, and South-Eastern Europe generally, remains a region of great significance to European history and society. This interdisciplinary workshop seeks to examine urban experiences in this region. How has the political, economic, cultural, national, and religious life of the Balkans been affected by urban environments? Alternatively, how have Balkan cities been shaped by the unique experiences of its peoples? Papers examining any Balkan city are welcome, and comparative papers transcending national borders are particularly welcome.

Send an abstract by 10 July to: Alexander Maxwell: alexander.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz

The conference took place at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

(18-19 June 2018) "Visual Culture and Conflict in Central and Eastern Europe."

Central and Eastern Europe have been both the site of numerous local conflicts and the battleground of some of the largest conflicting ideologies of the eighteenth – twentieth centuries. The symposium aims to bring together scholars from a range of disciplines to examine how these conflicts in their various forms (such as social, economic, religious, ethnonational, imperial, and ideological) have been represented in diverse visual media (including, but not restricted to, painting, photography, film, cartoons, caricatures, museum displays, maps and graphs). Themes papers might address include:

* How does visual culture contribute to or mitigate conflict?
* Are there distinct Central and Eastern European representations of conflict?
* How have ideological and regime shifts shaped representations of conflict?
* Conversely, do visual cultures transcend ideological and regime shifts?
* How have sciences like cartography, ethnography, and physical anthropology shaped representations of conflict?
* How has visual culture been use to elide and disguise conflict?

We intend to publish a themed issue with a scholarly journal from the conference. Potential contributors may contribute to the themed issue without attending the symposium.

Please send abstracts to: sacha.davis@newcastle.edu.au by 15 April 2018.

This symposium was hosted by the Centre for the History of Violence at the University of Newcastle (Australia). The event was free and open to the public.

(10 June 2017) "Music, Culture and Society in Central Europe."

Music and musicians played important roles in Central European cultural life. From the court to the street, from high literature to journalism, attitudes toward music became entwined not only with aesthetic values such as art and beauty, but also social and political values: the nation, monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, manliness, and justice. This conference seeks papers that link music, musical performance, or individual musicians with social and cultural projects in Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Poland, or the Balkans. We are particularly interested in historical perspectives, but papers with a more contemporary focus will also be considered.

Send an abstract to: Alexander Maxwell: alexander.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz

The conference took place at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

(11 March 2017) "Understanding ISIS/ISIL"

The emergence and success of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, popularly known as ‘ISIS’ or ‘Daesh,’ has had tragic consequences for people living in Syria and Iraq, but also aroused consternation and alarm in Europe, America, and beyond. This interdisciplinary workshop attempts to look beyond popular hysteria to consider the significance of the Islamic State for the Middle East, for the Islamic world, for Russia, and/or for the Western powers.

Send an abstract to: Alexander Maxwell: alexander.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz

The conference will take place from 12 noon to 2:30 pm in the New Kirk Lecture Theatre, KKLT 301, at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

(7 July 2016) "Nationalism as Classification"

Nationalism theorist Rogers Brubaker proposed as an object of scholarly analysis “the modern state’s efforts to inscribe its subjects onto a classificatory grid: to identify and categorize people,” and generally drawing attention to historical actors who acquire “power to name, to identify, to categorize, to state what is what and who is who.” This conference explores classification and taxonomy as they affect nationality. Who classifies nations, how, and why? How are taxonomies imposed or resisted? How do national taxonomies interact with racial, linguistic, civilizational, or other taxonomies? We are interested both comparative analyses of nationalist taxonomies or case studies of individual taxonomizers. Send an abstract to: Alexander Maxwell: alexander.maxwell@vuw.ac.nz

The conference took place at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

We intend to publish selected papers in a scholarly journal. Potential contributors may contribute to the themed issue of the journal without attending the conference. The editor of the journal Nationalities Papers has provisionally expressed interest in publishing selected papers. Nationalities Papers has been ranked Q1 for history in the “SCImago” journal rankings every year since 1999.

Conference (5 July 2016): "Historical Practices of Civic Nationalism"

This workshop critically examined the concept of civic nationalism as a potentially useful analytical category in nationalism research, and investigated the historical practices of civic or at least quasi-civic nationalisms from around the globe. Which strategies did multi-ethnic and multi-cultural nation-states pursue in the past to foster national sentiment? Can their example offer useful lessons to contemporary democratic nation-states for successfully integrating immigrant populations? Which processes of “Othering” have characterized civic nationalisms?

The conference took place at the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

Conference (9 May 2016) "Evolving Institutions in Ukraine"

In recent years, the modern Ukrainian state has once again become a topic of international interest. Civil and economic unrest have disrupted many elements of life, both for Ukrainian citizens and their international relationships. Current scholarship examining these socio-political developments draws heavily on post-Soviet studies, encompassing notions of soft power, cultural hegemony and centrally-planned economies. Key themes in contemporary considerations build on these common themes to investigate economic development, international relations, ethnic separatism and nationalism, and media and security studies, drawing together findings from across Ukrainian history and society.

The conference took place in AM 101 at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, thanks to the generous support of the National Centre for Research on Europe at Canterbury University, part of the New Zealand European Studies Network. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

Conference (28 March 2015) "Revolution and Repression in the Arab World"

The 2011 "Arab Spring" sparked dramatic political transformations in several Arab countries, with widely varying results. Tunisia and Egypt held remarkably free elections, while Libya and Syria collapsed into violent civil conflict. As of January 2015, Tunisia appears to have provisionally made a successful transition to democratic government. In Syria, meanwhile, the Islamic State, according to German journalist Jürgen Todenhöfer, aspires to "kill all Muslims who recognize Democracy." We seek papers exploring the politics of revolution and repression in the contemporary Arab World, broadly understood.

The conference took place in OK 406 (the Wood Seminar room) at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public.

Conference (5 February 2015) "International Norms and East European nations."

Timothy Garton Ash notoriously claimed that the collapse of Communism in East-Central Europe brought forth “no fundamentally new ideas on the big questions of politics, law, and international relations.” All too often, scholars examine the region’s post-Communist “transition” by asking whether countries have or have not accepted or implemented institutions or values originally developed in Western Europe or North America. Eastern European nations, however, have their own aspirations rooted in domestic history and traditions. The garments of progress and democracy must be tailor-made: one size does not fit all. While local elites may also pursue illiberal policies under the banner of local peculiarity, they may rightly detect imperial self-interest sanctimoniously posing as progress or “international norms.”

The conference took place in OK 406 (the Wood Seminar room) at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The organziers were Alexander Maxwell and Wenwen Shen. The conference had no registration fee, and was open to the public

Call for guest speakers

The Antipodean East European Study Group is always looking for guest speakers. If you would like to give a talk at Victoria University on any topic related to East-Central European politics, history, culture, or diaspora communities, contact Alexander Maxwell.

Guest Lectures

(7 February 2019) René Moehrle (Univeristy of Trier)

"The Ambivalence of Trieste: Between Multi-Ethnicity and Radical Fascism"

Mussolini visited Trieste three times before rising to power, studying the success of the local movement. Trieste then hosted the third largest Jewish Community in Italy and important local fascists were Jews. Anti-Semitic measures in Trieste increased since the early 1930s. In 1938, Mussolini visited Trieste to declare Jews enemies of Italian fascism in his only public speech on this topic. The German occupation of Italy in 1943 turned Trieste into the capital of the Adriatic Coastland, a special military operation zone governed by SS generals Friedrich Rainer and Odilo Globocnik. Globocnik constructed the only concentration camp south of the Alps with an incinerator.

This talk will take place at 12:00 noon in the Wood Seminar Room (OK 406) on the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University. The event is free and open to the public

(13 September 2018) Julie Sardelić (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow)

"From Temporary Protection to Transit Migration: Responses to Refugee Crises in the Balkans"

Countries in the Western Balkans have faced several refugee crises. In the 1990s, refugee crises resulted from the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Between the summer of 2015 and early 2016, the European continent faced another refugee crisis due to the ongoing civil war in Syria. During the 2015/16 refugee crisis, different political leaders in the post-Yugoslav space claimed that their humanitarian approach towards refugees was based on their previous experience from the 1990s. This paper explores and compares legal and political responses of five countries along the Western Balkan route: three European Union Member States (Austria, Slovenia and Croatia) and two EU candidate countries (Serbia and North Macedonia). The Temporary Protection Directive, an EU law developed during the Yugoslav refugee crisis has faced ambivalent application during the 2015/16 refugee crisis. National legislation has also changed: the main approach adopted during the Yugoslav crisis emphasized temporary protection, while in 2015/2016 the main approach concerns ‘transit migration.’

This talk took place on 13 September at 12:00 noon in the Wood Seminar Room (OK 406) on the Kelburn Campus of Victoria University. The event was free and open to the public.

This page was last updated on 7 November 2018