Beyond History and Identity: New Perspectives on Aesthetics, Politics, and Society in Eastern Europe, Berlin 2015

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Photo: Maryna Davydova under CC BY-SA 4.0


The winter academy was held 2–12 December 2015 in Berlin.

Academy participants

Academy participants

The “Euromaidan”, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the ongoing war in the Ukrainian-Russian border region of Donbas placed Ukraine, Russia, and all of Eastern Europe at the center of the world’s attention. It also posed new challenges for the interdisciplinary field of East European studies, especially, in light of the continuing strength of the rhetoric of ethnic nationalism and the resort taken to historical explanations of the regional conflicts. Infused with agency, history and identity figure as principle factors in the explanations of the conflict, both in political and academic circles. Yet, we ask whether history and identity bear agency on their own and can be understood and grasped apart from political and economic structural dynamics. In an attempt to overcome simplifying categories and explanations, we ask how much their essentialization obliterates crucial societal transformations, multiple forms of belonging, and trajectories of social change. Rather than simply discussing the role of history and identity, we would like to reflect upon the complexity and ambiguous nature of entanglements in historically grown condensed spaces of multinational (post-)imperial border regions and search for new vocabularies and insights to grasp diverse trajectories of their political and cultural developments.

The academy was convened by Andrii Portnov (Long-term Fellow of the Forum Transregionale Studien), Rory Finnin (University of Cambridge), Susanne Frank (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Ilia Gerasimov (Ab Imperio), Olena Haleta (Ivan Franko Lviv University), Anna Colin Lebedev (Sciences Po Paris), Magdalena Marszalek (Universität Potsdam), and Annette Werberger (Europa-Universität Viadrina).

The Winter Academy was part of the strategic cooperation between the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland. It was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF).

Contact: initiatives@trafo-berlin.de