The Fate of the Art of History in Contemporary Eastern Europe: New National Narratives or Search for New Methodology?

Date: 
December 10, 2007 - 10:00 - December 11, 2007 - 15:15
Event type: 
Workshop
Event audience: 
Open to the Public

The goal of the workshop was two-folded. First, to distinguish between the rising “new national narratives” throughout Central and Eastern Europe (Russia included) that penetrate school textbooks and politicians’ vocabulary on the one hand, and new Comparative and trans-national history that finds its way to academia and university classrooms in the region, on the other. The second goal of the workshop was to provide a common explanatory framework for introducing a series of concepts grounded in the academic discourse on international relations into the teaching of trans-national history.

The organizers of the workshop worried about the growing use of history in Russia and some other Eastern European countries as a tool for setting political demands and for promotion of identity policies aimed at construction of “the Other”. New school texts and officially “recommended” narratives create preconditions for possible cultural and even political conflicts in the region. On the other hand, contemporary art of History has already outlived the period of creation of national narratives. However, many university teachers are unfamiliar with the modern theoretical approaches to historical research. Moreover, some concepts recently migrated to art of History from the other disciplines and need to be adapted and adopted.

The project is focused on a set of theoretical approaches pertaining to different disciplines of historical background (History of International Relations, Diplomatic History, History of Civilizations, History of Political Thought, Modern and Current History, Russian History, and the like). The workshop was interested in those approaches that are, in a way, “moving targets”, which means that they “migrate” from one teaching discipline to another (for example, from History of Political Thought to History of IR). In educational terms, these are “multiple use concepts” that require special attention due to the fact that each of them conceptually frames more than one teaching discipline. For instance, such concepts as identity, hegemony, discourse, policy / politics, representation, norm / rule, gender and others are parts of a number of teaching disciplines. The problem looming large here is that educators in each of them tend to come up with their own explanations of the meaning of this or that concept, its cognitive force and conceptual limitations. Each discipline has its own vocabulary and a set of educational approaches, which actualizes the search for common backgrounds that would bridge the gaps between the disciplines.

A unified approach to a variety of theoretical departures is neither possible nor desirable, but what is in demand is a menu of teaching techniques to provide a common interpretative framework and terminological background for each of the theoretical departures in question. To a certain extent, this is a communicative issue: it is quite challenging to form a shared vocabulary that would suite not only historians but also International Relations specialists of different epistemic pedigrees.

The approach to a significant extent consists in identifying the key concepts (nodal/quilting points) within the academic disciplines listed above and tracing their transformations. It was the intention of this workshop to define the conditions under which the key concepts belonging to one discipline might be used (both in educational and research purposes) within another discipline, and whether this operation of displacement might be conducive to appearance of new articulations.

The workshop was especially important for Volgograd State University: Volgograd (former Stalingrad) was the battleground of the major battle of the Second World War, and it became the major symbol for Russian national historical narrative. Without deconstructing the narrative, the workshop will deepen the understanding of key concepts involved into its construction and assist historians to acquire skills of contemporary Historical profession.

Program and list of participants:

December 10-11, 2007
Volgograd, Russia

List of participants:

Volgograd

  • Dr. Ivan Kurilla (Volgograd State University)
  • Dr. Alexander Kubyshkin (Volgograd State University)
  • Dr. Sergey Golunov (Volgograd State University)
  • Dr. Nikolay Stankov (Volgograd State University)

Russian participants from other cities

  • Dr. Andrey Makarychev (Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University)
  • Dr. Andrey Dakhin (Volga & Viatka Academy for Public Service)
  • Dr. Alexander Sergounin (Nizhny Novgorod State University)
  • Dr. Maxim Bulakhtin (Perm’ University)
  • Dr. Olga Malinova (Russian Association of Political Science)
  • Dr. Victoria Zhuravleva (Russian State University for the Humanities)
  • Dr. Dmitrii Polyvyannyi (Ivanovo State University)

Non-Russian Participants

  • Dr. Georgii Sanikidze (Institute for Oriental Studies, Tbilisi, Georgia)
  • Dr. Arif Yusufov (Institute of peace and Democracy, Baku, Azerbaijan)
  • Dr. Volodymir Dubovyk (Odessa National University, Ukraine)