Monday, September 30, 2013

Call for Papers: Urban Villagers: everyday life, leisure and socialist cities XXIInd CISH Congress, (International Congress of Historical Sciences)

Call for Papers: Urban Villagers: everyday life, leisure and socialist cities XXIInd CISH Congress, (International Congress of Historical Sciences), Jinan, China 23 to 29 August 2015
Location: China
Call for Papers Date: 2013-11-30
Date Submitted: 2013-09-17
Announcement ID: 206700

XXIInd CISH Congress, in Jinan
Jinan, China 23 to 29 August 2015

Call for Papers
ST4 Urban Villagers: everyday life, leisure and socialist cities
Specialised theme

This specialized theme session examines the official discourses and experiences that shaped the parameters of everyday life and the reactions of socialist citizens to the circumstances in which they found themselves in socialist cities during the communist period. Concentrating in particular on the regulation of leisure, the session attempts to address the questions as to how the authorities sought to frame social conflict in terms of a struggle between the civilized and the backward, the urban and the rural. In so doing, it offers insights into the nature of state socialism as a project of cultural transformation.
The session will focus on the following questions:
What were the differences in the transformation of city life in different cities and states? How did official discourse represent the urban villagers and what was the function of this representation in everyday life?
Rulers have always dreamed of creating cities from nothing or fashioning civilization out of the wilderness. Despite this, socialist cities met the criteria of a city only in a very restricted sense in the eyes of contemporaries. In order to ensure that residents began to consider the settlement in which they lived a city, the very social definition of a city had to be changed. In this process a decisive role was played by official discourse, which privileged a representation of the citys construction as a struggle between the urban and non-urban, and, using older analogies, as a struggle between the civilized and the wild. This session explores the national and the social differences and similarities of socialist cities such as Nowa Huta (Poland), Stalinstadt (German Federal Republic), Dimitrovgrad (Bulgaria), and Sztalinvaros (Hungary). Although the session will focus on modern Central and Eastern Europe, the discussion goes beyond the borders of
European debates about the representations of urban history, so papers on Asian, African and South-American ways of representing urban life will contribute to the discussion.

Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words and a short biographical sketch; together with a brief biography and selected list of three publications (we do not accept CVs).
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 30 November 2013.

Proposals should be submitted to the organizers by email:
Sandor Horvath (Institute of History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
Robert Frank (Secretary General, International Committee of Historical Sciences)

Proposals should be a maximum of 2 500 characters - 350 words and should be sent with a short biographical note to the organizers and to the Secretary General Robert Frank : by the 30th November 2013.
Sandor Horvath
Institute of History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences
1014 Budapest, Orszaghaz u.30. Hungary
Robert Frank
Secretary General, International Committee of Historical Sciences

Visit the website at

Monday, September 23, 2013

CFP: Visual Urban Transformations: Transition and Change in Urban Image Construction in Central and Eastern Europe

As the chaotic canvases of cities are being stretched over a framework of identity, its further exploration seems more than appropriate. Amidst the incredibly rapid urban growth crowding more than half of the world population in towns and cities, the questions are only going to keep multiplying. How are city identities made and re-made, used and abused, imagined and narrated, politicised and communicated, expressed and projected, imposed and marketed? And above all, how do they thrive within the dynamic interpolation of the nexus of East-West, Europe-Balkans, and centre-periphery, urban – suburban, old and new. As out-dated as these dichotomies sound, in many places their daily life is far from over. As old cities became new capitals and new capitals struggle for more capital, the challenges of maintaining state-driven collective identities in the face of cultural fragmentation and diversification, coupled with consumer-attractiveness is turning them into urban palimpsest. This transformation is ever more complex in the cities of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. In these last decades, during the period of socio-political and cultural deconstruction, the redefinitions of their urban space reflect the need to refashion, consolidate or even establish their new/old identities. Flooded with imported ‘non-places’, (not) dealing with the material legacy of memories of the recent past that seem unable to resolve, trying to accept or reject the rest of Europe in the race towards ‘Europeanization’, these cities adopt different approaches in their aim to resemble and at the same time, differ. Zagreb generously welcomed its marketing nickname “pocket size Vienna”, while regenerating itself with the mega Museum of Contemporary Art tailored up to an imagined ‘Western European’ standard. Skopje’s attention seeking project transformed the ‘open city of solidarity’ into a literal national identity construction site. The list goes on. Queuing to win the old continent’s capital of culture contest and eager to squeeze into the ever-enlarging itinerary of the consumerist Grand Tour, the only thing cities are not allowed to be, is invisible. As the research on cultural identities of the city is becoming more abundant, this panel aims at adopting a wide-lens inter-disciplinary approach, while focusing on various transitional processes affecting identities in the urban context in its global-regional-national-local interplay.

Some example of topics may include (but are not limited to):

Collective memory, identity and urban image construction
Appropriation, instrumentalisation and functualisation of public space
Contemporary nomadism and the city as a common denominator for collective identities
Architecture as ‘politics with bricks and mortar’
Is there a new rise of the city-state?
Urban regeneration projects, landmark buildings and ‘starchitects’
Non-places and (non)identity
Immigrants and the cultural identity of cities
City marketing and city branding in transition
European capitals of culture and European identity
Identity creation and the cultural offer of the city
Urban cultural heritage as identity-anchor
Creative Changes of the cities
Art and industry in urban development
Urban aesthetics
Ugliness, kitsch and value in shaping contemporary urban spaces
Post-communism and the shape of urban change
East-West nexuses in urban development

Please submit abstracts of less than 300 words by October 5, 2013 to

For full details of the conference and on-line application please see:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Urban and Landscape Days XI
May 8-11, 2014
Tallinn, Estonia
Call for papers (deadline: Dec 2, 2013)

Although most European cities both in the 'East' and in the 'West' grew rapidly in the post-war decades, the important questions  regarding the difference between urbanization under the two conflicting political regimes has never been deeply analysed and resolved in the urban studies. Thus, the post-1989 success and current renaissance of the notion of 'post-socialism' seems surprising. At the same time, however, the number of critical voices has been growing. 
Still, can we seriously talk about post-socialism, lacking not only a fully developed definition and understanding of ‘post-socialist city’ but also what is 'the socialist city'?

The missing or poor definition of ‘socialism’ is one of the key weaknesses of the concept of post-socialism. Socialism comes into the question of post-socialism in different ways: What are the 'socialist' origins of 'post-socialist' practices? What importance did the imagined return to 'pre-socialist' capitalism play in building the 'post-socialist' capitalism? Is negation of socialism (the
 'anti-socialism') an important aspect of post-socialism? Whereas socialism could be seen both as a political idea and as an actual historical experience, post-socialism appears to be a societal condition only that is, furthermore, primarily restricted to a region of former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

The existence of different socialisms—such as Soviet, Czechoslovakian, Yugoslavian, Chinese and Vietnamese— however, problematizes the regional bias of the term post-socialism. Would it be possible to talk about the common 'post-socialist' experience facing such different historical and geographical contexts? Would China be comprehensible as post-socialist similarly as Hungary or Estonia? Does it need downplaying historical and cultural particularities of China (but of course other contexts as well) that unquestionably are present? Would property regimes or ‘urban villages’ in China be comprehensible from the perspective of Eastern Europe?

In this context, we wish to initiate a fresh debate regarding the future of (the concepts of) socialism and post-socialism through engagements with different geographical contexts such as Eastern Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere. We would like to engage ‘post-socialism’ with ongoing debates of comparative urbanism but also seek ways to re-develop and conceptualise ‘socialism’ and ‘post-socialism’ themselves.

The conference aims to explore histories and geographies of socialism  and post-socialism in relation to three themes: 1) architecture and urban planning, 2) land use and landscape, and 3) property rights.
1) ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN PLANNING: Many seeds of today's  architectural and planning thinking have been planted in the socialist period. Historically, modernism and socialism developed hand in hand. Yet the roots of “post-socialist post-modernism”, to take one example, can be traced back to 1980s, if not earlier. This raises the questions about the relation between the architectural dissent under socialism and post-socialist architecture mainstream. In some instances, the value of buildings and urban plans from socialist period is being rediscovered today. Which aspects of socialist urban planning and architecture persist and what is to be learned from (which?) discarded ideas of socialist urban planning?

2) LAND USE AND LANDSCAPE: Suburbanization and rediscovery of historic city centres: these processes are portrayed as almost 'natural' to East European post-socialist experience. Yet, is it so simple? A similar enquiry about the socialist roots of these processes could be made. Individual construction of family houses was allowed, if not encouraged, in many countries during socialist periods. Similar questions emerge in relation to historical cores whereby the notion of heritage and the idea of international image-making clearly existed during the socialist period. Could we draw parallels between socialism and what happens today? What are the origins of today's prominence that we assign to urban leisure function, of the idea that cities should be beautiful and enjoyable, of our sense for 'landscaping' of urban space? Furthermore, looking at landscapes raises questions of different modes of production and ways of representations. What are the relations between socialist ideas and landscapes? How post-socialism manifests itself in various aspects of land use and landscape?

3) PROPERTY RIGHTS: The transfer from state ownership to private ownership (privatizations, special economic zones) is a well-known account of the post-socialist transformation. However, can we observe counter-tendencies (social, political, legal) at play: that is, from private to state, public, or common? Can one note only neo-liberal privatisation or also alternative forms of collective and public property? Has state withdrawn from property market or found different roles in regulating and practising it? Although new generation of activism has appeared on the horizon, the privatism is challenged predominantly at the level of use, access and life-style. The value of community and public spaces is accepted by wide array of actors, but the more controversial issue of ownership and property rights is often left untouched. Perhaps the value of ‘private property’ is widely accepted and the critique is not only difficult to make but also counter-intuitive. We welcome critical empirical and theoretical engagements that reflect on the different forms of property—ranging from private to variously organised common, collective and public ownership—and the notion of post-socialism.

We welcome theoretically informed presentations and case studies from a variety of fields including urban studies, architecture, landscape studies, art history, sociology, anthropology, organizational studies and urban economics. Historically oriented presentations are welcome and authors are encouraged to highlight historical connections between the past, the present, and the future: unexpected genealogies, continuities and rediscoveries of ideas, forms and practices. We welcome oral and poster presentation of urban and architectural projects, artistic research and research through design that work with the questions above. We also encourage other non-standard forms of presentation.

Please send your abstract (300 words) and short bio (60 words) by Dec 2, 2013 to
The conference is organized by the Faculty of Architecture, Estonian
Academy of Arts. It is the eleventh installment of the now-traditional Urban and Landscape Days.
Keynote speakers include Lukasz Stanek (Harvard GSD / The Manchester University) and KARO Architects (Leipzig).

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Call: Actors of Urban Change

Actors of Urban Change is a Europe-wide pilot program by the Robert Bosch Stiftung in cooperation with MitOst e.V. It aims to achieve sustainable and participatory urban development through cultural activities. This is carried out by strengthening the competencies for cross-sector collaboration among actors from the cultural scene, the administration, and the private sector who form teams of three committed to implementing a project in their city. Using culture as a tool, the projects might address a broad range of social, political and environmental challenges related to urban change.
On a local level, the teams receive support for the implementation of their joint projects through grants and customized coaching. On an international level, they benefit from further qualification through workshops, seminars, peer-learning sessions and field trips during meetings and shadowing internships with teams from different cities, allowing for Europe-wide exchange and networking.
A more detailed description of the program and contact information, as well as access to the call, FAQs and the online application form can be found on The application deadline is October 27, 2013.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Post socialist spaces from a historical perspective...

James Mark, University of Exeter; Josie McLellan, University of Bristol 25.03.2013, Exeter, UK 
Bericht von: Marcel Thomas, Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol 
E-Mail: <>
In the last two decades, historians have produced a rich literature on the spatial history of the Eastern bloc.[1] A wide range of studies has shown that the physical spaces of socialist Eastern Europe 'had politics' and were crucial to regimes' attempts to intervene in the everyday lives of their citizens.[2] However, space remains a highly complex notion and historians have also used it to conceptualise a wide range of interactions and power struggles between different actors in society.[3] The workshop 'Spaces of Late Socialism' held on March 13, 2013 at Exeter University set out to explore the different ways in which social groups, activists and socialist regimes conceptualised social space and its relationship to political conformity or opposition between the 1960s and 1989. 
In a short introduction, JAMES MARK (Exeter) stressed that the workshop was designed to revisit the historical debates about socialist spaces so far and explore future directions for a spatial history of the Eastern bloc. As all six papers discussed a different country, the workshop provided an opportunity to compare the politics of space across socialist Eastern Europe and analyse whether transnational patterns can be detected in the use of space by activists or regimes. Moreover, the participants aimed to discuss the role of an 'imaginary West' and examine whether it would be justified to speak of 'parallel histories of space' in East and West in the postwar era. Finally, the workshop was designed to develop new thoughts about chronologies in the spatial history of socialism. With its focus on the last three decades of the socialist era, it tried to explore the role of spaces in the transformation of Eastern bloc societies and the eventual collapse of the regimes. 
JOSIE MCLELLAN (Bristol) presented a conceptually challenging study of the role of space in the political self-understanding and activism of gays and lesbians in East Berlin between 1968 and 1989. She introduced 'scale' as a concept which is fundamental to an understanding of the ways in which individuals imagined their own place in socialist society. Although scale has long been an enormously important concept for geographers, it has so far hardly been used by historians. Understanding the world as scaled - with scales ranging from the body, the local and the neighbourhood to the national and the global - provides us with a sense of power relationships, size and hierarchy. McLellan pointed out that the gays and lesbians of East Berlin used a wide range of scalar notions to position themselves in relation to the regime and socialist society. For example, gays and lesbians often used the scale of the body to 'come out' or playfully turned the home into a political space when they used it to meet and cross-dress. In some cases, they also intentionally took their protest to the public scale of the neighbourhood and the city when they participated in the May Day parades in East Berlin. As McLellan stressed, these different scales were not isolated, neither in real life nor in the thoughts of the activists. Instead, the 'play of scale' employed by East German gays and lesbians is key to an understanding of their activism in a socialist dictatorship. Therefore, McLellan demonstrated that scale can help us to understand the 'geographies of everyday life' and the complex ways in which individuals imagined their own role in socialist society. 
JAMES MARK focused on spaces of dissent in Hungary between 1965 and 1975. Due to the lack of a Hungarian '1968', the literature on 1960s activism in Hungary is sparse. However, Mark stressed that activism did exist, but mostly within institutional spaces provided by the state. Communist youth reformers advocated local grass-roots power and had quite specific demands to put their ideals of communism into practice. However, they did not challenge the authority of the party and rather saw themselves in a dialogue with the regime. Some - such as reformers within the Communist Youth movement - categorically rejected public protest and were often suspicious of the Prague Spring. As Mark pointed out, these reformers were supported by the state because the regime wanted to channel youth activism into official spaces and build socialism on a day-to-day basis (the so-called 'revolution of the everyday') to avoid another escalation of protest like 1956. Nonetheless, there was also a small number of orthodox Marxist activists who expressed political protest outside these official spheres. For example, in 1965 they organised the first public demonstrations since 1956 to express solidarity with North Vietnam and attack the regime for having abandoned the revolutionary path. These activists started to organise themselves as an underground party and tried to gain the support of the workers, but their protest was brought to an end by their arrest and trial. Mark highlighted that some Hungarian activism revealed a similar development to 1960s protest in the West, as activists at first unsuccessfully tried to change politics and later successfully changed everyday life instead. 
DAVID CROWLEY (London) examined the role of socialist architects in Eastern bloc societies and their relation to power and dissent. Focusing on the relationship between opposition and architecture, Crowley explored the question whether architecture in the Eastern bloc could be seen as a form of dissidence. Central to his analysis was the notion of 'paper architecture', architecture in which the expression of certain ideas is more important than the actual realisation of buildings. Drawing on examples from Poland, Hungary and the Soviet Union, Crowley pointed out that architects could express criticism in their work despite their proximity to the regimes. He outlined three different types of criticism put forward by architects in the Eastern bloc: kritika or samo-kritika, 'licensed critique' (for example the criticism of housing plans that would not improve the housing situation) and dissent. Moreover, he pointed out that the state did not have a monopoly on construction, as for example the most ambitious architecture in the Eastern bloc was produced by the Church. Eventually, Crowley stressed that more research is necessary to determine whether critical architecture could really be called 'protest' if it was officially approved by the regime. 
In the PhD panel in the afternoon, AGÁTA DRELOVÁ (Exeter) explored the relationship between the state and the churches in Czechoslovakia through the notion of 'memory spaces'. In particular, she focused on the St Methodius festival of 1985, which was co-organised by the state and the Church and attracted up to 150,000 people. The regime tried to hijack this religious event to both strengthen its bond with the official Church and combat the secret Church. Drelová pointed out that this intervention of the regime represented the culmination of a fundamental change in its policies towards religion. The original position of the communist leaders had been characterised by an official disinterest in religion on the one hand and sustained efforts to suppress the memories of Catholic nationalism on the other. However, the regime's disregard for apolitical spaces enabled the Catholic Church to successfully recruit among students and organise the first mass pilgrimages in the 1970s. Drelová showed how the state reacted to the rise of Catholic activism in postwar Czechoslovakia and especially in the 1980s began to use religious identification for its own cause, which led to a 're-Christianisation of national narratives'. 
ANNA KAN's (Bristol) contribution analysed the physical spaces that were used by young members of a rock band in Leningrad in the 1970s and 1980s. As Kan demonstrated, the rock scene in Leningrad was heavily influenced by Western ideals. Young people tried to recreate Western rock music with simple means and also followed Western ideals in their desire to discover a new way of life. They appropriated the cafés, squares and parks of Leningrad to their own ends and thus gave them new meanings as spaces of the sub-cultural scene. Although fears of the police and the regime constantly influenced the group's actions, they cannot be said to have gone underground. Many of the spaces they used were open public spaces, such as parks or the courtyard of St Michael's castle in Leningrad. Kan also highlighted that there was an interesting dynamic between the singers and their crowd, as both knew each other and in fact acted as members of one group. Together, they were increasingly able to use public spaces for their alternative life styles and thus quite literally reclaimed urban spaces from the regime. 
LJUBICA SPASKOVSKA (Exeter) examined the conflicting understandings of socialist citizenship among the youth of late socialist Yugoslavia. In particular, she explored the 'youth infrastructure' of Yugoslav society as a space of activism and dissent. Youth centres for example provided real spaces for self-expression and offered opportunities to create a counter-cultural 'parallel world'. As Spaskovska emphasised, public and media spaces were used by young people in similar ways. Numerous youth magazines published themes similar to Western magazines and provoked with their radical cover photos. A new generation of young people in the late socialist era succeeded in 'hijacking' youth media to publicise their own beliefs and express social critique. Moreover, this also caused what Spaskovska called a 'spill-over effect', as members of the counter-culture began to occupy public spaces as well. For example, a square in Ljubljana was taken over by young punk activists and publicly renamed 'Johnny Rotten Square' in 1981. Spaskovska argued that for these youth activists the expression of personal freedom was the only thing that mattered and she thus opposed the common interpretation of their actions as standing for bigger ideas like nationalism. 
In the concluding debate, the participants agreed that youth movements had emerged from the conference as a common and prominent space for self-expression across the Eastern bloc. Mark highlighted that the emergence of new alternative spaces in the 1970s and 1980s which did not necessarily have to be seen as oppositional constitutes another linking theme in the history of socialist Eastern Europe. However, he also pointed out that more research on the diverse motivations of activists and the actors involved will be necessary to confirm this observation. Reflecting on more conceptual issues related to the notion of 'space', Crowley reminded the participants that space immediately seems to 'leak out' into other concepts and thus also poses a number of challenges to the historian who uses it to conceptualise power struggles in socialist society. Eventually, the workshop demonstrated that all over the Eastern bloc the reconquest of different spaces by the people in the 1970s and 1980s lay at the heart of a deep-rooted transformation process in state and society. To what an extent this development can be linked to the collapse of the socialist regimes in Eastern Europe will have to be explored further. Therefore, the workshop showed directions for further research and revealed how a spatial history of the Eastern bloc can help historians to understand the changing relationship between the state and the individual in late socialist Eastern Europe. 

Conference Overview 
Introductory Remarks 
Josie McLellan (Bristol): To scale? Gay and Lesbian Spaces in East Berlin, 1968-1989 
James Mark (Exeter): Where to Be Political? Activism and the Use of Space in Hungary, 1965-75 David Crowley (London): Architecture at the Limits of Critique in Late Socialism in Eastern Europe 
PhD Panel 
Agáta Drelová (Exeter): Re-producing the 'Underground' in Post-Communist Catholic Memory 
Anna Kan (Bristol): How Leningrad Became a City of Rock 
Ljubica Spaskovska (Exeter): 'Pockets of Freedom' - Subversive Youth Institutions and Narratives of Freedom in Late Socialist Yugoslavia 
Closing discussion 

[1] See, for example: David Crowley / Susan E. Reid (eds.), Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc, Oxford 2002; Anders Åman, Architecture and Ideology in Eastern Europe during the Stalin Era: An Aspect of Cold-War History, Cambridge 1992. 
[2] David Crowley / Susan E. Reid, Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc, in: David Crowley / Susan E. Reid (eds.), Socialist Spaces: Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc, Oxford 2002, pp. 1-23, p. 2. 
[3] See, for example: Stephen Kotkin, Magnetic Mountain: Stalinism as Civilisation, London 1995; Breda Luthar / Marusa Pusnik, The Lure of Utopia: Socialist Everyday Spaces, in: Breda Luthar / Marusa Pusnik (eds.), Remembering Utopia: The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, Washington 2010, pp. 1-35.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

CfP: Imagining Development - Comparing Theory and Practice of Development in the Post-socialist World

International Workshop

Imagining Development - Comparing Theory and Practice of Development in the Post-socialist World
Institute of Governance and Political Science, Tallinn University,
8-9 November 2013

This workshop is part of the Marie Curie Project PIRSES-GA-2013-318961 (PSDEV): Imagining Development: A multidisciplinary and multilevel analysis of development policies and their effect in the post-socialist world.

The workshop will be composed of two parts

Young scholars section: PhD students and recent PhD graduates will have the opportunity of presenting their research and get feedback from more senior scholars.

Networking section: Participants will have the chance to present briefly their research and meet with other scholars from a wide network of universities. In addition to the project partners, we will invite scholars from two more networks Tallinn University is coordinating plus from other major European universities.

Focus of the workshop
The workshop will explore the way development (be this local ornational, political or social) in a series of post-socialist states has been conceived, implemented and applied to different political, economic and geopolitical realities across the region and the response that has generated from this implementation.

The three guiding research questions are
First, what are the main features of development policies conceived in the past 20 years in and towards the post-socialist region? What have been their main achievements and limits?

Second, what have been the effects of development policies conceived at the national and international level on the different segments of a society or a given local territory? Whilst policies may be regulated in details, and its rules are findable among official documents, little is known about the extent and the way in which those instructions are renegotiated and alternatives channels of distribution created in the cases where formal and informal rules do not overlap.

Third, what are the new interactions being created and what is the relationship with traditional spaces of economic development policies? Often failure to deliver the expected results is ascribed to the wrong measures adopted or the result of incompetence (or  corruption). Those two interpretations fail to consider the case when such irregularities persist in time and bring different results but not necessarily worse than the ones envisaged when conceived given policies or actions.

Technical details
There is no registration fee; we are unable to cover travel costs but we will provide accommodation and food for selected speakers (8-10  November).
Deadline for submission of abstracts (with a short bio) is September

25, 2013. Send everything to Emilia Pawlusz (cc to Abel at )