Fourth European Congress on World and Global History (ENIUGH), 2014


 Fourth European Congress on World and Global History (ENIUGH),

The École normale supérieure Paris, 5 September 2014 at 01:30–03:30PM

Cultural Mediation, Intellectual History, and the Question of European Peripheries

Chair of the session: Dr. Marja Jalava (University of Helsinki)

In recent postcolonial studies, the ideas of Europe as a universal model and the centre of development have been constantly criticized. Instead, the focus has been on the complex ways in which Europe was made from its colonies. However, as noted by Frederick Cooper among others, the simple juxtaposition of the “European core” and the “colonial peripheries” threatens to flatten modern European history into a single, monolithic post-Enlightenment era, leaving out the conflicts, tensions, and asymmetrical relations within that continent’s history. This panel focuses on cultural mediation in the 19th and 20th -century Europe, especially on the role of actors from marginal intellectual fields. Mediation arguably plays a pronounced role in the intellectual histories of European small/peripheral countries. This is particularly true for regions whose position in the geopolitics of intellectual life could be, in the absence of a better word, described as “semi-peripheral.” Using the cases of Scandinavia, East Central, and South Eastern Europe as examples, the panel encourages comparative reflection on shifts in the logic of cultural mediation depending on the position of national/peripheral cultural fields in the international intellectual space as well as the very logic of producing centres and peripheries.

The panel consists of the following three presentations:

Dr. Stefan Nygård & Dr. Johan Strang (European University Institute, University of Helsinki):

Facing asymmetry – Nordic perspectives on transnationalism in intellectual history

Cultural asymmetries and center-periphery dynamics play a crucial role in the lives and careers of small country intellectuals. In a culture that conceives of itself as peripheral, there is a notion that the “real” discussions are taking place elsewhere, and that any ambitious scholar, writer, or intellectual need to approach the cultural centers in order to develop professionally. This paper addresses the role of asymmetry in the interaction between intellectual fields in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from the perspective of the Nordic peripheries. By focusing on the spatial and temporal hierarchies implicit in the way Nordic intellectuals perceived and made use of backwardness, our aim is to bring a peripheral perspective to the discussion on transnational intellectual history and the study of cultural transfers.

Dr. Emilia Palonen (University of Helsinki):

Between centres and peripheries: Transnational Hungarian Intellectuals

Palonen discusses in her paper the way in which the national context and transnational identifications played a role in the life and work of Hungarian left-wing intellectuals. She investigates the politicisation of these identities as local or foreign, Jewish or cosmopolitan through the examples of George Lukács and Agnes Heller, in particular. The Internationals and the postwar and postrevolutionary movements to the West brought a multilayeredness to the identifications of the thinkers, whether in expatriot communities, in the home country, or in the global academia and politics. What is the role of the centres and peripheries? Which are the centres and which peripheries?


Prof., Dr. Diana Mishkova (Centre for Advanced Study Sofia):

Rescaling the periphery: Regionalist Balkan Visions about Europe

Since the early twentieth century there has existed a respectable scholarly current in the Balkans which had sought to define it as a historical region and a cultural space. In the process they had tried to transfigure both the cultural-historical ‘ontology’ of the region and the Western European perceptions of it. The paper will discuss the way several leading regionalist scholars in the Balkans had conceptualized the place of the region and their discipline with respect to Europe and European/global civilization. Particular attention will be paid to subversions of the centre-periphery dichotomy and devising alternative ‘universalisms’.