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Images and Counter-images East and West: Expectation and Observance

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InformerApor, Peter <>
Published on15.05.2006
Central Europe / Eastern Europe
Comparative history
Veranstalter:Institute for Contemporary History, Ljubljana Co-organizer: Pasts Inc., Institute for Historical Studies, Central European University, Budapest
Datum, Ort:13.10.2006–14.10.2006, Ljubljana

The archives of the Cold War are essentially ‘enemy archives’. This is true in various senses of the term: records of the period were based upon the constant observation of the communist or capitalist other, trying to understand and predict what the ‘enemy’ was seeking for and aspiring to. This phenomenon was generated by a fundamental drive of identification: since the ‘civilization of communism’ openly declared itself the anti-theses of capitalism, it had to assess what capitalism was to construct its own identity. This became equally true in the West with the outbreak of the Cold War. The crucial aspect of Western identity was the manifest conviction that those societies embodied the anti-theses of communism: the genuine legacy of Occidental civic democracy. This ideologically informed public political rhetoric, however, created certain sets of expectation towards the observed that influenced typical genres of observation reports. What should the Eastern traveler recognize in the West: the moral deterioration and the poverty of the exploited or, alternatively, the land of freedom and wealth? What did the Western gaze catch in the East: oppression and slavery or the alternative model to the immorality of consumerism?

These are the major questions our conference would like to address by re-thinking the process of producing images and counter-images of East and West during the Cold War. How were these depictions and descriptions created? Who were the observers – who could travel to the other part of the globe? How were the differences among the perspectives of political delegations, business travelers, sport and art groups constituted? How was the situation affected by the extension of mass tourism and leisure? Which were the genres of formulating these observations: party meetings, club reports, company guides, private communication? What are the sources of getting access into these types of discourse? How were these images represented in forms of art: literature or film? What were the relationships between prescriptions for seeing, expectations and report? How travelers were prepared themselves for the journey into the land of the other: what were the role of travel guides, maps, tourist bureaus and agencies?

The workshop is part of the Seminar in Comparative Recent History that from 2003 to 2006 was co-sponsored by the Higher Education Support Program of the Open Society Institute, Budapest, and initiated and managed by Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies. The Regional Seminar series is the primary contribution of the Central European University to the largest all-European network of contemporary history, EURHIST XX. This network was established in Budapest in May 2003 and took further developments in Potsdam in May 2004 in order to identify common bases for the wider European discussion in the major problems of recent history. Its broader aim is to lead historical discourse in the continent to a further Europeanization of historical research concerning the 20th Century.

If you are interested, please, send and abstract (cc. 300-500 words) and a CV to the following address:


Peter Apor, PhD
Center of Comparative Recent History
Pasts, Inc. Institute of Historical Studies
Central European University
Budapest 1014
Nador u. 11.

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