"Cultural Landscapes in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II and the Collapse of Communism
The end of World War II saw large parts of Central European countries in ruin. The borders were changed after the Potsdam conference, leading to mass deportations and resettlement of millions of people. Vast areas of multi-ethnic borderlands that had been typical of the pre-World War II Eastern and Central Europe turned in most cases into monoethnic states. Cultural and national diversity, which had been the hallmark of what Hanna Arendt called „the belt of mixed populations”, albeit not without strife or conflict, virtually disappeared in most communist states, with the exception of Romania and the Yugoslavian federation. Landscape, always a palimpsest of human and natural layering in time, held traces of that erased presence of people exterminated during the war or evicted afterwards. The communist states began also the push toward modernization and collectivization, profoundly changing rural and urban landscapes. At the same time landscape became a crucial ideological arena for the communist state on which the successful story of human command of nature for the common good of the people was to be played out.
As witness and active agent of key historical events such as uprisings, wars, burials and revivals, landscape was the repository of national history and memory, contributing an essential scenery for commemoration practices. Irreversible damage to natural resources done by heavy industry was covered up with the politics of conservationism and ecological responsibility.
After the breakthrough of 1989, landscape was fundamentally transformed again by sweeping changes that affected the economy and created hybrid combinations of industrial and post-industrial urban space. Moreover, government was decentralized and the new freedom was used to construct new collective identities (a turn to regional forms of belonging, transborder solidarities and common histories and, at the same time, a weakening of centralised national affiliations). Likewise, privatization of space commodified landscape, challenging the sense of commonality in the experience of public space, while, on the other hand, civic thinking about ecology and environmental openness gained ground.
We would like to invite scholars in the field of humanities and social sciences who will share their perspectives on the reordering of physical and social space in Central Europe after World War II and after the collapse of communism.
The following points, among others, could provide prompts for our discussions:
- Landscapes of genocide, border shifts, forced removals and resettlements – spectral landscapes;
- Rebuilding cityscapes during socialism and after;
- Environmentalism, nature conservation, exploitation of the natural environment;
- Heritage, memory, and commemoration: landscape and cultural politics;
- The solace of cultivated and wild nature: parks, cemeteries, gardens, nature reserves;
- Commodification, tourism and landscape;
- (Post)industrial, technical and military landscapes – picking mushrooms after Chernobyl;
- Struggles over nature: reclaiming wilderness, nature reserves, environmentalism, development, farming;
- Reclaiming locality after 1989 – environment, habitat, new regionalism;
- Representing and imagining landscape in literature and visual arts.
The conference will be held in Wrocław, Poland, 19-21 September 2018. It is a joint venture between the Academia Europaea (Knowledge Hub, Wrocław) and the Faculty of Philology of the University of Wrocław. A selection of papers will be published. The conference is part of a series of symposia, which bring together established scholars with early career researchers, particularly from East Central Europe.
Jennifer Croft (freelance translator)
Mariusz Czepczyński (Gdańsk University)
Tassilo Herrschel (University of Westminster, London)
Kristin Kopp (University of Missouri)
Roma Sendyka (Jagiellonian University, Kraków)
Gregor Thum (University of Pittsburgh)
Frank Uekotter (University of Birmingham)
Craig Young (Manchester Metropolitan University)
Tomasz Zarycki (University of Warsaw)"