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Workshop Regensburg

"Epistemologies of In-Betweenness: East Central Europe and the World History of Social Science, 1890-1945"

29.05.2015 at 18:00  – 30.05.2015 at 19:00 

The period ca. 1890-1945 saw both the crystallization of modern social scientific disciplines and some of the most profound crises of the social, political, and economic systems they were devised to study. This workshop asks how intellectuals’ sustained engagement with these crises in the “shatterzones” of East Central Europe shaped the development of social science between the end of the nineteenth century and the onset of the Cold War.


Conceived as a follow-up to the workshop “Malinowski’s Children: East Central European ‘Betweenness’ and Twentieth-Century Social Science” (Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University, May 2014), the present workshop aims to consider new approaches to the study of social science history. Besides decentering classic narratives of scientific innovation and dissemination focusing on “the West,” it seeks to historicize key concepts that structure our understanding of the region’s history--concepts that took shape during this period, but remained unstable throughout—that were, themselves, part of that history.

While East Central European social science and social scientists have been widely studied, East Central Europe has rarely been considered as a historical locality in the circulation of social scientific knowledge. We approach the region not only as the birthplace of many authors of the social scientific canon, but as ambiguous terrain in a modern global imaginary characterized and categorized by asymmetries of power. To the extent that social science arose in response to such asymmetries (anthropology vis-à-vis imperialism/colonialism, sociology vis-à-vis capitalism/class, psychology vis-à-vis sexuality/gender, etc.), we are interested in how East Central European scholars problematized their region’s “in-betweenness,” its non-normative status in the modern world. We are interested, too, in how East Central European scholars—confronted with the collapse of empires, the crisis of the global economic system, and the rise of nationalism and racism—understood their disciplines’ human and historical potential. Would social science serve to naturalize and legitimate authority, or was its purpose to demystify and liberate?


Katherine A. Lebow, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Research

Małgorzata Mazurek, Department of History, Columbia University

Joanna Wawrzyniak, Institute of Sociology, Warsaw University

Ulf Brunnbauer, Institute for East and Southeast European Studies (Regensburg)/Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies




May 29, Friday


Welcome and introductory remarks: Ulf Brunnbauer (Institut für Ost- und Südeuropaforschung Regensburg), Katherine Lebow (Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Research)

Keynote: Balázs Trencsényi (CEU Budapest) Sciences of the Nation: Positivist, Post-Positivist and Anti-Positivist Discourses



May 30, Saturday


Session I: Cataloguing the Social: Modernity and International Social Science before World War I

Chair: Małgorzata Mazurek (Columbia University)

Mikhail Antonov (Higher School of Economics Moscow), The Beginnings of a Socio-Psychological Approach to Law: Russian Legal Realism?

Christian Promitzer (University of Graz), Studying Society with the Eyes of a Physician: Health, Hygiene and Society in Bulgaria (1878-1912)

Eszter Gantner (Herder Institut Marburg), Sensing the Crisis: The Sociological Society in Budapest 1900-1914

Commentator: Emese Lafferton (CEU Budapest), Krzysztof Jasiewicz (Washington and Lee University)


Lunch/Snack Break:

12:45 -14:45

Session II:  Place, Space and Scale: Locating the Vernacular in Post-Imperial Central Europe

Chair: Joanna Wawrzyniak (Warsaw University)

Quinn Slobodian (Wellesley College, The Habsburg Empire as a Model for the World Economy: Mises in Vienna and the Origins of Neoliberalism

Vedran Duančić (EUI Florence), A Yugoslav Method for Geography of Yugoslavia: Geographical Position of the Land and Methodological Issues in Interwar Yugoslavia

Roland Clark (Eastern Connecticut State University), God Meets Man: Liminal Spaces in Romanian Orthodoxy and the Interwar Sociology of Religion

Commentator: Jan Surman (Marburg)


Coffee Break

15:00 – 17:00

Session III: Reconfiguring Populations: Race, Ethnicity and the Rise of the Global Peasant in the Interwar Era

Chair: Katherine Lebow (Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Research)

Maciej Górny (Polish Academy of Sciences) Soul, Skull and Modernity: Racial Anthropology in East Central Europe, 1912 to mid-1920s

Olga Linkiewicz (Polish Academy of Sciences), The Principle of Objectivity: Scientific Ideals and Utilitarian Projects in Polish Social Sciences between the Wars

Raluca Mușat (St. Mary’s University, London), The Peasant in Question: The Bucharest School of Sociology and International Networks of Knowledge

Commentator: Claudia Kraft (University of Siegen), Quinn Slobodian (Wellesley College)




Final Discussion Panel: Katherine Lebow (Vienna), Joanna Wawrzyniak (Warsaw), Małgorzata Mazurek (New York), Balazs Trencsényi (Budapest)


The conference is supported by the Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies (University of Regensburg, LMU Munich), the Institut für Ost- und Südeuropaforschung Regensburg and the Department of History, Columbia University.

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