The end of Communism in the USSR and its satellite states produced a wave of collective euphoria that had not been seen in Europe since May 1945. Nowhere was this feeling stronger than in the former socialist countries themselves, where many felt that normal service had, as it were, been resumed. As former Czech dissident Vaclav Havel put it at the time, ‘after decades of following the wrong track, we are yearning to rejoin the road which was one ours too.’ Signsthat things were ‘returning to normal’ were everywhere: West Germans received their Ossi neighbours back into the fold by giving each of them 100 West deutschmarks as so called ‘welcome money’; Hungarians could once again sit alongside their Austrian cousins and thrill to La Traviata at the Vienna Opera; and Muscovites finally got to taste their first Big Mac. The Socialist dream had been cancelled, but in its place there was to be another utopia, a consumerist paradise, buttres sed by liberal democracy at home, and lasting peace abroad.
Barely two decades later, there is, to paraphrase Marx and Engels, a new spectre haunting Central and Eastern Europe – the spectre of nostalgia. Perhaps this should not surprise us. As Svetlana Boym recently put it, in her book The Future of Nostalgia, ‘nostalgia inevitably appears as a defense mechanism in a time of accelerated rhythms of life and historical upheavals.’ At one time this feeling was limited to émigrés fondly reminiscing about the ir distant mother country. Now, however, it also appears to touch those who live where they always have, but whose homeland no longer officially exists.
This new nostalgia takes an astonishingly wide variety of forms. These include the popularity among Berlin shoppers of the Ostpaket (East German products in their original packaging), the reaffirmation of stereotypical gender roles in Russian ‘glamour culture’, the rise of nationalism in countries such as Hungary and the Czech Republic, and the rehabilitation of long forgotten artists or literary genres. This tendency to look at the past through rose tinted spectacles can also be seen in numerous published collections of Soviet photographs of the 1970s (Optimizm pamjati, Leningrad 70x), or on countless social media sites, both institutional and personal.
While in the main, Oushakine (2007) is right to argue that this new kind of nostalgia does not aim at political restoration, there is often an important political subtext. This conference aims to explore the many different forms nostalgia has taken in Central and Eastern Europe since in the last twenty years. Among the questions to be addressed are: What are the distinctive forms of nostalgia in the region? Where does this nostalgia come from? What purpose(s) does it serve? What, if any, is its political agenda? Is nostalgia primarily a yearning for or a rejection of something? Whose nostalgia is it anyway? What is the relationship between nostalgia and kitsch? And how seriously does this nostalgia take it self?
Papers are invited from scholars working in a broad range of disciplines, including Slavonic and East European Studies, politics, economics,
anthropology, law, business studies, linguistics, history and comparative literature.
Proposals, in the form of a 250 word abstract and a short cv, should be sent BY 31 JANUARY 2014 AT THE LATEST, to BOTH organisers, at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com