April 10, 2019
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v2.1 Reference

Transatlantic Central Europe

Contesting Geography and Redifining Culture beyond the Nation

While there are still occasional uses of it today, the term "Central Europe" carries little of the charge that it did in the 1980s and early 1990s, and as a political and intellectual project it has receded from the horizon. Proponents of a distinct cultural profile of these countries—all involved now in the process of Transatlantic integration—used "Central European", as a contestation with the geo-political label of Eastern Europe. This book discusses the transnational set of practices connecting journals with other media in the mid-1980s, disseminating the idea of Central Europe simultaneously in East and West. A range of new methodologies, including GIS-mapping visualization, is used, repositing the political-cultural journal as one central node of a much larger cultural system. What has happened to the liberal humanist philosophy that "Central Europe" once evoked? In the early years of the transition era, the liberal humanist perspective shared by Havel, Konrád, Kundera, and Michnik was quickly replaced by an economic liberalism that evolved into neoliberal policies and practices. The author follows the trajectories of the concept into the present day, reading its material and intellectual traces in the postcommunist landscape. She explores how the current use of transnational, web-based media follows the logic and practice of an earlier, 'dissident' generation of writers.

About the Author

Jessie Labov is a Resident Fellow at the Center for Media, Data, and Society at Central European University, Budapest.


"Labovs Studie leistet einen wichtigen Beitrag, indem sie die bisweilen eher kleinteilig und nationalhistorisch ausgerichtete Erforschung des ostmitteleuropäischen Exils während des Kalten Krieges in größere zeitliche und räumliche Kontexte einbettet sowie für Fragen der Mediengeschichte und der postcolonial studies anschlussfähig macht. Mit ihrer These, dass das Identitätskonzept eines zum Westen gehörenden Mitteleuropas" das Produkt transatlantischer Kommunikationsnetzwerke sei, macht Labov das Potenzial deutlich, das die Exilforschung gerade für die Historisierung kulturräumlicher Imaginationen birgt. Denn während die Rezeption postkolonialer Theorien in der Osteuropaforschung der 1990er-Jahre dazu führte, sich kritisch mit westlichen" Perspektiven auf die Region auseinanderzusetzen, bietet die Erforschung des Exils die Möglichkeit, nach den Handlungsspielräumen nichtwestlicher Akteure im Angesicht internationaler Machtasymmetrien zu fragen."—Kai Johann Willms, H-Soz-Kult

"Transatlantic Central Europe is a thought-provoking volume that employs theoretical and methodological innovations to a seemingly passé idea, and thereby not only improves on the intellectual historical record, but also demonstrates its enduring relevance for cultural politics in the present. The book is clearly written, and is thus accessible even to those with no prior exposure to the literary figures discussed."—Slavic Review

"Labov leistet mit ihrer akribischen Studie einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Exil- und Ostmitteleuropaforschung und beleuchtet diesen Themenkomplex mit Methoden der digitalen Geisteswissenschaft. Das Buch zeichnet sich durch seine gute Lesbarkeit aus und überrascht mit einem innovativen Blick auf einen Themenbereich, der zwar vielseitig erforscht, aber von einer digital und GIS-basierten Analyse noch nicht erfasst wurde. Labov hat gewiss eine Brücke zwischen der Vergangenheit und der Gegenwart geschlagen und auf diese Weise zur Heilung von ostmitteleuropäischen Minderwertigkeitskomplexen beigetragen."—Shepunkte


"This is an ambitious book, full of original and fascinating material on the institutional history of certain publications, key individuals, and disciplines. It features an innovative and compelling GIS-based study of the Polish émigré journal 'Kultura', which introduces digital humanities methodology to a subject area where it it not typically found. Labov's analysis of the postcolonial dimensions of the famous Lisbon conference of Central European and Russian writers brings theory into dialogue with geopolitical identities; she also convincingly argues that the fate of Yugoslavia was fundamental to the destruction of the idea of Central Europe for the generation of thinkers who championed it. Transatlantic Central Europe offers a unique mosaic of theoretical reflection, geopolitical intervention, and literary and cultural history."—Russell Scott Valentino

"Labov combines qualitative and quantitative methodologies in innovative and illuminating ways to understand the concept of Central Europe through its diasporic extensions across the Atlantic. She traces the financing and political impact of important literary journals such as Cross Currents, whose contributors (including Czesław Miłosz, Milan Kundera, and Danilo Kiš) insisted on a common-sense approach to their "minor" cultures in the face of flattening totalitarianisms and postmodern obscurantism. In her most significant theoretical contribution, Labov rejects the "Orientalist" implications of "Balkanization" to advance a nuanced analysis of the relationship between "Central Europe" and Southeastern Europe driven by a careful reading of Kiš and Vladimir Dedijer. Drawing on a relational concept of culture, Labov questions the concept of a "nation" in a territory defined by its "in-between-ness." Characteristic of this complex, cogent book, Labov's re-examination of the sad destiny of the dissident movement at large brings much needed insight to the region's post-socialist setting."—Tomislav Z. Longinović

9786155053290 : transatlantic-central-europe-labov
246 Pages
$65.00 USD

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