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The Contours of Legitimacy in Central Europe:

New Approaches in Graduate Studies

Postgraduate Conference, St. Antony's College, Oxford, 24-26 May 2002

Keynote Panel:

Mr. Timothy Garton Ash (St. Antony's College, Oxford)
Dr. Eva Hahn (Oldenburg)
Dr. Martyn Rady (SSEES, London)
Dr. Jan Fellerer (Wolfson College, Oxford)
Professor George Schöpflin (SSEES, London)


Themes and approaches
Conference Committee

The idea of Central Europe rests, paradoxically, upon ambiguous boundaries and essential definitions. This heartland remains a contested area in terms of overlapping and competing conceptions of territorial frontiers, political authority, economic trading blocs, ethno-linguistic communities, and cultural development. Nonetheless, the region retains a genuine and unique character whose expression extends far beyond the terms of nationalist myth-making. In an effort to identify the workings of this paradox, and consequently the nature of the region itself, the Conference Committee of Postgraduates in Central European Studies at the University of Oxford is calling for papers in the field which focus on the concept of legitimacy.

The notion of legitimacy embraces Central Europe's uncertainties and certainties: it is a model both of justification and vindication, based on a mixed historical legacy. On the one hand, Central Europe shares the same instances of great socio-political change as Western Europe, from the Reformation to the European Union. On the other hand, the dynamics of these changes were and are different in Central Europe. From the Early Modern period varied relationships between the spiritual and secular spheres combined with alternative forms of social-economic hierarchy, absolutism, and imperialism to produce different founding principles for future state development. From these processes and principles we can trace varying subsequent patterns of ethnic diversity and national identification. This legacy ironically pushes the region to the periphery of Europe, even as its relations arguably provide the key to the continent's affairs.

We are calling for interpretations of legitimacy that address this basic contradiction. Our starting point is Max Weber's definition of legitimacy as any one of three different ways of exercising power: by tradition, charisma, or rational legal authority. We aim to draw from these three concepts of authority as we debate legitimacy in language, culture, history, geography, economics, and politics in Central Europe. We hope that the ensuing discussion will bridge the methodological gaps between the academic disciplines, whose respective approaches have come to reflect cleavages in the subject matter itself. Panel sessions will follow a chronological framework, from the Early Modern period to the present.

The boundaries of 'Central Europe' for these purposes remain broad and can include the region as it has been, and is defined, in relation to either Western Europe or Eastern Europe. In addition, we particularly welcome papers on minority (e.g Jewish and Roma) communities within the region.

* * *

The Committee suggests the following possible topics for papers from the Counter-Reformation to the present.
However, proposals need not be limited to these suggestions, nor to the placement of particular themes within this loose chronology


The Committee invites Post-Doctoral and Graduate students in the Humanities and Social Sciences to submit original research papers for discussion. A one-page abstract of the paper (including title), along with a curriculum vitae, and contact information (E-mail, Telephone, Postal Address) should be submitted no later than 1 February 2002. Read papers in their final form should not exceed twenty minutes in length, and must be in English.

The number of papers is limited to sixty, with selection determined on a competitive basis. After the February 1st deadline, those who have submitted proposals to the Committee will be notified by E-mail as to whether or not their paper has been selected; those with successful proposals will receive a registration form. Upon completion of the form and payment of the conference fee, participants will receive a conference package with travel directions and full details on the event. Participants must also submit their completed papers by post or E-mail by 10 May 2002, in order that panels may be organised by the Committee and that Senior academic Discussants may review papers and prepare remarks on panels beforehand.

Submissions and Enquiries should be sent by post or as a Word E-mail attachment to:

Conference Coordinator

Larissa Douglass
St. Antony's College, Oxford, OX2 6JF
(D.Phil. History, St. Antony's College)

Conference Committee:

Monika Baar (D.Phil. Candidate, History, Brasenose)
Martin Benedek (D.Phil. Candidate, Politics, St. Antony's)
Adam Fergus (M.St. Candidate, European Literature, New)
Michael Fleming (D.Phil. Candidate, Geography, Pembroke)
Katya A. M. Kocourek (M.Phil. Russian and East European Studies, St. Antony's; M.Phil./Ph.D. Candidate, SSEES, London)
Stefan Szwed (M.Phil. Candidate, European Politics and Society, St. Antony's)
Wanda Wyporska (D.Phil. Candidate, History, Hertford)

Senior Academic Advisor:

Mr. Timothy Garton Ash, Kurt A. Körber Senior Research Fellow in Contemporary European History, European Studies Centre, St. Antony'sCollege

The Conference is held under the auspices of the European Studies Centre, St. Antony's College

Assisting panel:

Dr. Deborah Holmes (Junior Research Fellow in Medieval and Modern Languages, The Queen's College)
Timotheus Noetzel (M.Phil. Candidate, European Politics and Society, St. Antony's)
Vanda Pickett (D. Phil. Candidate, Czech Literature, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, St. Hugh's)
Robert Pyrah (D. Phil. Candidate, Austrian Cultural History, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Magdalen)
Marius Turda (Ph.D. Candidate, Central European University)

Image Copyright: Image of Krakow, Stadsgezichten met verzen in drie talen (C. De Jonghe, 1650-1700), Library Map Collection, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

The Conference is made possible through the generous support of the of The Economic and Social Research Council, European Studies Centre Funds, the Central Europe 2000 Research Project, the Polonia Aid Foundation Trust, the Austrian Cultural Forum in London, the M. B. Grabowski Fund, the Europaeum, the Polish Embassy, London, the Royal Historical Society, the British Association for Central and Eastern Europe, and the Regius Professor of Modern History's Fund, the Faculty of Modern History and the Department of Politics and International Relations, Oxford.


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