Europe's Symbolic Geographies

Open to the Public
Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 9:00am
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Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 9:00am to Sunday, May 30, 2004 - 7:30pm

With the unprecedented Eastern expansion of the European Union in May 2004, transforming the face of Europe more radically than anyone could have imagined twenty years ago, we propose to hold a conference on "Europe's Symbolic Geographies" at the Central European University in Budapest for the purpose of analyzing the historically conditioned and culturally inflected conceptions of Europe.

With the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the cultural, political, and geographical maps of Europe were subject to dramatic metamorphosis. In fact, new maps and atlases of Europe, with entirely new political entities and redrawn borders, had to be issued in the 1990s. These literal maps and artifactual atlases, however, were the tokens of an even more important unsettling and redrawing of borders that took place in culture and consciousness, as Europe came to be envisioned as an entity very different from previous presumptions.

At the Central European University, whose very name and founding in 1991 testified to the changing parameters of European geography, we propose to explore the crucial dynamics of how ideas and ideologies, how the forces of culture, both elite and popular, have made their marks on the map of Europe. Topography, geography, and cartography are real, substantial, and scientific disciplines, but, at the same time, they are powerfully susceptible to human prejudices, fantasies, ambitions, interests, passions, and illusions. A concrete map is both the product of, and the provocation for, a multitude of intangible mental maps, that constitute the cultural consciousness of place. We propose to explore the symbolic geographies of Europe's own constituent parts, their relation to the whole, and the meaningful demarcations that characterize the continent; at the same time we will consider Europe's relation to the non-European world, Europe's discovery of its own continental identity in the crucible of intercontinental, global perspectives and apprehensions. We will draw upon the disciplines of history, political science, geography, literary criticism, and cultural theory for the purpose of achieving a better understanding of how symbolic geography has shaped and coninues to influence our evolving vision of Europe.


Friday, May 28
9:00-11:00 Panel 1: European Topologies : Geographical, Historical, Biomedical

Chair: Sorin Antohi

  • Maria Todorova Spacing Europe: What is a Historical Region?
  • Mark Bassin Is Europe Still a Geographical Concept? Does It Matter?
  • Anastasia Karakassidou The Symbolic Geographies of Health and Illness

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30-14:00 Panel 2: Borders and Borderlands : Power, Civilization, Psychology
Chair: Larry Wolff

  • Alfred J. Rieber Frontiers of European Borderlands: Symbolic or Real?
  • Patrick Sériot The Impossible Border between East and West in the Discourse on Language among Nineteenth-century Slavophiles
  • Andrei Zorin Feeling across Borders: The Europeanization of Russian Nobility through Emotional Patterns
  • Corin Braga Psychogeography. A Blueprint

14:00-17:00 Break

17:00-19:00 Panel 3: European Networks : Geometries and Identities
Chair: Mark Bassin

  • Marsha Siefert Networking Europe: Communication Technologies and Symbolic Geographies
  • Jean-Jacques Wunenburger Du cercle au réseau: vers une identité transitionnelle de l'Europe ("From Circle to Network: Towards a Transitional Identity of Europe". In French. Simultaneous translation provided.)
  • József Böröcz The Switch and the Broadband: Modalities of Coloniality in European Geopolitics

Saturday, May 29

9:00-11:00 Panel 4: Eastern, Central, Southeastern Europes : Ideology, Geopolitics, Empire
Chair: Maria Todorova

  • Larry Wolff Philosophic Geography and the Ideology of Empire in Eastern Europe
  • Halil Berktay Between the First and the Third Divisions: Ottoman Late Imperial and Modern Turkish Nationalist Reactions to the Possibility of Relegation

11:00-11:30 Break

11:30-14:00 Panel 5: Discursive Spaces : Lived Experience, Fiction, Metaphysics
Chair: Anastasia Karakassidou

  • Attila Melegh From Reality to Twilight Zones: The Function of the East/West Slope during and after the Collapse of State Socialism
  • Tyrus Miller A Geography of Dispersion: Central Europe and the Symbolic Spaces of the Avant-Garde
  • Iver B. Neuman The Return of the Sacred Symbolic Geography: The Realms of Harry Potter
  • Sorin Antohi Beyond Symbolic Geographies: Europe's Ethnic Ontologies

14:00-16:00 Break

16:00-18:00 Panel 6: European and EU Topographies : Inclusions and Exclusions
Chair: József Böröcz

  • Mario Bédard The Renewal of European Geosymbolic - A Key Factor for the Affirmation of EU's Own Identity and for the Fulfillment of its Multicultural Society's Project
  • Maurizio Bach EU and Turkey - An Established-Outsiders Relation?
  • Yehuda Elkana Europe Seen from Somewhere

18:00-18:30 Break

18:30-19:30 Concluding Session
List of Participants:

  • Sorin Antohi (History, CEU)
  • Maurizio Bach (Sociology, Universität Passau)
  • Mark Bassin (Geography, University College, London)
  • Mario Bédard (Geography, Université du Québec à Montréal)
  • Halil Berktay (History, Sabanci University, Istanbul)
  • József Böröcz (Sociology, Rutgers University)
  • Corin Braga (Literature, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj)
  • Yehuda Elkana (Rector, CEU)
  • Anastasia Karakassidou (Anthropology, Wellesley College)
  • György Konrád (Budapest/Berlin)
  • Attila Melegh (History, Budapest University of Economics)
  • Tyrus Miller (Literature, University of California, Santa Cruz)
  • Iver B. Neuman (Norwegian Institute of International Affairs)
  • Alfred J. Rieber (History, CEU)
  • Patrick Seriot (Faculté des Lettres, Université de Lausanne)
  • Marsha Siefert (History/Communications, CEU)
  • Maria Todorova (History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
  • Larry Wolff (History, Boston College)
  • Jean-Jacques Wunenburger (Philosophy, Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3)
  • Andrei Zorin (Literature, Moscow State University)

The collective volume based on the conference proceedings will be co-edited by Sorin Antohi and Larry Wolff, to be published with CEU Press. The conference and volume are mainly financed by CEU's Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies (; additional financial support comes from the University of California, Santa Cruz.