Round Table Discussion: “Navigating Eastern Europe’s Transregional Histories”
In cooperation with the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), and De Gruyter publishers, Berlin, EEGA organised a round table discussion on the two edited volumes “Navigating Socialist Encounters. Moorings and (Dis)Entanglements between Africa and East Germany during the Cold War” (2021, De Gruyter), and “Transregional Connections in the History of East-Central Europe” (2021, De Gruyter) as a hybrid event at the GWZO in Leipzig on 18 November, 2021.
The panel included: Katja Castryck-Naumann (Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe, Leipzig), Immanuel R. Harisch (University of Vienna), Anne-Kristin Hartmetz (Humboldt University Berlin), Uwe Müller (Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe, Leipzig), and Anne Dietrich (University of Leipzig) as well as guests Eric Burton (University of Innsbruck) and Marcia C. Schenck (University of Potsdam). After a warm welcome by moderator Lena Dallywater (EEGA/IfL), Katja Castryck-Naumann and Immanuel R. Harisch introduced the main topics and aims of the two edited volumes. “Transregional Connections in the History of East-Central Europe” explores a transregional connectivity by showing how people from Eastern and Central Europe positioned themselves within global processes and in turn helped shape them. Katja Castryck-Naumann enumerated the different fields of action, such as economy, arts, international regulations and law, development aid, and migration to which the contributions refer in the period from the mid-19th century to the end of the Cold War. The volume uncovers spaces of interaction and illustrates that internal and external entanglements established East-Central Europe as a distinct region. Understanding the connectedness of this subregion is stimulating both for the historiography of East-Central Europe and for the field of global history.
Immanuel R. Harisch emphasised that “Navigating Socialist Encounters. Moorings and (Dis)Entanglements between Africa and East Germany during the Cold War” examines entanglements and disentanglements between Africa and East Germany during and after the Cold War from a global history perspective. It expands the view beyond political elites, it asks for the negotiated and plural character of socialism in these encounters, shedding light on migration, media, development, and solidarity through personal and institutional agency. With its distinctive focus on moorings and unmoorings, the volume shows how the encounters, albeit often brief, significantly influenced both African and East German histories.
The commentator, Jan Koura (CWRG, Charles University) praised the currency and relevance of the topics in both books, but also shared his critical thoughts. Koura suggested changes in perspective, methodology and an extended bibliography. Against this background, a lively discussion arose about cooperation with academia from African countries, chosen methodological approaches and the delimitation of the Global Area of Eastern Europe.