Speaking truth for power? East European Studies in the 21st century

Thursday, June 27, 2013
2.13 (Binnengasthuis)
Ian Klinke , Department of Geography, University College London
It is now common knowledge that Anglo-American East European Area Studies was deeply involved in the geopolitical project of the Cold War. State-funded institutes produced useful knowledge of the Eastern Other, often with the help of culturally problematic lenses that matched those of the policy-making elite. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, East European Studies went through a process of renewal and self-cleansing (the ‘cultural’, ‘linguistic’ and ‘critical’ turns) that coincided with developments in other disciplines and with a drying up of funds. As Sovietology became an academic swearword, a feeling emerged that East European Area Studies had managed to free itself from the shackles of state-sponsored geopolitics. This paper tests these claims to academic freedom from geopolitical discourse, particularly in the context of a re-vitalising Russia and the EU’s Eastern enlargements. In doing so it is less interested in the academic fabric of knowledge but in the mechanics of knowledge production. Does academic knowledge continue to be sold to governments and potential students with the help of geopolitical messages and if so, what is the nature of those messages? How do circuits of funding, academic appointments and new courses tie in with perceived geopolitical transformations and new research agendas? The paper argues that in many ways East European Area Studies remains knowledge conscripted to power.
  • Amsterdam conference papers.pdf (313.9 kB)