Call for Contributions
To the collective volume
Authority and Expectations: The Everyday Justification of the Socialist Dictatorships
The main objective of the proposed collection of essays is to re-think the role of everyday life in the East-European socialist dictatorships. A dominant part of the existing scholarship on the everyday practices during the socialist period in Central and Eastern Europe concentrates on the ways these contributed to the demise of the system. Usually, historians tell the story of private or community networks, subaltern practices or traditional patterns of everyday life ending in the elaboration of second societies, hidden strategies that operated beneath the surface of the socialist dictatorships and, eventually, replaced their official structures.
Whereas these observations enriched significantly our knowledge of East-Central European communism, our project would propose approaching the topic from the opposite side. What role did the everyday practices play in the justification of the socialist dictatorships? To what extent and which ways did these contribute to the stability and authority of these regimes?
There are two possible ways to approach this problem. The first one, which may be called a “history of ideology” perspective, would focus on the ways the political centre used the everyday activities of ordinary people to justify its intervention. For instance, many of these regimes employed – and often produced – marginal social behaviour connected to youth, ethnic and cultural minorities or women to argue for measures against hooliganism, social parasitism or cultural backwardness.
The second possible direction would examine how everyday experiences helped to accept the dictatorships. Case studies would analyze the perception of social and cultural mobility, of the improvement of public supply (shopping) or the experience of predictability and certainty among certain groups. Our project, while aims at re-constructing the perspectives of ordinary people, would shift the regular focus of these studies. We would like to pay less attention to the conflicting and different interpretations that could be noticed between the interest of the state and the population and concentrate our efforts to depict a more complex picture. Reflecting the experiences of everyday people the proposed project would reconstruct the expectations towards the socialist governments that helped to justify their rule. The collection of essays would analyse the ways these expectation were generated also by the party-states, the subsequent attempts to meet them and to use them as justifications for the interventions of the authorities.
An important aspect of the proposed volume is the investigation into the more active role of everyday practices in the justification of the socialist dictatorships. How everyday forms and ordinary patterns of exclusion, marginalization or dominance created space and opportunity for the authorities to intervene, namely to exercise power? How did the everyday practices of social distancing, the acting out of ethnic and cultural prejudices, the prevailing of dominance in localities, schools, factories, mental asylums, or the apparently innocent attempts to settle private quarrels about noise, purity and order enable the authorities to interpret and produce identities according to ideological logic? How did these everyday mechanisms of dominance function in the sites of ordinary life? What was their relationship to the structure of political power?
Which concepts motivated ordinary people when publicly articulated their opinion on order and normality? What were their expectations towards the “right power”, “good governance”? When did they consider the state’s actions justified and legitimate? What were the commitments and limitations of “proper authorities” in ordinary ways of thought? How were these understanding enacted in everyday practices?
Proposals for contributions should include a 500 words abstract consisting of the description of the objectives of the essay, its methodological and theoretical context and its source-base. The deadline of submissions is 29 October 2007. The first drafts of the manuscripts of 10,000 words are expected by 3 December 2007. Following the review process a discussion workshop for accepted manuscripts is to be organized in Poland in February 2008 with two readers assigned to each paper. The final manuscripts have to be sent by 15 March 2008.
Dr Péter Apor,
Central European University, Nádor u. 11. 1050, Budapest, Hungary
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