Call for papers: international conference and workshop “Transformation Narratives Beyond Winners and Losers: Deep Stories in Central and Eastern Europe”

Recently, liberal democratic governance has been seriously challenged by populist political actors. The rise of populism in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) can be at least partially attributed to the post-communist transformation of the 1990. This transformative period has led not only to feelings of enthusiasm, excitement, and euphoria (Trnka 2012) but also constituted “cultural trauma” for the affected societies (Sztompka 2000), especially individuals and groups who experienced a status loss or decline of living standards. In popular and to some extent, scientific discourse (see e.g. Jarosz 2005) they are often described as the “losers” (in contrast to the “winners”) of the transformation. Being negatively affected by the systemic and economic transition is viewed as a key explanatory variable of the recent rise of populism in post-socialist societies in particular (see e.g. Ágh 2016; Minkenberg 2017), and populist support in general (see e.g. Kriesi et al. 2006; Norris & Inglehart 2019).

However, it has also been noted that the winners/losers categorization itself is rooted in the dominant neo-liberal paradigm (Kaźmierska 2019), and not necessarily reflects “lived experiences” of affected individuals. When people in the CEE region report how they feel about the change of political regime and current lives in their own words, their narratives neither replicate the winners/losers distinction nor allow for a simple attribution of the speaker to either side of this division. Instead of measuring their biographical trajectories in economic or material terms only, they talk about victories in personal and professional lives; about values such as dignity and social recognition; about regular, adapted and inconspicuous, lives (see e.g. Marody et al. 2019). Thus, we posit that the understanding of the current political dynamics in the CEE region can be advanced by investigating “deep stories” (Hochschild 2016), that is, personal “truth” experiences, “feels-as-if stories” (Ibid.), frequently narrated through emotions:

  • How do the citizens of the CEE region themselves talk about transformation? How do they narrate main challenges (but also opportunities) brought about by the transformation?
  • How do these narratives develop or contradict the existing, and still dominant, narrative winners and losers of systemic transformation?
  • Are these personal narratives of people in post-communist Europe underpinned by clear-cut emotional patterns, e.g. anger or resentment? And, if yes, what are the given reasons for these emotions
  • What different types and layers of deep transformation stories are there? How do they support/contradict each other?

We propose an event “Transformation Narratives Beyond Winners and Losers: Deep Stories in Central and Eastern Europe” to explore these questions in the context of diverse societies of the CEE region. The event consists of two parts (conference and workshop) and aims at bringing together scholars from different national and institutional backgrounds interested in the in-depth reflection of these topics.

The conference (on the first day of the event on June 17) is dedicated to papers dealing with the above formulated questions. We welcome researchers in every stage of their academic career, working in different countries and disciplines. We accept papers from the fields of history of emotions, memory or regional studies, emotion sociology, political psychology, affect and discourse theory, political science, social anthropology and political ethnography. Comparative research, as well as case studies, qualitative and quantitative methodologies, are of interest.

The workshop (on the second day of the event) is organized for those interested in a more extensive collaboration and comparative analyses of data pertaining to the dynamics, legacy, and long-term  consequences of the systemic transformation in the region. The workshop aims at comparative analysis of the data collected by participants prior to the event. Qualitative interview collections and deep text analyses much too often remain case studies and cannot or do not aim at broader comparisons with similar studies from other countries and cultural backgrounds. We want to overcome this gap and look for possible intersections for materials from different research projects, settings, and contexts. Therefore, the main body of the workshop will be dedicated to the identification of these intersections between investigations carried out by participants, and discussion aiming at outlining potential scientific articles which could be written in collaboration.

The call is addressed to scholars who work empirically on the topics outlined above and are familiar or interested in “deep story” methodology. Each participant is expected to briefly introduce her/his research and present data which could be used for further comparative analysis. We are specifically interested in textual data (interviews, documents, testimonies) or visual data that can be used for in-depth analyses. We are open to mixed-method approaches.

As a result of the workshop a proposal of a special issue dedicated to the topic of “deep transformations” will be formulated and submitted to a leading scientific journal in the field, e.g., East European Politics and Societies, European Journal of Cultural and Political Sociology, Emotions and Society. Participants will be encouraged to proceed with the preparation of the articles outlined during the workshop. We also aim at the long-term involvement of participants in a research network focused on the interdisciplinary analysis of emotional developments in the CEE region.

The event is part of the research project Post-Communist Transformation as Dismantling of the Soviet Modernity Project. This research was funded by a grant from the Research Council of Lithuania (No. S-MOD-21-7).

For the conference (June 17), please submit an abstract of 250 words presenting your current research on the topic of the event by the 1st of April. For the workshop (June 18), please submit an extended abstract (1000 words) of a possible contribution to by the 1st of April. For other information and questions, contact the organizers.

There will be no participation fee, but participants will be asked to cover their own travel and accommodation costs. Organizers will provide coffee-breaks and dinner on Thursday.