Course date

8 July - 19 July, 2002
15 February, 2002
Course Director(s): 

Sorin Antohi

History, Central European University, Budapest, Hungary

Lawrence Wolff

Boston College, Chestnut Hill, United States of America
Course Faculty: 

Halil Berktay

Sabanci University, Istanbul, Turkey

Wlad Godzich

University of California, Santa Cruz, Humanities, English and Literature Department, Santa Cruz, United States of America

Mihai Spariosu

University of Georgia, Athens, United States of America

Andrei Zorin

Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow, Literature, Moscow, Russian Federation

The course provides participants with a comprehensive, critical view of the most recent international debates on the topics it covers. Ideally, the course would become the basis for a longer-term international cooperation, organized around joint research projects. The co-directors plan a major international conference on the same topics, and some of the best course participants would be invited to join in.

This is an advanced-level course, offered to young scholars with a proven relevant research and teaching record.

Course Content

Over the last two decades or so, old and new visions and representations of the world(s) we live in have come (back) to haunt us. While Marxist prophecies about the ‘withering away’ of the state have not, like most other prophecies, been fulfilled, the Cold War organization of the world (both cognitive and geopolitical) did eventually wither away. Globalization, as well as new local and regional dynamics, have radicalized the questioning, critique, and contestation of traditional Weltanschauungen. Recovering at long last after their associations with the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, fields such as geopolitics, cultural geography, cultural morphology, and the like have been reshaped and have generated a huge new corpus, as well as lively scholarly and public debates.

At the center of these debates, late modern or postmodern critiques of what we all call discourses or discursive practices since Foucault, have devastated most hegemonic representations of the world, and of its various fragments. Edward Said’s seminal Orientalism. Western Conceptions of the Orient (1978) is probably the single most influential such work; in the 1980s and 1990s, similar works have analyzed, extended to other parts of the world, or tried to recuperate and politicize the notion of Orientalism. Combining Foucault’s and Said’s inspirations with painstaking research in the archives and libraries of other parts of the world, scholars such as Larry Wolff and Maria Todorova have produced an impressive and influential series of works on Eastern Europe, Venice and Dalmatia, and the Balkans, respectively.

All in all, the discussion on globalization in the early third millennium seems ready to tackle such issues in a transdisciplinary, intercultural way: we witness a renewed interest, on the part of geographers, in the traditions of cultural/mental/philosophical geography (from Carl Ritter to Vidal de la Blache and beyond); the coming back of geopolitics in the field of international relations (from List to Mackinder); the ‘revelation’ of culture in American political science (Huntington), which relaunched the conservative idea of a 'clash of civilizations' (embraced by many after September 11, 2001); the insistence on space, (dis) location, locality, and territoriality in the study of individual and collective identities; the challenges facing the paradigms and even very existence of nation states (old and emergent); the emphasis on space in most humanities and social sciences, from literary theory to cultural theory to subaltern studies; the ‘revelation’ of the symbolic sphere among major economists; and so on.

Thus, symbolic geography and its related fields have become a pivotal intellectual and academic approach to the world(s) we live in, both real and ‘invented’ or ‘imagined’. The course starts with a critical introduction to the recent relevant scholarship in many countries, areas, and languages; such an introduction is meant to communicate the major guidelines of the course, as well as to suggest its most important challenges.

Once the ground is laid, the course covers the field in more detail, according to the syllabus.

The final colloquium is meant to be a culmination of the course by means of a thorough, lively intellectual exchange between resource persons and course participants. Plans for future collaboration will also be presented.

Background Reading

Edward W. Said, Orientalism. Western Conceptions of the Orient. Penguin Books, 1978.
Maria Todorova, Imagining the Balkans. Oxford University Press, 1997.
Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe. The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford University Press, 1994.

Course participants may read these books in any language, but should be prepared to refer to their English-language editions.

Class Reader

Course participants will be mailed a class reader, which has to be studied prior to their arrival in Budapest. The reader is indicative of the course's general themes and approaches, and does not cover the course topics entirely; further readings will be recommended during the course activities.

Teaching Methods

Participants will present their own work in fifteen-minute individual interventions based on pre-course work. Also, participants are required to be active during the Q&A and discussion sessions, and during the final colloquium.

Based on demand, resource persons will be offering workshops on various topics of interest, or tutorials. Participants will be reminded in the beginning of the course that such interaction with the resource persons is possible. Suggested discussion/consultation topics: curriculum development, syllabus construction, academic writing for international audiences, in-depth bibliographical-methodological guidance.

Assessment of Participants

Course directors will require resource persons to take notes on the classroom performance of the course participants. Course directors will attend classes through the entire duration of the course, and will write evaluations of the participants' planned interventions, as well as of the participants' general class activity, including the final colloquium (questions, comments). The required pre-course work includes the writing of a ten-fifteen-page essay on a relevant topic ("Mapping [the province/country/region where the course participant comes from or works on]"), which is to be circulated and will serve as the starting point for the participants' individual presentations.