Teaching Central/Eastern Europe and Its Communist Past (Deadline Update)

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Modern Language Association (MLA) Philadelphia, PA, January 2017
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Central & Eastern Europe's cultural visibility has increased since the 1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall and with Romanian-born German writer Herta Müller's 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature. In light of this new visibility, how are Central/Eastern European cultures and history being taught, both within and outside the region? What has changed in the way these countries (past and present) contribute to the understanding of the cultural configuration of the region or the continent? How and what should educators include in various curricula? How do we teach the communist period to new generations and/or to the West and the rest of the world?

The "Resolution on Divided Europe Reunited: Promoting Human Rights and Civil Liberties in the OSCE Region in the Twenty-First Century" of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) urges participating states:
"a) to continue research into and raise public awareness of the totalitarian legacy;
b) to develop and improve educational tools, programs and activities, most notably for younger generations, on totalitarian history, human dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, pluralism, democracy and tolerance."

Eastern Europe's communist past is still in need of better representation in artistic productions and various curricula. Representations of the communist totalitarian period lag behind those of the Nazi period, although communism lasted longer and is closer to the present. In "Did Somebody Say Totalitarianism? Five Interventions in the (Mis)Use of a Notion" (2001), Slavoj Zizek finds "significant" the lack of "films whose action takes place in the Gulag" (261).

Theories and concepts developed outside the post-communist spaces have not always consistently and extensively been applied to Eastern Europe. How should these be applied and taught? What are the lessons of communism and post-communism? What do examinations of Marxist and post-Marxist Eastern European societies bring to the understanding of new materialisms?

Possible topics are:
• Pedagogical methods (e.g., assignments, materials, concepts, textual/rhetorical analysis) in teaching totalitarianism in general, and the communist past in particular, in Western as well as Central/Eastern European curricula
• Understanding Central/Eastern European countries through their past totalitarian experiences (literature, arts, film, memoir)
• Affordances and limitations of comparisons of totalitarianism: practices, systems, and individual experiences (e.g., biopolitics, resistance, survival, camps)
• New(er) theoretical conceptualizations of the region's art, culture, politics, and society that should be included in current pedagogies
• Non-academic modalities of presenting/teaching about Central/Eastern European totalitarianisms

Send a 250 word abstract and a brief bio to Adriana Gradea (Illinois State University), by March 15, 2016 (ada_g@att.net)