stream coordinator Una Blagojević
As a monolithic unit, Eastern Europe existed only in the imaginary of the Cold War. Underneath this rhetorical surface, the state socialist landscape presented a rich display of diverse tendencies, shifting political and geopolitical allegiances, diverging social paths and economic regimes. If this was true for the East European socialist bloc, it is all the more so for the post-socialist desert of the real. From Moscow to Prague, from Vilnius to Tirana, it would appear that nothing, except the geographical contiguity, holds together this region in a categorial unity.
And yet, notwithstanding this bewildering internal diversity, the recent history of the region itself does present a certain common condition, or a structural-historical affinity, which justifies Eastern Europe’s perduring relevance in today’s world. After all, this is the only region on the globe to have passed, in the last hundred years, from communism to capitalism, while also enjoying its fair share of fascist dictatorships and nationalist autocracies – thus able to claim a unique experience in all the major forms of political modernity. From this perspective, moreover, the rich diversity of the recent and contemporary history of the social formations comprising Eastern Europe conceals not only a shared historical trajectory, but also a peculiar shared condition of semi-peripheral integration of the old “Second World” in today’s global, yet bipolar capitalism.
The present stream tries to highlight both the similarities and the discontinuities between the East European social formations, as well as between the region and the outer world, that have manifested in the recent and contemporary history of the region - in all its dimensions: political, economical, social, cultural - with an eye to the trans-regional relevance of these evolutions and configurations. Particular emphasis will be put on the diverse socialist traditions of the region, as well as the contemporary East European scene of progressive social movements and activists. Thus, on the one hand, the stream will revisit and reevaluate the socialist traditions of the region, the ways in which socialist ideas in Eastern Europe articulated in different projects, envisioning radical social, economic, and political transformations in the region. Different traditions offered different solutions to pressing political, social, and economic problems. The complex historical narratives of socialist ideas that emerged in the region not only during the period before and after WWII, but also during the long 19th century necessitates the excavation of the multifaceted evolution of leftwing movements in the region and their responses to shifting political landscapes.
On the other hand, the stream will inquire into the relation between contemporary leftism and local and regional leftist traditions, asking what are the main kind of efforts on the left, the agendas, the resources? What kind of theorizing has been stemming from such organizing? How have leftist movements challenged and changed the political landscape in the region in the past 30 years? But also, what were the conditions under which Marxism was or was not hybridized with national ideology? In what historical contexts and instances Marxism resisted such hybridization, and what were the implications of such resistances?
Among the possible angles, topics, and questions for individual paper or panels, we suggest:
- Continuities and discontinuities between interwar, communism, and postcommunism in the region’s economy, politics, and society
- What was Eastern European socialism and what are its legacies today? What were the region’s different modes of socialist thought, what do we know about transnational circulation of ideas in and outside the region, and how have these been impacting and shaping the contemporary political, social, and intellectual landscapes in Eastern Europe?
- The postcolonialist paradigm in postsocialist studies: old and new debates
- The self-colonizing cultures metaphor and its futures
- Regionalist plans within the European Union and federalist approaches
- Contemporary leftist organizing in Eastern Europe: grassroots, activist, new parties; transnational collaborations, solidarities, and networks of left organizing
- Sovereignty, populism and nationalism in communist and post-communist Eastern Europe: the rise of the far right in Eastern Europe and its Western allies
- Beyond anti-corruption: systemic inquiries in the materiality of regional politics
- What is the place and relevance of Eastern Europe in today’s world?
stream coordinator Martin Küpper
Ecosocialism has been making important contributions to the critical analysis of social, political, and cultural forms of socializations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Its strength and potential became manifest even more emphatically since it grew clear that the ecological crisis has taken on global proportions. How should progressive forces prepare to intervene in a world of such deepened catastrophe? What are the prospects for ecological action on the different continents? What does the landscape of resistance look like? What theoretical contributions can support an emancipatory practice beyond capitalist socialization? While ecosocialism convincingly shows that the capitalist economic system is fundamentally incompatible with the ecological and social requirements of sustainability, it does not constitute a unified field, but proceeds through discussion and debate – including in what concerns its own tools, concepts and perspectives.
These contemporary discussions are intertwined with the re-examination of the history of socialism. Recent studies shifted focus to socialist contributions to ecology and offered new ecological readings of Marx and Engels, as well as research about some bold re-interpretations of Marxism such as the increasing integration of ecological issues into Marxism-Leninism, e.g. by Wolfgang Harich, Rudolf Bahro, or Yevgeny K. Feodorov. This also allowed for building a more nuanced image of state socialism, one that includes not only the catastrophic environmental effects of Soviet grandiose projects but also its important contribution to ecology as science, large environmentalist initiatives and visions of a more sustainable relationship with nature. Above all, however, the intellectual and real history of state socialism can serve both as the reservoir of concrete experiences for our political imagination, as in Andreas Malm’s turn to Lenin, and the warning that even a socialist society is not automatically immune to creating, producing and exacerbating ecological problems.
Consequently, we invite contributions on the following list of indicative topics, among others:
- Dialectics of nature
- Relations between natural sciences and philosophy
- History of ecosocialism
- Ecosocialism and the anthropocene
- The relation between ecoutopism and political practice
- Industrialism and ecology: the developmental paradigms facing limits to growth
- Ecology and theories of revolution
- Criticism of new materialism and posthumanism
- Criticism of current ecological strategies (e.g. geoengineering)
- Criticism of ecofascism and the discourse over local resources
stream coordinator Adela Hîncu
The stream addresses the role of women’s, queer, and feminist organizing and theory in times of crises, both historically and in the present, foregrounding Eastern European experiences within broader comparative and transnational frameworks. Feminist analyses of ongoing wars and economic crises have brought the issues of social reproduction, housing, care work, and education, among others, to the forefront, highlighting the burdens these place on women as well as the dignity, resilience, and determination with which they have been tackling them, past and present. Feminist research has also shown the increased discrimination and marginalization of vulnerable groups—queer, disabled, elderly, children—in situations of scarcity and violence. They have focused on the effects of crises on existing social inequalities at the level of capitalist labor relations, access to power, and quality of life.
In Eastern Europe, feminist activism and theorizing have additionally been facing the challenge of articulating the local and historical particularities of the region and locating them within a broader, transnational movement. Increasingly, research has focused on the achievements, unfulfilled promises, and long-term consequences of the socialist policies towards women, as well as on the rich history of women’s rights and feminist intellectual thought in the region before and after the Second World War, in a climate that has been both anti-communist and anti-feminist. The two have built upon each other in ways exacerbated by crises, as evident in recent anti-abortion, pro-traditional family, and anti-gender movements in the region. At times subsumed to more general accounts of “democratic backsliding” in Eastern Europe, these warrant analysis in their own right, not as mere symptoms, but as paradigmatic illustrations of the current stage of global capitalism.
By understanding how crises affect the most vulnerable, how they restructure already precarious daily lives, and how they lead to the articulation of new social and political claims, all the while integrating their historical and regional articulations, we can arrive both at more inclusive modes of socioeconomic organization and at more elaborate theories of present-day capitalism.
Accordingly, this stream invites contributions that address primarily, but not exclusively, the following questions:
- What is the impact of various crises on social reproduction historically and in different regions of the world? What are the effects on care work within families, communities, organizations, and institutions faced with material deprivation, unpredictability, and violence? How are people of intersecting marginalities and vulnerable groups affected? How are continuous forms of crisis (permacrisis) shaping processes of marginalization?
- What kind of practices of solidarity, politics of care, and forms of self-organizing have been developed in response to crises historically and in the present? How have these practices been transformed when moving from one crisis to another (e.g., from the Covid-19 pandemic to violent conflicts and displacement)?
- How have crises affected feminist activism and how has feminist activism responded to crises? In what ways have feminist theory and practice been combined and how has the very distinction between theory and practice been thematized from feminist standpoints?
- What kind of feminist theorizing has emerged in and about crises? What are the convergences and differences between different strands of feminism and from different positionalities on these issues?
- What kind of strategies, approaches, and alliances has feminism developed in Eastern Europe in the region’s shifting historical, social, and geopolitical context? What are the histories of feminist and women’s rights theorizing and feminist activism in Eastern Europe and how do they relate to thinking and practices in other parts of the world? How have anti-communist, anti-feminist, and anti-gender discourse and movements articulated and intersected in recent years in the region and what kind of responses were there from feminist and queer standpoints?
stream coordinator Leyla Safta-Zecheria
This stream invites papers engaging with the re-valuing and de-valuing of labor and care practices in historic and contemporary societies. It invites papers that explore the utopian potential of care practices, for example through thinking about how care can help us think beyond work-centric imaginaries of society (Weeks, 2020), but also empirical investigations into how care practices and care work have been devalued as “non-productive” and “feminine” activities in both capitalist and socialist modern societies. Furthermore, it invites investigations of the biopolitical and economical effects of constructing deserving and un-deserving populations in relation to care and economic processes and into how people excluded through these mechanisms organize to transform dominant social and economic practices.
Finally, it also invites contributions that engage with global inequalities in relation to labor and care inequalities, for example those that look into how the devaluation of care work pushes the transnationalization and precarization of care work, as well as the creation of care deserts outside of the Global North. This includes the precarization of care workers as well as of those who receive care, with transnational care work chains that displace care creating a hierarchy between subjects who “afford” care or to whom care is awarded and those who cannot “afford” to receive care within the ‘“traditionally” imagined networks (both in terms of families, e.g. “left behind” children, but also hospitals - e.g. nurse migration and other forms of commodified care - such as home visits from nurses or carers, elderly homes, etc.). It also raises the issue of Eastern Europe’s position as care provider for Europe and the region’s historical legacies of etatizing care, addressing women’s “double labor,” and biopolitical marginalization.
Whereas this stream invites contributions on the ways in which labor, and particularly care work, have been valued in the past and are valued in the present, it also aims to showcase how the hierarchies thus constructed, as well as how they operate, have been resisted in everyday life. This includes solidarity acts as well as intellectual challenges, both historically and today, for example by radical feminists and movements of people who refused to be represented solely as subjects of care practices (e.g., the Crip movement, movements of persons with disabilities, etc.).
Contributions from historical, philosophical, ethnographic, social and political perspectives that (non-exclusively) speak to these questions are invited:
- How do care practices shape social and political imaginaries? How are they shaped by them?
- What moral economies of care and productivity shape and have shaped social and labor relations in the past and present? How do they shape the construction of the future, either as a practical or an aspirational horizon?
- How do care and labor practices interact to shape or challenge processes of social reproduction?
- How is (and was) care work (de)valued of care work in both capitalist and socialist modern societies? How is the devaluing of care reflected in the precarization of care workers? How is it reflected in the precarization of those who need or receive care?
- How do transnational care chains operate? How do they intersect with racialized economic practices in the Global North? What experiences of care or lack of care emerge at the intersection between care and economic inequality? What moral and social imaginaries emerge in this process?
- How is care governed? How does the etatization of care shape care practices? How does it shape dominant moral imaginaries? How do biopolitics shape care practices? How does care shape biopolitical practices? How do biopolitics and ethics interact in everyday life?
- How can we think about care practice beyond human subjects? What do (or can) posthumanist care practices look like?
How do solidarity practices shape care? How do care practices create or challenge spaces for political organization?
stream coordinator Siyaves Azeri
Modern capitalist society is the arena of the confrontation and conflict between antagonistic forces with the capitalist state considered as an autonomous entity emerging on the basis of such conflicts. This allegedly consequent autonomy of the state from civil society guarantees its function in controlling and suppressing class wars and social conflicts. The conceptualization of the state as the social facilitator comes at the price of dismissing its “human essence.”
A Marxist critical analysis of the state has the task of depicting the human essence of the state and the reasons behind the specific forms of appearance of such an essence; the “concreteness” of the state is in need of conceptualization of its historical determinateness and the necessary forms it assumes in response to the totality of the social relations.
The crisis-ridden nature of the state is also manifest in the division between the civil society and the political sphere: the separation dear to bourgeois thinkers is necessarily contradictory as it is politically posited. The depoliticization of the civil realm is a political act, which in its turn is the expression of the fractured and antagonistic nature of bourgeois society. That being the case, the members of the civil society are related politically; in other words, they are related as political entities. With the formation of the bourgeois state human beings disappear as concrete but indeterminate persons to emerge as determinate yet abstract individuals. The state, thus, functions as the means of positing identities through defining human persons as (non)-citizens: as nationals, members of particular ethnicities, races, religions, genders and the like.
The topics related to this stream cover but not necessarily limited to:
- The state as crisis/means of responding to crisis
- State and class struggle
- State and territories/borders
- The state as the means of production of (surplus)-populations
- The state and identity politics
- The state and human and citizen rights
- The nature and future of the state
- The state and its institutions
- The state in a postcapitalist society
- State and nation
- State and religion
- Border conflicts and migration
- Surveillance capitalism
stream coordinators Alex. Cistelecan & Ádám Takács
Periods of social and political stagnation can, apparently, coincide with bouts of theoretical and intellectual effervescence. The long decade separating us from the economic depression of 2008, with its salvos of war, catastrophes, and overlapping crises, has witnessed a renewed and prolific interest in Marxism and critical theory. In this rediscovery, a whole range of liberal political and ethical ideals has been radically eclipsed, but neither have a single theoretical assumption and conceptual basis in the field of Marxism remained untouched: the classic labor theory of value has been challenged anew and reassessed; the tendency of the falling rate of profit has been tested and redrawn; most of Marx’s conceptual oppositions – between productive and reproductive labor, between base and superstructure, between forces and relations of production, between rent and profit, etc. – have been revisited and articulated anew; while its most fundamental philosophical assumptions – its anthropocentrism or speciesism, its productivism, its economism – have been challenged and tentatively diffused. Critical theory thus seems to be reconnecting with its original philosophical roots and its political ambitions in a renewed phase that is giving rise to much discussion.
The present stream welcomes all investigations into these recent evolutions in the field of Marxism and critical theory. Among the possible angles are:
- Labor theory of value revisited
- Theories of crisis and polycrisis
- The law and code of capital
- Eastern and Western Marxist theory
- Marxist perspectives on technology
- New developments in Marxist historiography
- World System Theory today
- Metamorphoses of political capitalism
- New theories of imperialism
- Frankfurt School then and now
- Avatars and afterlives of French theory
- Marxism and speculative realism
- Marxism and critical phenomenology
stream coordinators Ștefan Baghiu & Christian Ferencz-Flatz
Although Marx himself wrote little about literature, historical materialism soon became a well known tool for analyzing literary products, not only through sociological interventions in the literary field, but also as a reading of the ideologemes which permeate it. Whether interested in explorations of the materiality of the fictional world or adhering to a Marxist program of perspectivizing various class struggles, literary and fictional representations today increasingly seem to demand adherence to the historical materialist origins of the data of reality.
In a similar vein, classical Marxist interpretations saw media as part and parcel of the late capitalist transformations of the cultural field under the impact of industrialization, accelerated technological development, and mass consumption, leading to commodification and reification, but also potentially offering tools for social emancipation. These structural views of technologically mediated culture as a social product and instrument materialized in fine-grained critical readings tracing the ideological refractions of cinematic or televisual. Such views have infiltrated and fertilized contemporary media studies in various regards. At the same time, they have inspired diverse radical and oppositional practices of filmmaking and media activism in the Western world, the East, and the Global South.
But how do the principles of Marxist cultural theory fare in our contemporary post-industrial world, marked by new processes and understandings of work, knowledge, and culture, and in a period of intense technological upheaval, which seems to leave no stone unturned? Moreover: how do they perform at a time, when the impact of media has extended far beyond the cultural field, pervading processes of labor, economic arrangements, and social relationships? This stream hosts papers arguing for the continuous relevance of Marxist reflection on media and artistic production in a contemporary world of new perils, requiring new forms of engagement and combat, with a special emphasis on Eastern European media activism, local traditions of socialist reflections on literature, film, and media, as well as the history of state socialist entanglements with the media.
We particularly encourage contributions in the following areas:
- Materialist approaches in world literary studies
- Literary systems within and beyond state socialism
- Peripheral histories of radical literature
- Intersectional approaches to literary studies
- Literary production and precarity
- Literary politics of representation
- State socialism and the media
- New media and post-labour
- Platform capitalism
- Cultural politics and pop culture
- Critical approaches to visual AI
- Decolonial turn in media studies
- Ecosocialist readings of media
- Radical film culture and traditions
- Cinematic discourses of class, poverty, precarity, and social exclusion
- Counterforensics, investigative commons, activist journalism
- Media activism
stream coordinators Jan Mervart & Monika Woźniak
The concept of the scientific and technological revolution was an integral part of Marxist thought in state-socialist countries and beyond. The political designers of both Soviet and non-Soviet models (Yugoslavia, Chile) of socialism relied on technological and scientific progress to streamline the economic system, cybernetically organize plans and production, or increase labor productivity. At the same time, many Marxists saw in it the unique possibility of emancipation, which would move the inhabitants of socialist states into the promised realm of freedom through a "revolution in the means of production" by means of scientific knowledge. Others, however, saw the same project as a threat to the free development of man and his or her possibilities, and simply saw the bet on technological and scientific progress as a possible form of new manipulation, in which a super-personal system would regiment the activities of the human individual.
The same questions are in many ways still relevant after the end of state socialism. Do scientific and technological advances represent a new form of emancipatory and revolutionary possibilities, or are they inevitably part of the oppressive apparatus of late capitalism, with the aim of maintaining the status quo or establishing a certain form of "digital dictatorship"? What forms of Marxist critique have emerged in relation to contemporary technological developments and to what extent are questions of technological and scientific progress a limit and a threat to today’s emancipatory efforts?
We welcome all contributions investigating Marxist approaches to science and technology, including in the following aspects:
- Marxist and non-Marxist readings of scientific and technological progress
- The political role of the techno-scientific revolution in state socialist countries
- Technology and changes in knowledge production
- Various forms of tech criticism
- Marxist readings of high technology capitalism
- Big Data capitalism, AI, and platformization