Workshop on method: “Colonial Anxieties, Corruption Scandals and Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Infrastructure Development” (Day 1)

Event: Workshop

Location: NEC conference hall & Zoom

19 October 2023, 9.50-17.30 (Bucharest)
20 October 2023, 10.00-13.30 (Bucharest)

Conveners: Silvia MARTON and Andrei-Dan SORESCU

Participants: Boriana ANTONOVA-GOLEVA, Constantin ARDELEANU, Raul CÂRSTOCEA, Andrei CUȘCO, Ștefan DORONDEL, Gábor EGRY, Jens Ivo ENGELS, Malte FUHRMANN, Silvia MARTON, Darina MARTYKÁNOVA, Toader POPESCU, Andrei-Dan SORESCU, Alex R. TIPEI

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 860 2696 3580
Passcode: 846533


The workshop aims to focus on major methodological questions pertaining to the study of infrastructure, with a special focus on the construction of rail and fluvial-maritime transportation infrastructure in Central-South-East Europe (from the early nineteenth century to present day). It explores three interrelated directions. First, transportation infrastructure’s both phenomenological and performative nature. Discussions include here, but are not limited to, ‘progressive’, ‘disruptive’, ‘dangerous’, if not overtly ‘colonial’ characteristics of transportation infrastructure; controversies over financial and human capital and technology transfers; debates on paths and rhythms of infrastructure-boosted ‘modernization’. Second, the workshop will also inquire into the fears generated by the asymmetrical political, financial and economic interactions between Central-South-East Europe’s (emerging) polities and Europe’s Great Powers and empires in the process of transportation infrastructure construction. It will discuss methodological difficulties related to the study of the entanglements of economic nationalism with civilization-discourses and xenophobia; fears of economic ‘vassalage’ or ‘colonization’; colonial-like aspirations of political and economic influence; (in)formal dependencies or occupations. Last but not the least, the workshop’s methodological inquires include the relevance of corruption debates and scandals surrounding infrastructure construction that generated and constantly reshaped ‘colonial’ anxieties. Moreover, the workshop looks into the many ways ‘corruption’ as an idea and discourse, as well as a practice, played an important role in the history of modern politics and state- and nation-building processes.

Emphasis will be on the limits, nuances, and contested meanings, and the historical layers of main concepts – such as ‘colonialism’, ‘corruption’, ‘modernization’, ‘infrastructure’, ‘informal empire’, ‘soft colonialism’ – generated by the debates and scandals surrounding transportation infrastructure construction, and technological development in the process of nation- and state-building in Central-South-East Europe.



Thursday, 19 October 2023

Opening remarks

Session 1
Chair: Alex. R. TIPEI

Infrastructures – Methodological Challenges

Jens Ivo ENGELS, Darmstadt University of Technology
History of Critical Infrastructures – Some Conceptual and Methodological Remarks

11.00-11.15 Coffee break

Infrastructure, Development, and (National) Interests

Darina MARTYKÁNOVA, Autonomous University of Madrid
Technology, Identity, and Interests: Infrastructures in the Last Decades of the Ottoman Empire

Toader POPESCU, Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest / New Europe College
National Priorities and Local Interests. Negotiating Railway Investments in Romania (1880-1916)

Malte FUHRMANN, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient / New Europe College
The Enemy Within: Bulgaria versus the Orient Railways, 1878-1908. The Story of a 30-Year Infrastructural Cold War

Boriana ANTONOVA-GOLEVA, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia
Foreign Entrepreneurs, Social Networks, and the Patterns of the Ottoman Railway Development during the Nineteenth Century

13.30-15.00 Lunch break

Session 2
Chair: Jens Ivo ENGELS

Rail, Fluvial, and Maritime Infrastructure and (Corruption) Controversies

Gábor EGRY, Institute of Political History, Budapest
Steel, Wood, and Gold: Forest Exploitation, Railway Construction and Corruption in Southeastern Europe

Ștefan DORONDEL, Francisc I. Rainer Institute of Anthropology, Bucharest (via Zoom)
Disturbance. Infrastructuring a Large River

Silvia MARTON, New Europe College / University of Bucharest
The Discourse of Corruption and Railway Concessions in Romania

Constantin ARDELEANU, New Europe College / Institute for South-East European Studies, Bucharest
The ‘Hallier Affair’, Political Corruption and National Dignity in Romania in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Friday, 20 October 2023

Session 3
Chair: Constantin ARDELEANU

(Post)colonialism – Methodological Challenges

Andrei CUȘCO, A. D. Xenopol Institute of History, Romanian Academy, Iași
‘Post-Colonialism’ and ‘De-Colonization’ in the East European Setting: Elusive Concepts, (Post)Imperial Syndromes and Methodological Challenges

11.00-11.15  Coffee break

Civilization(s), Colonialism(s), Othering(s)

Alex R. TIPEI, Université de Montréal
Civilization or Corruption: Representing Modernizing Projects of the Early Greek State in the Francophone Press

Andrei-Dan SORESCU, New Europe College
The Perils (and Promise) of German Colonialism: Civilizational Hierarchies and Anxieties in Nineteenth Century Romania

Raul CÂRSTOCEA, Maynooth University / New Europe College (via Zoom)
Antisemitism at the Intersection of Corruption and Colonialism: Continuities of Nineteenth-Century Political Rhetoric in Interwar Romania



Photo source:

This workshop is organized within the research project Colonial Anxieties, Corruption Scandals and Xenophobia in Nineteenth-Century Infrastructure Development in Romania (CanCor). It is funded by UEFISCDI, ‘Basic and frontier research’ scheme, PN-III-P4-PCE-2021-0399 (2022-2024).