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Southeast European Studies during the Cold War: Aspects of International institutionalization (1960s‑1970s) (2014-2015)

Field of study: Comparative History of Modern Europe

The article analyzes the relationship among epistemic communities, symbolic geographies, cultural diplomacy, and Cold‑War politics in the Balkans. It historicizes the hegemonic internationalization of Southeast European studies from the periphery. The epitome of this phenomenon was the International Association of Southeast European Studies (AIESEE). This organization was an environment where regional scholars tackled perceived marginalizations and re‑ignited pre‑1945 traditions. It was a framework within which academics negotiated their societies’ and cultures’ Europeanness among three symbolic pillars: the ‘Balkans’, the‘West’ and the ‘East’. It was also a stage where epistemic multilateralism was a proxy for political entanglement. There were four spaces of institutionalization within the AIESEE. First, there were its leadership dynamics – who were the most prominent decision‑makers within the association. Second, there were the local specialized institutes and, more generally, national communities involved in the production of knowledge about the Balkans in world and continental contexts. Third, there were AIESEE’s specialized commissions, laboratories of transnational regional narratives. And fourth, there were the international congresses of Southeast European studies –pinnacles
of international academic‑political exchange. The hegemonic aspect underlying the evolution of these four spaces was that they were constantly managed by Balkan academics. The study focuses on the first three spaces of institutionalization, only hinting at the role of the fourth.The objective of my approach is twofold: to reveal the mechanisms of institutional hegemony; and, to characterize some of the outcomes of this phenomenon. The study concludes that AIESEE established itself 22 N.E.C. Ştefan Odobleja Program Yearbook 2014-2015as the locus of Balkan episteme’s projection of “counter‑circulation” into the general context of Cold War humanities. It was the springboard for the dissemination of knowledge that rehabilitated, de‑colonized, and de‑marginalized the Southeast beyond the Iron Curtain. Within AIESEE, scholars found a modus parlandi. It reflected varying degrees of historiographical peaceful coexistence and trans‑localism as conduit for particularisms.

Keywords: Cold War, UNESCO, AIESEE, Balkans, communism, post‑colonialism, periphery

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