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Europe at the crossroads! Analyzing the current critical junctures and the political, socioeconomic and cultural dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe

Deadline: December 1st, 2022

The beginning of Russia›s full-scale war against Ukraine in February 2022 was a historical watershed in European history and marked the end of the post-Cold War era. Using the term ›Zeitenwende‹ in his notable speech only three days after Russia‹s invasion, German chancellor Scholz pointed at the fundamental challenge towards the European order of peace, freedom and democracy that this war means. At the same time, this turning point in European history does also clearly set an end to what we might call the post-socialist transformation phase. Whatever direction Europe may take, ›post-socialist transformation‹ or ›post-socialist countries‹ will no longer be the adequate term to describe the single or common development paths of Central and Eastern European countries.

This conference and the corresponding publication pursue the aim of analyzing and conceptualizing the emergence, the meaning, and the future relevance of the so-called ›Zeitenwende‹ for Europe in general and for Central and Eastern Europe in particular. We aim at contextualizing and analyzing this supposedly turning point in contemporary Europe with (1) a focus on the ›long lines of transformation‹ that set the context of this rupture, (2) the ambivalences of Europeanization and frictions that mark the phase of ›post-transformation‹ as well as (3) first foreseeable consequences of Russia›s war against Ukraine.

During 30 years of post-socialist transformation, nation-building, increasing attempts of sovereignty and democratization in Central and Eastern Europe were often accompanied by two distinct unexpected gloomy developments: The model and elements of liberal democracy have been questioned in several countries in Central and Eastern Europe, e. g. Hungary or Poland, and in Europe in general (Ivan Krastev, Europadämmerung, 2017), what eventuall, even signifies a fundamental crisis of so-called ‹late modernity› (Andreas Reckwitz, Das Ende der Illusionen, 2020). At the same time, the quest for independence and democracy in some post-Soviet countries went along with the price of being brutally retrieved by the former hegemonial power. Russia‹s neo-imperialism was previously not really part of the tableau of investigating transformation although the wars in Transnistria, Chechnya, Georgia, and even in the Western Balkans need to be perceived as phenomena of de-colonization and of post-transformation alike. Both contradictory developments of the transformation and the ›post-transformation‹ path require a new understanding and new concepts of Europeanization and the role of Central and Eastern Europe for the future of Europe at the crossroads.

The situation that Europe is at the crossroads marks a ›critical juncture‹ (Collier & Collier 1991, 29) for numerous countries and the global order alike that will deeply shape future developments. Critical junctures describe "periods of significant change, which typically occur in distinct ways in different countries (or other units of analysis), and which are hypothesized to produce distinct legacies" (Collier and Collier 1991, 29). We argue to see critical junctures from five perspectives: First, a contemporary perspective focuses on the diversity of the impact of Russia›s war against Ukraine in different countries‹ and the EU›s reaction. Second, in a historical perspective, we may look at long-term developments since the 1990s, thus focusing on the high dynamic and often poorly understood ambivalences of post-socialist transformation and Europeanization. Third, from a logic-of-consequences-perspective, we may think about new political, cultural or economic orders in Europe and worldwide. Fourth, from a conceptual perspective, it becomes obvious that the idea of ‹transformation› as a paradigm for the analysis of societal dynamics in Central and Eastern Europe has reached its end. Fifth, from a decidedly sociological perspective, we see sharply changing patterns of roles, relations, attributions and societal belongings within and across European societies.

To fully understand the current state in Central and Eastern Europe, it seems promising to analyze the interplay between the era of post-transformation and the new situation after the beginning of Russia‹s war against Ukraine.

We invite theoretical, empirical and conceptual papers that deal with these or further questions regarding the role of Central and Eastern Europe for ›Europe at the crossroads‹. Please send abstracts of max. 500 words to EuropeanJuncture(at) until 01.12.2022. Applicants will be informed about a decision of participation by 20.01.2023.

In case of a successful application, you will be invited to submit a paper of max. 8.000 words until 15.06.2023. We will share papers before the conference in order to ensure a discussion of high quality and related to the papers. Revisions of the papers will be possible until 31.10.2023. The publication as a special issue or edited volume is planned in early 2024.