Dissidents as figures of truth (since the 1970s) / Date: 14.-16. July 2021
International conference organised by the research initiative (East) European Epistemologies (Friedrich Cain, Dietlind Hüchtker, Bernhard Kleeberg, Karin Reichenbach and Jan Surman). In cooperation with the Faculty Centre for Transdisciplinary Historical and Cultural Studies, University of Vienna; the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe, GWZO, Leipzig; the Research Group “Praxeologies of Truth”/University of Erfurt; the Masaryk Institute and Archives of the Czech Academy of Sciences
What do Andrei Sakharov, Noam Chomsky, a 19th century sect of German Catholics, and today’s mask opponents have in common? They all have at times been called, and identified themselves as, dissidents – “those who do not agree.” But while all of them were convinced that they presented “the truth,” opposing mainstream religious, social, political or intellectual climate, they did not meet with the same reactions – for instance, Corona dissidents and Soviet dissidents seem to stand on the opposed poles of the political and social spectrum.
Today, we almost intuitively associate dissidents with Soviet intellectual nonconformists, and those from other countries of the Eastern Bloc, with towering figures like Václav Havel, Jacek Kuroń or Andriej Sacharow. At our conference, we want to look more closely at how the figure of the “dissident” became constructed and solidified across the Iron Curtain and after the fall of the Soviet Union. We will focus on practices, techniques, and media settings which (co)produce the dissident as a (mostly male) “truth figure” (Kleeberg 2019), which includes practices of staging oneself, and ways of embodying the (epistemic) values and virtues associated with this figure. As truth figures are historically heterogeneous, so is “the dissident,” varying from person to person, group to group, from country to country, and changing over time which itself is a matter of our inquiry. Yet, as a truth figure, it became an important point of reference, used as self-designation by a variety of people from different poles of the political spectrum, not only across Soviet and Post-Soviet space. Central Europe, for instance, in the 1990s witnessed a mushrooming of dissidents, who had not been identifiable as such before. Obviously, a specific relation to truth is crucial for the figure of the dissident not only as it is understood today: from ancient parrhesiastes to today's dissidents, speaking the truth to power, being “true to oneself,” “living the truth,” has been essential.
As the imaginary of truth and a depiction of concrete instructions about how to authenticate truth, truth figures form an intersection between local and transnational dissidence-discourses. In Soviet times, the dissident was created locally: in oppositional media like samizdat and through practices like creating rumors, and as enemies of the state through state media. At the same time, Radio Free Europe, Nobel Prizes, tamizdat or interviews in important journals like Le Monde or The New Yorker largely contributed to the emergence of dissident as a truth figure both locally and abroad (cf. Szulecki 2019). Some – like Russian feminist dissidents – were publicly recognized as such only abroad (Vasyakina/Kozlov/Talaver 2020).
In our conference we want to approach the question of the life and afterlife of the “dissident” as a figure of truth with particular attention to post-Soviet space. We are particularly interested in contributions addressing following topics:
How, with which practices, strategies and arguments, by whom, and in which medial settings were/are dissidents staged as figures of truth and how were/are they delegitimized?
How was/is the figure of the legitimate, “truthful” dissident presented and represented, how is it affected by class, gender, religion or ethnic/national origin?
How does the alleged authenticity of the dissident as a truth figure affect disputes about truth, how does this kind of subjectified truth relate to other forms of truth?
What role did the international recognition as well as transnational networks play in the stabilization (or destabilization) of the figure of the dissident? How did this recognition translate across borders?
How did controversies about dissidents and attempts to delegitimize them affect their role as truth figures – be these controversies instigated by Soviet propaganda, independently of it, or coming from inside of the dissidence movement(s)?
How did the figure of the dissident change after the breakup of the Soviet Union up until today? Which groups assumed the truth associated with dissidents for themselves by designating themselves as dissidents (historical or “new dissidents”), and what does this tell us about more general transformations of truth regimes?
What discussions about “legitimacy” and “illegitimacy” of dissidence and dissidents were taking place over the last decades? What processes of inclusion and exclusion were at play here?
Vasyakina, Oksana / Kozlov, Dmitri / Talaver, Sasha (eds.) Feministskij samizdat: 40 let spustya [Feminist Samizdat: 40 years later]. Moscow: Common place 2020.
Bernhard Kleeberg, Post Post-Truth. Epistemologies of Disintegration and the Praxeology of Truth, in: Stan Rzeczy / State of Affairs 2(17)/2019, 25-52. doi.org/10.51196/srz.17.2
Kacper Szulecki, Dissidents in Communist Central Europe: Human Rights and the Emergence of New Transnational Actors, Basingstoke: Palgrave 2019.
Online Workshop: Academic Authority and the Politics of Science and History in Eastern Europe (June/July & Dec. 2020)
The online seminar is a fifth event organized by the Erfurt/Leipzig/Moscow working group on Political Epistemologies of (Eastern) Europe and focusses on academic authority and the scholar as the central figure of knowledge production. Observing a basic diversity and continuous transformation of epistemologies along with the emergence as well as destabilization or decline of epistemic authorities, the seminar discusses the history of epistemological shifts in Central and Eastern Europe over the past fifty years. While directing its gaze at a recently contested expert of knowledge production – the scholar, it aims to investigate historical challenges of (academic) scholarship’s role as the paramount producer of scientific truth.
Organisers: Friedrich Cain, Bernhard Kleeberg (Max Weber Center, University of Erfurt), Dietlind Hüchtker (Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe, Leipzig), Karin Reichenbach (University of Leipzig), Jan Surman (Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow)
In December (11./12. 2020), our workshop will be held online via Webex:
Fr. 11 Dec. 2020
9:00–9:30 Introduction, Procedure, Test of System
9:30–10:15 Friedrich Cain – System Optimisation: On the Responsibility of Socialist Science Studies
10:30–11:15 Miglena Nikolchina – Between Evasion and Confrontation: Opposing Communist Dogma in the Humanities: The Bulgarian Case(s)
11:30–12:15 Eduard Burget, Petra Loučová, Doubravka Olšáková – Grey Zone: Official or Dissent Science in Communist Academia? (working title)
13:15–14:00 Andreas Langenohl – Historiography Overtaken by History? The Self-authorization of Academic Historians in Russia of the 1990s
14:15–15:00 Anne Kluger – “Honecker’s Vassal” or a Prehistorian in Service of Science? The Concept of “the Scholar” in the Debate on Joachim Herrmann and the Evaluation of Former East-German Researchers in Reunified Germany
Sa. 12 Dec. 2020
9:00–9:45 Ionuț Mircea Marcu – The Historiographical Field in Post-socialist Romania: Institutions, Careers and Epistemic Innovations
10:00–10:45 Michał Pawleta – In the Shadow of the Omnipresent Past: The New Approach of the Contemporary Poles to the Archaeological Past
11:00–11:45 Andrea Pető – Making Illiberal Memory Politics via Creating Alternative Systems and Institutions of Academic Authority
12:45–13:30 Karin Reichenbach – Practices of Evidence in Pseudo-Science
13:45–14:30 Ella Rossman – Gender History in Post-Soviet Russia: Legitimation of the New Field and Research De-politicization
14:30–15:00 Final Discussion, Further Procedure
The online seminar in June/July 2020 was part of the Kolloquium “Wissenschaftsgeschichte”, University of Erfurt. 16.6.2020, 18:00-20:00: Friedrich Cain/Dietlind Hüchtker/Bernhard Kleeberg/Karin Reichenbach/Jan Surman: “Academic Authority and the Politics of Science and History in Eastern Europe – Introduction”; Michał Pawleta (Poznań): In the Shadow of the Omnipresent Past: The New Approach of the Contemporary Poles to the Past. 30.6.2020, 18:00-20:00: Miglena Nikolchina (Sofia): Is Literary Theory Dead?; Andrea Pető (Budapest): Making Illiberal Memory Politics via Creating Alternative Systems and Institutions of Academic Authority. 7.7.2020, 18:00-20:00: Anne Kluger (Münster): “Honecker’s Vassal” or a Prehistorian in Service of Science? The Concept of “the Scholar” in the Debate on Joachim Herrmann and the Evaluation of Former East-German Researchers in Reunified Germany; Ionuț Mircea Marcu (Bucharest): The Historiographical Field in Post-Socialist Romania: Institutions, Careers and Epistemic Innovations. 14.7.2020, 18:00-20:00: Ella Rossman (Moscow): Gender and Gender History in Post-Soviet Russia: Depoliticization of Terminology and Disciplinary Marginalization; Andreas Langenohl (Gießen): History and the Memory Wars of the Wild 1990s: The Case of Russia
Academic Authority and the Politics of Science and History in Eastern Europe (March 2020)
The workshop is the fifth in a series of sessions organized by the Erfurt/Leipzig/Moscow working group on Political Epistemologies of (Eastern) Europe and focusses on academic authority and the scholar as the central figure of knowledge production. Observing a basic diversity and continuous transformation of epistemologies along with the emergence as well as destabilization or decline of epistemic authorities, the workshop discusses the history of epistemological shifts in Central and Eastern Europe over the past fifty years. While directing its gaze at a recently contested expert of knowledge production – the scholar, it aims to investigate historical challenges of (academic) scholarship’s role as the paramount producer of scientific truth. The workshop covers a broad spectrum of topics related to this field. We will analyze challenges, transitions, liminalities, and practices concentrating on the socialist and post-socialist systems of humanities in Eastern Germany, Russia, Hungary, Romania, Czechia and Poland.
Beyond Post-Truth: Media Landscapes in the “Age of Insecurity” (June 2019)
Funded by: IGITI, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow /// Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig /// Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt /// Justus-Liebig-University Gießen (chair for “Allgemeiner Gesellschaftsvergleich”) Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributors: Armen Aramyan, Stef Aupers, Aleksander Bikbov, Polina Boyarshinova, Konstantin Gabov, Diego Han, Nikita Khokhlov, Darya Khokhlova, Bernhard Kleeberg, Philipp Kohl, Andreas Langenohl, Zhanna Mylogorodska, Olga Savinskaya, Sophie Schmähig, Philipp Smirnov, Olga Solovyeva, Ilya Yablokov, Greg Yudin, Alexander Zhigaylov
Recent years have witnessed an unprecedented rise of a new category of description within the world of media and information. Fake news and fake facts, post-truth and post-politics, have started to govern the medial and social life, unmistakably attracting also academic attention. At the same time they give an illusion as if true news and true facts, truth and politics, were fixed objects before the rise of populism and authoritarian regimes in East and West. This creates a narrative of a current informational insecurity, which follows an (alleged) age of informational clarity. How simplifying this narrative might be, and how diverting the gaze from other, often more crucial changes in local and global media landscapes (like changes of attention economy following the acceleration of information and the multiplication of truth makers), which are often closely interconnected with it, “fakeness” of the “post” era, or the “post-truth-regime,” becomes to be the reality we live by.
Taking “fake,” “post or “truth” as categories in current social, cultural, medial, legal, political and philosophical, discourse, our conference intends to look at the construction of these entities and practices connected with their use in the current information regime. While the focus of our conference will be Russian-language media, it is our intention to place them within the recent alterations of international media and not particularising it, preferably by comparative approaches. We inquire into changes that affected “truth figures” and “truth scenes” after 1989 and after the collapse of the bipolar world order, situating local particularity within the global trends. We are particularly interested in discussing the conceptual frameworks with which the international situation can be analysed beyond the simplifying rhetorical figures like “true,” “fake,” “propaganda” etc. By engaging into discussion with actors of conventional and new media we also want to have a glance behind the practices of creating information and engage with non-academic discourses.
A New Culture of Truth? On the Transformation of Political Epistemologies since the 1960s (Oct. 2018)
Contributors: Armen Aramian, Anna Grutza, Karl Hall, Jayson Harsin, Andreas Langenohl, Juliana Lizer, Verena Lehmbrock, Jakub Motrenko, Mike Plitt, Joachim v. Puttkamer, Sophie Schmäing, Marci Shore, Oleksandr Svyetlov, Paula-Irene Villa, Ilya Yablokov
2017 saw the alleged rising of a “post-truth era,” closely associated with a destabilisation of familiar epistemologies and the dismissal of their classical gate keepers. New political epistemologies have emerged that follow the truth regimes of specific group attitudes – often nationalist, chauvinist, xenophobic – and are spread via both new and traditional media, such as Facebook and Twitter, television and newspapers, emitted by private, semi-official, and even governmental brokers.
The deliberate use of ‘versions’ of truth has become very influential, as political parties promoting them have begun restructure media landscapes or promote new politics of memory etc. Consequences have become manifest in nation states, international organizations and unions: for a long time, consensus building stemmed from the integration of different interests on basis of the same epistemological values (truthfulness, trust etc.) and categories (facts, objectivity etc.), that are now being questioned. Classical ‘truth figures’ like the scientist, the journalist, or the dissident have been joined by bloggers, spin-doctors, or debunkers who dwell in places that seem to have emerged only recently, and especially with the establishment of Web2.0.
Though “fake news” and “alternative facts” have predominantly been discussed with reference to the US, the workshop’s main focus will be on the former Warsaw Pact countries, where the negotiation of truth has a specific history: After 1989, Marxism lost its monopoly of interpretation to other – often “Western” – truth regimes. Dissidents and social movements, who had emphatically (re-) claimed ‘truth’ as a weapon against their regimes before 1989, have smaller impact today, due to the digital atomization of perspectives.
These shifts in epistemological landscapes cannot be observed and described easily along the well-known lines of propaganda, information and disinformation etc. Following a praxeological approach to truth (Kleeberg/Suter 2014) the aim of the workshop was to systematically assess these changes. We therefore examined the practical contexts in which truth claims are embedded, the (trans-)formation or (de-)stabilization of “truth scenes” (e.g. the trial) and “truth figures”. We took a closer look at the shift(s) of truth regimes from the heyday of the Cold War in the 1960s until today. We paid special attention to the transformation of medial settings of information flows and the processes of forming public opinion, which were being set into relation with the entangled history of political epistemologies of (Eastern) Europe. Of course, these phenomena cannot only be spotted in the US and post-Soviet spaces. Therefore, we were very much interested in comparative case studies from other global regions without specific post-Soviet experiences.
Bibliography Kleeberg, Bernhard / Robert Suter, “Doing Truth. Bausteine einer Praxeologie der Wahrheit”, in: Wahrheit. Zeitschrift für Kulturphilosophie 8 (2014/2), 211-226.
Political Epistemologies of the Soviet Union: 1917-1945-1967 (June 2018)
Moscow, 21-22 June 2018 (Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities (IGITI), National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow) Organisers: Jan Surman and Alexander N. Dmitriev (local organisers) Friedrich Cain, Dietlind Hüchtker, Bernhard Kleeberg
Funded by: IGITI, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow /// Max Weber Center for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt /// Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig Contact: Jan Surman
Contributors: Alexander N. Dmitriev, Igor Kaufmann, Daria Drozdova, Karl Hall, Geert Somsen, Galina Babak, Ilia Kukulin, Angelina Lucento, Michał Murawski, Anna Echterhölter, Aleksei Lokhmatov, Sascha Freyberg, Daria Petushkova, Alexander Bikbov, Rossen Djagalov, Christopher Donohue
The October Revolution of 1917 proclaimed the rise of a new society based on the Marxist(-Leninist) philosophy. Dialectics, materialism, proletarianism etc. have since then dominated Soviet discussions in arts, scholarship, sciences etc. However, the epistemic questioning of the boundaries between science, ideology, politics – but also between science and arts, or between science and technology – could now immediately effect changes in legislation, education, or administration. Yet, Marxist epistemology still transgressed Soviet territories, since discussions of Marxism and its intellectual importance were carried out from Paris to Peking, from Almaty to Avenida Viena. After 1945, new geopolitical conditions gave power to certain Central European Marxisms. Clearly, both continuities, but also breaks occurred to the whole intellectual sphere on personal, social, epistemic etc. levels, influencing not only the Soviet Union but the whole globe.
Our conference concentrated on the political epistemologies of broadly understood intellectuals – in the first place scholars and scientists, but also artists or literati. Following Yehuda Elkana’s ideas on “anthropology of knowledge,” and Karl Mannheim’s description of epistemologies as “aspect structures,” we concentrated on the question how individual and collective epistemologies were structured by, and at the same structured political attitudes of intellectuals, scholars or scientists, but also artists and literati. Accepting the malleability and interchangeability of what we analytically describe as cultural, social, political etc., we inquired how these categories, with their key epistemic concepts, like truth, proof, experiment, but also critical intervention or autonomy, were framed and also how they informed the identity building of individuals and groups intending to represent them.
With a wide range of examples, from the sciences and the newly appearing projects of a “science of science”, through arts to a broader intellectual and academic sphere, we encouraged interdisciplinary approaches. This brought together aspects Marxism intended to amalgamate and which since the demise of Marxism have grown apart. At the same time, looking at the ways Marxist epistemology was differently appropriated and contested, allowed us to bring forward its specificity and the specificity of approaches adjacent or contesting.
Political Epistemologies of Eastern Europe (Nov. 2017)
Contributors: Marta Bucholc, Alexander N. Dmitriev, Vedran Duančić, Gábor Gángó, Karl Hall, Peter Haslinger, Tomáš Hermann, Kornelia Kończal, Claudia Kraft, Katherine Lebow, Riccardo Nicolosi, Emilia Plosceanu, Katrin Steffen, Joanna Wawrzyniak, Monika Wulz
The first half of the 20th century was an age of global accelerated social and political transformation, at the time and afterwards conceived as either evolution, revolution, or reform. While the entity of Eastern, Central and South-Eastern Europe was heterogeneous, it was home to a number of parallel processes inducing what seem to be similar epistemologies, varying only in local forms. To localize these variations, our workshop focused on reflections on science, scholarship and higher education done in this region from the end of WWI until the 1960s.
The scholars we focused on were not only “scientists of science”, but often analyzed and even heavily influenced political and social change from their specific standpoints, ranging from philosophy, history, sociology, psychology to especially pedagogy. However, most of them positioned their projects at transdisciplinary junctures. They were eager to introduce brand new sciences or at least to fundamentally reshape existing disciplines. Many politically engaged scholars suggested and helped to implement programs to investigate science, thought or creativity in order to foster individual, social or national progress. We understand such projects as political epistemologies – theories of knowledge, that are preconditioned by political convictions. In times of national and cultural plurality – either multiplication or fragmentation – these theories often emphasized a plurality of knowledge.
Our workshop aimed to investigate such political epistemologies in their respective academic, regional or national embedding. The workshop had two main interests: First, to uncover the panorama of contributors that goes beyond such prominent figures like Alfred Tarski or Ludwik Fleck in Warsaw and Lviv, Jan Patočka and Emmanuel Rádl in Prague, Boris Hessen and Aleksander Bogdanov in Moscow and St. Petersburg or Karl Mannheim and Michael Polanyi, both born and socialized in Budapest. For this we particularly encouraged contributions on persons and places hitherto marginalized in recent research. Second, we wanted to investigate different theoretical concepts and practical methods that originated in the region and uncover biographies of these concepts and methods, whether local or transnational.