• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site
National Research University Higher School of EconomicsNewsResearch&ExpertiseOlessia Kirtchik:‘Behind common images of intransigent opposition, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest emerges’

Olessia Kirtchik:‘Behind common images of intransigent opposition, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest emerges’

On October 17-19, 2013 the international conference ‘Social and Human Sciences on Both Sides of the “Iron Curtain”’ organized by the HSE Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities will be held in Moscow.

This international conference is intended to put together research findings on the history of social and human sciences in the capitalist West and the socialist East during the second half of the 20th century. HSE news service will publish a series of materials on the conference.

Olessia Kirtchik, senior research fellow at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, member of the programme committee of the conference spoke to HSE news service about the conference and why this is such an intriguing area of study.

— What are the goals of the conference?

— The history and sociology of the Cold War social and human sciences is an exciting topic of growing interest as witnessed by a series of conferences and publications of very high quality which have taken place especially in last five years in Great Britain, United States, France and other countries. Most of these academic events and publications are dealing with the Western European and North American context, while the “Eastern” or “Socialist” part of the story is virtually absent from discussion. For various reasons this field of study is still only at the germination stage in Russia. Nevertheless, we received many responses to our call for papers from scholars working on the history of social and human sciences on both sides of the Iron Curtain, while some of them attempting a comparative analysis. This meeting is conceived as one of the first occasions to bring together these different perspectives. I believe such a dialogue might be insightful for all participants. Another important goal of this conference is to familiarize our social scientists and students with the scholarship on the Cold War social sciences.

— Could you tell us about the participants and highlight the discussion issues?

— This conference has a truly international and multidisciplinary orientation. Most of the participants are historians, philosophers and sociologists coming from the United States and Europe (Germany, France, UK, Czech Republic, and other countries). Among our speakers are young as well as established researchers, such as Philip Mirowski, one of the most important historians and philosophers of economics of the post War period, author of the book Machine Dreams: Economics Becomes a Cyborg Science Cambridge University Press, 2001. The confrontation of national and disciplinary contexts is an important issue proposed for discussions at thematic sessions embracing very different topics from economic modeling to philosophy.

— What's most exciting for you as a researcher in the history of social and human sciences in the second half of the 20th century?

— As I mentioned earlier, the impact of the Cold War on the history of social and human sciences in the Soviet Union remains a large and almost unknown field. I’d like to invite colleagues, especially younger ones, to look closely at this research area. For me personally, the most intellectually challenging and motivating thing was to discover, behind common images of intransigent opposition, of two mutually exclusive societal and political alternatives, an exciting story of parallel developments, hidden connections, mutual interest, and knowledge transfers. This kind of historical and comparative investigation also enlightens us on the impact of different ideological and institutional contexts on scientific practices and cultures.

— What would you recommend for young people to read to understand the processes which happened in the second half of the 20th century?

— In recent years, we’ve seen a quite impressive flow of scholarly literature dealing with the development of different social and human science disciplines after the Second World War. I believe the interest of this literature transcends the borders of specialized sub-disciplines, because the history of knowledge and technology is essential to our understanding of the political and social history of contemporary societies. Just to mention a few:

Mark Solovey, Hamilton Cravens, eds. 2012. Cold War Social Science: Knowledge Production, Liberal Democracy, and Human Nature. Palgrave Macmillan.

Roger E. Backhouse, Philippe Fontaine. 2010. The History of the Social Sciences since 1945. Cambridge University Press.

Engerman, D. C., Gilman, N., Haefele, M. H., & Latham, M. E. 2003. Staging growth: Modernization, development, and the global Cold War. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

— How did the HSE start and develop cooperation with international researchers on this topic? What plans do you have for further cooperation?

— Cooperation with some of the participants started long before the conference as part of various projects with researchers at the Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities and with the Research and educational group for Social Studies of Economic Knowledge. Besides, the conference has brought many new people thanks to a very large circulation of the call for contributions. As long as sociology and history of knowledge remains one of the IGITI’s main areas of focus, we hope to maintain these old and new contacts while developing new cooperative projects. In the short term, we’re planning to publish the most interesting conference papers in an edited volume offering a comparative perspective on the history of social sciences and humanities on both sides of the Iron Curtain.

Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for the HSE news service

Programme.pdf

See also:

Ambassadors for Interdisciplinary and Applied History

Samrat Sil is a recent graduate of the English-taught Master's programme in Applied and Interdisciplinary History ‘Usable Pasts’ at HSE St. Petersburg. David Datmar, a native of Ghana, decided to join the programme to help him prepare for eventual study at the PhD level, which he plans to undertake soon at the University of Oxford. Both gentlemen were recently awarded certificates of recognition for their role as ambassadors contributing to the university’s internationalization agenda.

Analysing History through Ego-documents

International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, Higher School of Economics and The Friedrich Ebert Foundation held 'A Memory Revolution’: Soviet History Through the Lens of Personal Documents' in Moscow on 7-8 June, 2017. The conference brought together distinguished historians and sociologists from across the globe. Michael David-Fox, Professor of History, Georgetown University, and Academic Advisor of HSE International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences shares his reflections and considerations on the main topic and discussions at the conference and his own research

Seeking Answers in Medieval Russian History

On May 31, Valerie Kivelson, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, will be delivering a seminar entitled ‘Visualizing Empire: Muscovite Images of Race’. Professor Kivelson is an expert in Medieval and early modern Russia, history of cartography, history of witchcraft, religion, and political culture, among other topics. She is the author of 'Desperate Magic: The Moral Economy of Witchcraft in Seventeenth Century Russia' and a guest editor of 'Witchcraft Casebook: Magic in Russia, Poland and Ukraine. 15-21st Centuries'.

Trip to Saint Petersburg Inspires US Students

A group of 20 undergraduates from the United States visited St. Petersburg, 'the northern Venice', this January, taking part in a programme that blended the history, society and culture of the Russian Empire’s capital. Participants arrived from Mount Holyoke College and Smith College, opting to spend two weeks of their winter holidays here (6 – 22 January) learning about this city. Participants were diverse in their fields of studies, Russian knowledge, and travel experience, some even choosing this trip as their first chance to travel outside the borders of the United States.

MIT Professors Discuss Microbiopolitics Through the Lens of American Cheese

On Monday, October 3, two professors of anthropology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Heather Paxson and Stefan Helmreich – delivered a seminar for students of HSE St. Petersburg Master's programme in Applied and Interdisciplinary History. A presentation by Professor Paxson focused on how the microbiopolitics of cheese making in the U.S. presupposed and promoted industrial methods and standards and how in recent decades interest in producing and consuming artisanally made, raw-milk cheese has risen dramatically.

From Contest to Internship at Holocaust Memorial Museum

Yanina Karpenkina won the 2016 annual contest for HSE students, which is organized by the International Centre for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences. Thanks to the contest, she went on a six-week internship as a research assistant with the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Microhistory Days at HSE

This April, Microhistory Days took place at HSE. The event coincided with the visit to the School of History of Prof. Sigurður Gylfi Magnússon (Reykjavík Academy in Iceland) and Dr. István Szijártó (Loránd Eötvös University, Budapest), renowned experts in microhistory, founders of the Microhistory Network, and authors of What is Microhistory? Theory and Practice, a comprehensive analytical monograph.

Russian-Polish School of Young Historians

An international school of young historians, ‘Russian – Polish Entangled History: Scientific Reconstruction and Reflection in the Collective Memory’, took place in April at the School of History (HSE Moscow). Undergraduate and master’s students from HSE and the University of Warsaw took place in the event. Alexander Kamensky, Andrey Iserov, Dariusz Klechowski, Director of the Polish Cultural Centre in Moscow, and Leonid Gorizontov, who lead the organization of the Russian-Polish meeting.

Transnational Connections in History or Why Study the USSR?

On March 11, Seth Bernstein gave a presentation — ‘Burying the Alliance: Interment, Repatriation and the Politics of the Sacred in Occupied Germany’ — at the scholarly seminar of the HSE International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences where he works as a postdoctoral research fellow.

World War II in China — Seriously Understudied History

On 22 January, 2016 Judd Kinzley, Assistant Professor at the Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA gave a presentation, ‘Wartime Atrocities and the Historical Legacies of World War II in China’at the academic seminar of the HSE International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences.