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AG Europe's East

We are a group of doctoral and post-doctoral researchers who are interested in Eastern and South Eastern Europe and Russia. Our objective is to explore these regions from different approaches and disciplines, actively questioning and breaking with stereotypical images of "the East" and critically contributing to the academic discourse on "Eastern Europe." The rebranding of our group from "Eastern European Identities" to "Europe’s East" is a result of our discussions. Joining our ranks entails involvement in the institutional framework at JLU with focus on Eastern Europe, such as the Slavic Studies and Eastern European History Departments and the Giessen Centre for Eastern Europe (GiZo).


We are always open for new ideas and interests and we would very much welcome you to our regular group meetings. If you are interested in our group, please do not hesitate to contact our speakers for further information:



Zoran Vučkovac (


Future Events

Workshop "Religion, Conspiracy Theories, and Contemporary Legends in Post-Soviet Culture" with Prof. Alexander Panchenko (Institute of Russian Literature at the Russian Academy of Sciences)

13.11.2018 (Tuesday), 12:00 – 16:00, Room B29

The intersection between religion and conspiracy theories has been recently a topic to numerous studies. However, we still lack a theoretical framework to discuss it. It appears that modern conspiracy theories do to a certain extent duplicate the functions of religious ideas and narratives, at least in the context of social solidarity and disjunction. It may be a question of the particular emotional suggestiveness of conspiracy theory which makes it easy to divide the world into them and us, the wicked and the righteous, persecutors and martyrs. The workshop led by Professor Panchenko will not only explore the intersection between conspirological modes of thinking and religion, but also it will provide participants with new perspectives on the so-called “stigmatized knowledge” and its role in producing various cultural narratives.

On the examples of the United States and post-Soviet Russia, during the workshop we will reflect on the following issues:

- How do conspiracy theories interact with religion, modernity, and the postmodern culture?

- Why do conspiracy theories thrive in the present-day United States, post-Soviet Russia and other societies?

- What are the relations between conspiracy theories and New Age beliefs and practices?

- How and why do conspiracy theories serve as a mode of thinking?

Professor Alexander Panchenko is the Head of the Center for Literary Theory and Interdisciplinary Research, Institute of Russian Literature at the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Director of the Center for Anthropology of Religion, European University at St. Petersburg. His primary interest areas include urban folklore, Russian sectarian movements, folk Orthodoxy, and conspiracy theories. He is the author of numerous articles and monographs in both Russian and English, i.e. Khristovshchina i Skopchestvo: Folʹklor i Traditsionnaia Kulʹtura Russkikh Misticheskikh Sekt [Khristovshchina i Skopchestvo: Folklore and Traditional Culture of Russian Mystical Sects] (2004); “Son Gorbacheva” I Russkii Politicheskii Fol’klor Epokhi Perestroiki [“Gorbachev’s Dream” and Russian Political Folklore of the Perestroika Era] (2010) with Minaeva A.P., and Morality, Utopia, Discipline: New Religious Movements and Soviet Culture (2011).


Obligatory readings:

Barkun, M. (2003) A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America. Berkeley: University of California Press. (Introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2).

Barkun, M. (2016). Conspiracy Theories as Stigmatized Knowledge. Diogenes: 1-7.

Panchenko, A. (2017). The Beast Computer in Brussels: Religion, Conspiracy Theologies, and Contemporary Legends in Post-Soviet Culture. Folklore, № 69: 69-90.


Additional readings:

Asprem, E. and Dyrendal, A. (2015). Conspirituality Reconsidered: How Surprising and How New is the Confluence of Spirituality and Conspiracy Theory? Journal of Contemporary Religion, 30 (3): 367-382.

Kormina, J. (2016). Killer Yeast: Gastronomic Conspiracy Theories and the Culture of Mistrust in Modern Russia. Forum For Anthropology and Culture, №. 12: 201-229.


//Prof. Alexander Panchenko

More information about this event…


Impressions of our last year’s discussions

Reading sessions on women and socialism and feminisms in Europe’s East in the summer term 2018

Brief impression of one of our discussions: Zoran gave a short introduction on the discussion around the politics of history in Eastern Europe regarding a relatively new research agenda that seeks to shed light on female organizations under state socialisms, like the ones undertaken by de Haan, Daskalova, Ghodsee, or Bonfiglioli. A part of that ongoing discussion is certainly the Funk-Ghodsee debate around historical revisionism, feminist agency under socialism, and formal and unformal female organizations and their role in helping women on either side of the Cold War division. This debate had its offshoot in former Yugoslavia as well through the polemics that opened up after Slavenka Drakulic’s text "How women survived communism (but didn’t laugh)" that provoked responses by Ghodsee and Zaharijevic titled "Fantasies of feminist history in Eastern Europe" and Andrea Peto’s "After 'emancipation after emancipation.'"

Some of the comments and further discussion points: The systems in question, however politically monolithic, were socially diverse. Furthermore, there needs to be a clearer periodization of state socialism. Among the biggest shortcomings of the Funk article was a limited definition of agency, delineating what is proactive and what is reactive when it comes to the state-individual relationship. Was there a genuine resistance in the women organizations or were they all complying with the party directives? Furthermore, what is to be done with female communists and their role in social policy and in organizing resistance during the war? The discussion puts forward an implied definition of feminism that sets the pace for the argument in Funk’s text, one that allows her to smoothly proceed to the questions of agency. On top of that, the question of agency can be further obscured when we see examples of state-sponsored novels that managed to survive as amazing pieces of art. This line of questioning agency was deepened by asking whether the issue of agency, with Butler in mind, is completely irrelevant nowadays. A way out of this conundrum would be to focus on discursive practices and social structures instead of walking into the trap of identification and subjectification.


Reading sessions on postcolonial theory and Europe’s East in the winter term 2017/18

In our discussion of Chari/Verdery (2009) and Smola/Uffelmann (2016) we made a distinction between the first text which establishes and justifies the link between postsocialism and postcolonialism, and the second text which takes this link for granted and offers perspectives on how to work with both concepts. We discussed the questions of if and to what degree the application of postcolonial theories on Europe’s East leads to the construction of a colonial/imperial past, a center-periphery-model, etc., whereas the post- or decolonial concept is more about deconstruction and fragmentation. We also talked about the Western perspective of the Chari/Verdery-text, which doesn't include Eastern perspectives and is written for a western audience. There have been many works on the link between postcolonial and postsocialist perspectives from Russian scholars-- which are ignored in this article. The Smola/Uffelmann 2016 edited volume offers such perspectives through literary lenses, helping us broaden the discussion on postcoloniality and postsocialism and offering a necessary move to contrast the local scholarship to the Western academic gaze.  


Events 2018


Film screening and dialogue with a contemporary witness, documentary: "Ja, Andre Iwanowitsch," June 2018.


Workshop "The Copy in Global Culture" with Jacob Edmond, PhD, June 2018.


Lecture at the Oberseminar Osteuropäische Geschichte "Entangled histories and the self-colonizing metaphor on the example of 19 c. Ottoman Bulgaria" (June 5th) and Masterclass "Self-colonization metaphor/ literature theory and criticism" (June 6th) with Prof. Dr. Alexander Kiossev.


Methodology Lab: "Spatialising Culture: Methods and Approaches to studying space," May 2018.


Masterclass "Ruins – Between Destruction, Historical Consciousness and Alternative Pasts" with Prof. Dr. Andreas Schönle, January 2018.


Events 2017


MC: Darko Lukić: Strategies of Subversion and cultural mythologies - multiple voices of collective memory in contemporary playwriting, October 2017.


Lecture: Shaban Darakchi: Dynamic in Gender and Sexuality among Bulgarian Muslims, July 2017.


MC: Marsha Siefert: Cold War Cultural Diplomacy, April 2017.


Lecture: Marsha Siefert: Soviet Cinematic Internationalism and Socialist Filmmaking, 1955-1972, April 2017.


Podiumsdiskussion/Oberseminar Osteuropäische Geschichte: Die Zukunft der Osteuropastudien: Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven, January 2017.


WS: We exist! - Sustainability and Reciprocity in Intercultural Projects: Building Mutual and Cooperative Exchange, January 2017.


Exhibition: The Stamp of Loneliness, January 2017.


The AG "Europe's East" was first brought to life by doctoral students interested in the Eastern European region in 2009. From 2013 on, our group has been very active in analyzing tendencies, similarities, and interrelations in the region. 


During the academic year 2014/15, we focused on issues such as religion and religious revival in post socialist societies, gender and the theme of the unofficial vs. official sphere, and dissidence under Soviet rule. Focusing on the subject matter of a "religious revival" in post-socialist countries, with a special focus on the specificity of religious life in the Russian Federation, the AG established an inspiring platform for numerous discussions that contributed to organizing the one-day workshop "Religion and Public from 1989/1991" in January 2015. The workshop engaged with the interrelations of secularity and religiosity in post-socialist societies and was moderated by Professor Chris Hann, director of the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale.

The academic year of 2015/16 started with revising the debates about the construction of "Eastern Europe" in academia and popular opinion, returning to the classics such as Larry Wolff's Inventing Eastern Europe and Maria Todorova's Imagining the Balkans. The overall topic of the winter semester was memory in Eastern Europe. In cooperation with RA 1 Cultural Memory Studies, we invited Dr. Vjeran Pavlaković from the University of Rijeka, Croatia, for a lecture "Remembering Lost Causes: Memory Politics from the American Civil War to the Former Yugoslavia" and a workshop, which focused particularly on the notions of transitional justice and memory politics.


The exhibition Monumenti: Changing Face of Rememberance in May 2016 with a special focus on former Yugoslavia culminated our discussions of post-socialist memory politics.


In November 2016, as a part of the GCSC Anniversary activities, we invited Prof. James Mark (Exeter University, UK) for a keynote lecture and doctoral workshop on the topics of Soviet internationalism during the Cold War and the relations between the "Second" and the "Third" World.


Contact us!

We are always open for new ideas and interests and we would very much welcome you to our regular group meetings. If you are interested in our group, please do not hesitate to contact our speakers for further information:


Zoran Vučkovac (



  • Speaker: Zoran Vučkovac
  • Nikola Baković 
  • Alina Jašina
  • Mark Berman 
  • Dr. Paul Vickers 
  • Kseniya Maksimovtsova
  • Miruna Bacali
  • Sebastian Paul
  • Ekaterina Pankova
  • Petja Koseva
  • Katharina Kühn
  • Galina Novikova
  • Jelena Đureinović
  • Kolja Lichy
  • Stefan Trajković Filipović 
  • Ekaterina Ippolitova
  • Zerina Ćatović 
  • Tobias Haberkorn