Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Southeast European History

Profile

Within the scope of the chair, research is conducted and tuition offered with an emphasis on Southeast and Central European history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Areas of special interest research include:

  • Social and political change in late and post-Ottoman as well as late and post-Habsburg societies in Southeast respectively East Central Europe
  • Family, kinship and the welfare state in Europe from a historical and comparative perspective
  • The Second World War in Southeast Europe
  • Southeast and Central Europe in the era of Socialism
  • Theories and studies of ethnic conflict
  • EU integration and its impact in Southeast Europe
  • Theories and methods of Historical Anthropology

The history of Southeast Europe is approached within a flexible temporal and geographical framework that locates some of the main themes of analysis within the wider European respectively global context in which they occurred. Namely: the problems of multi-ethnic and multi-confessional societies, dictatorship and democracy, violence and war, nation building in multi-national societies, the development of welfare states, migration, etc.

From a conceptual and theoretical point of view, it is necessary to clearly locate the approach of the chair within a wider analytical context. The historical interpretations and conceptual apparatus that have long informed the study of the European political and social order is deeply rooted in the bi-polar worldview of “East” and “West” or if we take a step back before the Cold War, and in particular with reference to Southeast Europe, in notions of an “Occident” and an “Orient” as mental maps and starting points for academic enquiry. During the process of production of academic literature on Southeast Europe, a clear “otherness” was constructed based on real as well as imaginary factors. If we invert the picture, it is evident that the very process of definition of the “West” itself precluded the necessity of an existing or imaginary “East”. The approach that this chair favours should, therefore, not only concentrate on historical outcomes through a systematic contextualization of events but also engage with the evolution of European thought about Southeast Europe and the resulting interpretative and relational patterns that emerged. This means engaging with the history of our region from a pluralistic and non-dogmatic point of view that focuses on Southeast Europe as part of a complex web of “entangled histories” which not only refer to “Central”, “Western” and “Eastern” European history but also the history of the “Mediterranean World” and the “Near East”.

One of the most important aspects of the research conducted within the chair is the use of methods from Historical Anthropology, an approach that has by now ceased to be at the margins of our discipline and has become crucial to the practice of historical research. Emphasis on understanding the centrality of a self-perceived subjective reality is coupled with an awareness of the need to formulate complex explanations that include the socio-political, economic and cultural context in order to explain human motivation and action. Thus, the combination of historical and social anthropological questions, problems, theories and methods is at the core of the research agenda and objectives of the chair.