16/05/2013 at 10 am
Who are we ? Colonialism, post-colonialism and self-colonization in Central-Eastern Europe //Doc. Janek Sowa
Any attempt to base a common identity of Central-Eastern Europe on a shared culture or ethnicity is deemed to failure. Lithuanians and Romanians or Hungarians and Bulgarians do not have in these respects more in common than Czechs and French or Poles and Portuguese. We could, of course just say that we are all Europeans, however this universalistic approach fails to grasp an obvious difference between East and West of Europe. What unites the cultures and societies lying – more less – between the Black and the Baltic seas is their common historical fate: their place in a division of labor of capitalist world-economy that has been operating on the European continent from early modern times (late 15th and early 16th century). In the course of its development countries situated east of the river Elbe have shaped a peripheral zone specializing in low profit exports of agricultural products (mainly grain and cattle) and natural resources (timber, coal, tar etc.). It was a “development of underdevelopment” similar to what happened later with colonial peripheries in other places around the world: in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
This story offers a valuable general argument in favor of putting economic analysis of class and divisions of labor over the language of cultural identities, as it proves that Central-Easter Europe has got more in common with geographically and culturally far colonial world than with closer Western countries that formed the core of the modern capitalist world-economy. However, the particular fate of Central-Eastern Europe – being both very close to the core an very far from it – makes it very difficult to analyze its history and situation with the tools of standard post-colonial and/or dependency theories.
Our meeting will be devoted to exploration of this peculiar situation and of theoretical apparatus allowing us to better understand, how we are.