Welcome to the Transformative Podcast, which takes the year 1989 as a starting point to think about social, economic, and cultural transformations on a European and global scale. This podcast is produced by the Research Center for the History of Transformations (RECET) and its managing director Irena Remestwenski. Our patron is Philipp Ther, and we could not do it without Leonid Motz, Jannis Panagiotidis, Rosamund Johnston, Sheng Peng, and Jelena Dureinovic.
Sea, Sex and Tourism in Socialist Yugoslavia (Anita Buhin)
13:48Who were the Yugoslav Casanovas of mass tourism? What are the practices of othering and meanings behind romantic and sexual encounters of local young men and foreign female tourists in the Yugoslav Adriatic? In this episode, Anita Buhin tells Jelena Đureinović about so-called galebovi (seagulls) in socialist Yugoslavia and various economic, cultural and social aspects of this phenomenon, typical for the broader Mediterranean region and the development of mass tourism. Dr. Anita Buhin is a cultural historian of socialist Yugoslavia in the Mediterranean context whose work focuses on the relations between popular culture and tourism. She is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Contemporary History at the NOVA University of Lisbon and holds a PhD from the European University Institute. Her book Yugoslav Socialism ‘Flavoured with Sea, Flavoured with Salt’: Mediterranization of Yugoslav Popular Culture in the 1950s and 1960s under Italian Influences was published with Srednja Europa in Zagreb in 2022.
Upward Mobility through Higher Education in Socialist Poland (Agata Zysiak)
14:59What obstacles did first generation students face in socialist Poland? And how might their biographies help us design affirmative action drives today? In this episode of the Transformative Podcast, Dr. Agata Zysiak tells Rosamund Johnston (RECET) how political reform of higher education is never enough by itself to overhaul membership of a country’s intellectual elite. Instead, these reforms rely on interpretation and implementation at multiple levels—both within and beyond the university’s walls. Ultimately, Zysiak explains that there came to exist a “clash of privileges” in socialist Poland, between state-support for working class and peasant students on the one hand, and the intelligentsia protecting their privileged claim to the university on the other, with the effect that both limited each other. Dr. Agata Zysiak is a historical sociologist at RECET, University of Vienna, and the University of Łódź. She is the author of the award-winning book, Punkty za pochodzenie (Points for Social Origin); coauthor of the main publication about Łódź available in English, From Cotton and Smoke; and the author of Wielki przemysł, wielka cisza (Great Industry, Great Silence), which maps Łódź industry and its collapse. She has been a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), Wayne State University (Detroit), Free University (Berlin), and Central European University (Budapest), and she was a member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton between 2017 and 2018.
Will Ukrainian Refugees Return? (Olena Yermakova)
18:23Ukrainian refugees make up a staggering number - over 6 million globally. Millions more left before 2022 as labour migrants. What are these people's intentions for returning? Who will return, and who will stay? In this episode, Daniel Jerke (RECET) discusses with Olena Yermakova (Jagiellonian University/RECET) insights from her fieldwork data that were presented in a recent article on the RECET blog. Yermakova goes deep into the interpersonal dynamics and psychological factors, explaining why survey answers might differ from actual outcomes. Olena Yermakova is an interdisciplinary researcher focusing on migration. She is doing her PhD at the Jagiellonian University in Poland and is currently a Ukraine fellow at RECET. She recently published a fieldwork-based article, "The Way Home", at Eurozine, republished by Transformative Blog.
Closed Borders and the Open Society (Frank Wolff)
15:18Can there be an open, liberal, democratic society behind closed borders? In this episode, Frank Wolff argues that erecting ever higher walls and implementing violent border regimes has a corrosive effect on democracy and rule of law in the societies these measures are allegedly meant to protect. Frank Wolff leads the research group "Internalizing Borders: The Social and Normative Consequences of the European Border Regime" at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF: Zentrum für interdisziplinäre Forschung) at Bielefeld University. Together with Volker M. Heins, he recently published the book Hinter Mauern: Geschlossene Grenzen als Gefahr für die offene Gesellschaft ("Behind Walls: Closed Borders as a Danger for the Open Society", Suhrkamp 2023).
Actors of Yugoslav Socialist Internationalism (Peter Wright)
18:32What do the life trajectories of Yugoslav experts abroad and students from the Global South in Yugoslavia tell us about Yugoslav connections with the postcolonial world? In this episode, Peter Wright (University of Illinois) zooms in on the actors of Yugoslav socialist internationalism with Jelena Đureinović (RECET). Discussing the positionalities of experts, political activism of students, and questions of racism and anti-racism, Wright argues that the experts and students help us see Yugoslavia’s relationship with the postcolonial world a little bit differently than how it is usually represented. Peter Wright is an assistant professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign. His work revolves around Yugoslavia‘s relations with the Global South during the Cold War, focusing on development aid, education, and racism and racialisation.
Remembering the Neoliberal Turn (Veronika Pehe)
14:40The memory of how neoliberal economic policies were implemented in Eastern Europe after 1989 is still relevant to the region’s politicians, blue-collar workers and white-collar managers, and cultural producers. In this episode of the Transformative Podcast, Veronika Pehe tells Rosamund Johnston (RECET) how political, vernacular, and cultural memories of the “neoliberal turn” sometimes overlap, sometimes do not, and how this continues to generate forms of social cohesion and division today. While stressing the diversity of experiences within the region (with "memory wars" relating to the 1990s sharper in some places than in others), Pehe argues that by understanding the events of the period under the rubric of the “neoliberal turn,” historians can bring East European history into conversation with economic processes such as deindustrialization taking place in other global regions at the time. Veronika Pehe is the head of the Research Group for Historical Transformation Studies at the Czech Institute of Contemporary History in Prague. With Joanna Wawrzyniak, she is the editor of Remembering the Neoliberal Turn: Economic Change and Collective Memory in Eastern Europe after 1989 (New York: Routledge, 2024). Additionally, she is the author of a monograph, Velvet Retro, published by Berghahn in 2020, and is shortly to release a Czech-language volume on the 1990s in Czech society titled Věčná devadesátá.
Barcelona ’92: The New Europe at the Olympic Games (Leslie Waters)
15:35Does international sport foster capitalist economics and political liberalism among participating states? In this episode of the Transformative Podcast, Leslie Waters (University of Texas, El Paso) tells Rosamund Johnston (RECET) about the Olympics’ “mixed” record in this regard. Barcelona 1992 introduced to global audiences a host of new European states. But the games also showcased the enduring legacy of state socialist sporting prowess. Lustration tore through some national Olympic committees while, in others, post-socialist elites used the institutions of international sport to rebrand as political liberals. Ultimately, Waters argues, sportswashing is not new, and was undertaken here by hosts Spain alongside countries with a not-so-distant socialist past. Leslie Waters is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Texas, El Paso. In addition, she is the managing editor of Hungarian Studies Review. Her first book, Borders on the Move: Territorial Change and Ethnic Cleansing in the Hungarian-Slovak Borderlands was published in 2020 by University of Rochester Press.
Economic Memories of Transformation (Till Hilmar)
15:18Economic thinking is far from the preserve of central bankers and policy wonks. In dozens of interviews in the Czech Republic and the former East Germany, sociologist Till Hilmar asked healthcare workers and engineers about their experiences of the transformation period to understand how economic shifts are remembered, and what memories can tell us about processes of economic change. As a result, he gained a picture of transformation “from below.” In this episode of the Transformative Podcast, Hilmar tells Rosamund Johnston why people’s views of the 1990s still matter now. He explains how his work sheds light on how people respond to crisis, both in the short and long term. Till Hilmar is a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Vienna’s Department of Sociology. He is the author of Deserved. Economic Memories after the Fall of the Iron Curtain, which was recently published by Columbia University Press. He received his PhD from Yale University in 2019. His research has been published in numerous outlets, including the European Journal of Sociology, East European Politics and Societies, and the Journal of Contemporary European Studies.
Beyond Political History: Social and Cultural Dynamics of Socialist Poland (Małgorzata Fidelis)
15:42In recent years, the narrative of the history of Polish socialism has changed as it moved beyond a narrow scholarly focus on political elites and party-state structures. In this episode, Thục Linh Nguyễn Vũ (RECET) speaks to Małgorzata Fidelis (University of Illinois at Chicago) about her work that examines everyday socialism through the prism of social and cultural history across various political moments in Poland. Zooming in on ordinary people and practices, Fidelis adds new layers to how the ebb and flow of socialism and transformation in Poland are understood. Małgorzata Fidelis is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is the author of Women, Communism, and Industrialization in Postwar Poland (Cambridge UP, 2010) and Imagining the World from Behind the Iron Curtain: Youth and the Global Sixties in Poland (Oxford UP, 2022). She also co-authored a book in Polish Kobiety w Polsce 1945-1989 Nowoczesność - równouprawnienie – komunizm (Universitas, 2020). Małgorzata Fidelis’ articles have appeared in journals including Slavic Review and the Journal of Women’s History.
Minority Languages in Russia (Jeremy Bradley)
17:25How can the challenges faced by minoritized languages of the Russian Federation and their speaker communities be understood through the lens of Russia’s colonial expansion? In this newest episode, Leonid Motz (RECET) talks to Dr. Jeremy Bradley (University of Vienna), exploring the historical and social transformation of minority language use and study in Russia and the threats of Russification and assimilation. How do communities overcome the considerable obstacles posed by the present-day Russian state to maintain and revitalize their languages successfully? Jeremy Bradley is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Vienna’s Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies. His research interests include linguistic convergence in the Volga-Kama Region, corpus building, and the creation of didactic and reference materials for low-resource languages.