CfP: The fluid boundaries of colonialism. Advantages and disadvantages of a postcolonial perspective for the study of North and East Central European regions

Katja Bernhardt's picture

Joint conference and junior researcher workshop of the Nordost-Institut, Lüneburg, and the Herder-Institut, Marburg

Young researchers' workshop 21-22 November 2023 in Lüneburg
Conference 22-24 November 2023 in Lüneburg

The call "Decolonise yourselves!" draws attention to the colonial and postcolonial history that links Europe with outer-European developments. In this context, the discussion flared up to what extent the application of postcolonial theories, questions and approaches can also open up new perspectives for an understanding of the history of Eastern Europe.

The events jointly conceived by the Nordost-Institut and the Herder-Institut, an academic conference and a workshop for young scholars, take up this discussion and combine it with a critical examination of postcolonial theories and approaches and their applicability to Eastern Europe. The focus is on the history of those regions located in present-day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus and Ukraine.

The discourses and practices interpreted as "(post)colonial" overlapped there with other processes specific to multi-ethnic regions. Thus, on the one hand, forms of "neighbourhood colonialism" can be identified that were oriented towards national homogenisation and the enforcement of hegemonic rule and were accompanied by an explicit civilising mission. On the other hand, power constellations persisted, some of them over centuries, which had an asymmetrical character from the outset and cannot be reduced across the board to a relationship of exploitation between "colonised" and "colonisers".

Even this brief problematisation makes it clear that the concept of internal colonialism developed by Michael Hechter in 1975 using the example of Great Britain is not able to adequately describe the plurality of North and East Central European spaces. There is no doubt that here, too, colonial discourses of power underlay the forced homogenisation processes, but a micro-historical look at the various regional and local levels reveals a multidimensional range of practical implementation.

At both events, perspectives of investigation will be highlighted, e.g.

  • the multi-layered interactions within socially, culturally, ethically, nationally highly differentiated societies,
  • a historical colonisation far from a linear processuality,
  • a potential failure of colonial strategies of domination,
  • and the applicability of postcolonial theories to domestic European hegemonic and imperial power relations.

The conference and workshop will analyse the specificities of the regions mentioned and critically reflect on the applicability of the questions, approaches and theories of (post)colonial studies.

We invite researchers from different historical disciplines who deal with the approaches mentioned.

The event is divided into two parts:

  • a workshop for young scholars on 21 and 22 November 2023, where topics and approaches will be discussed in depth and research projects will be presented, as well as
  • a scientific conference from 22 to 24 November 2023.

It is possible for young researchers to participate in both events or only in the conference or workshop and to propose contributions.

The event will be held in German and English. Travel and accommodation costs for speakers will be covered in accordance with the Federal Travel Costs Act (BRKG). There are no participation fees.

Please send your exposé in German or English (approx. 300 words) together with a short CV to

by 1 May 2023, indicating which part of the events you would like to participate in.