Asymmetries of a Region: Decentering Comparative Perspectives on Eastern Europe

Hana Rydza's picture
Call for Papers
July 6, 2020 to July 8, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Eastern Europe History / Studies, European History / Studies, Political History / Studies, Political Science, Cultural History / Studies


Call for Papers

GWZO Annual Conference 2020


Decentred and Asymmetrical? Eastern Europe in a Comparative Perspective


6–8 July 2020

Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig



Comparison is one of the most frequently used approaches in the humanities and social sciences. Several disciplines comprise established fields dedicated to comparative research, ranging from comparative history, politics to literature. In recent decades, however, comparative research has also been subjected to continuous methodological debates. While comparative frameworks had been promoted by some researchers as a means to overcome methodological nationalism and exceptionalism, others have criticised comparative approaches for homogenising research subjects and defining artificial boundaries of container entities. In response to such criticism, many recent approaches have sought to integrate comparative methods with research on transfer, exchange and entanglement. This discussion also shed light on the role of circulation and changing points of reference, as actors and objects moved within and across different spaces. Differences in perspectives and the relevance of change, mobility and border-crossings came to the forefront of scholarly enquiries, which again inspired the formation of new subdisciplines (most notably, the discussion on world literature emerging from comparative literature). At the same time, reservations towards illegitimate comparison, presented by the figurative apples and oranges, have been considerably weakened as researchers start paying more attention to social, economic, cultural and other asymmetries, thus raising the question of how comparative research may consider apparent inequalities.

Taking these debates as a point of departure, the Annual Conference 2020 of the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO) in Leipzig will connect to current efforts in global and area studies to integrate multiple perspectives, highlight spatial overlaps of actors, objects and ideas and address unequal relationships between them. By focusing on the lenses of decentring and asymmetries, this interdisciplinary conference seeks to discuss the potential of comparative research on and with Eastern Europe to articulate new approaches to peripherisation and marginalisation. Eastern Europe here broadly refers to the region between the Baltic, the Black and the Adriatic Seas and thereby to spaces that are produced, imagined and engaged with by multiple actors and contexts. Therefore, contributions on the ‘global East’ as well as on actors and objects that transcend this area in a larger Europe and other regions are expressly welcome. We are particularly interested in empirically rich contributions that seek to present novel, innovative approaches to comparative research on Eastern Europe that bring different spaces, actors and ideas in dialogue with each other.


We invite the submission of papers from established as well as early career researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds that critically engage with Eastern Europe in a comparative perspective from the medieval period to the present time.

Possible issues addressed include but are not limited to:

  • What new perspectives emerge from comparative research on Eastern Europe in relation to other world regions and the global dimension? What may such research contribute to rethinking approaches in global studies and studies engaging with a larger Europe?
  • How may comparative research on Eastern Europe integrate different spaces at once, in particular at the subnational and transnational levels?
  • What challenges does comparative research face in the analysis of asymmetrical relations and how may it avoid reproducing the dominant interpretations?
  • How may methods of decentring contribute to comparative analyses on peripheral regions and marginalised groups of people?
  • What approaches in comparative research may be used for multi-perspective analysis and for reflecting the dependence of perspectives on location and situation?
  • How may methods of comparative research be adjusted to include multilingualism and processes of translation?
  • How may we also decentre the position of the researcher in comparative research by engaging with dialogic forms of knowledge production?




Please send your abstract of no more than 300 words with a short biographical note by 29 February 2020, to the organisers at


The annual conference is co-organised by the Director and the Junior Research Group “Contrasting East-Central Europe” of the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture (GWZO) in Leipzig.