Histcon.se Time, Memory and Representation Tid, Minne, Representation

A Multidisciplinary Program on Transformations in Historical Consciousness

Ett mångdisciplinärt forskningsprogram om historiemedvetandets förvandlingar


Ulla Manns: "East and West in the writings of Alexandra Gripenberg"

Published on 25 August, 2011

Paper presented at the conference Why is there no Happiness in the East? The Making of European Gender Studies, Södertörn University September 8-10 2011.

Why is there no Happiness in the East? The Making of European Gender Studies

A conference at the Department of Gender Studies and the Centre for Baltic and East European Studies,

Södertörn University, Stockholm, 8-10 September, 2011

Thursday September 8th: Bio Rio Hornstulls Strand 3 (6 pm)

Friday September 9th: Södertörn University, Room MB 503 (8.30 am)

Saturday September 10th: Södertörn University, Room ME 552 (9 am)

Link to Conference Program

Link to Conference Homepage


More than two decades after the dismantling of the Iron Curtain the space referred to as the Second World is carved in a cartography of absences. As political entities the countries are usually classified in terms of the past or the future: post-socialist or transition democracies. As Eastern Europe the site represents the ´second Other` of Europe, lesser European, contaminated by an open border towards Asia. The boundary-work within the West-East topography involves a variety of narratives and processes of mirroring. The Eastern frontier refers simultaneously to images of threat and inferiority. The Eastern subaltern position alternates between self-othering and hypostatization as the "better Europe".

From a global perspective the territory is added to the Global North where it in turn is positioned as a semi-periphery. The other part of Europe is thereby caught in a paradoxical condition of being different, but when compared to the core "not different enough", while in relation to the periphery - "not similar enough". In addition: The area brings in turmoil the boundary between colonizers and colonized. The Second World comprised states of both kinds. In other words: the location of Central and Eastern Europe seems difficult to conceive.


The feminist perspective offers an own West-East map of paradoxes. In the 1970s when (West)European feminist studies formulated their analytical concepts in analogy to the Marxist-materialist tradition, the West-East distinction was quite undetermined. Women in state-socialism were in some respects considered as more emancipated than their sisters in capitalist patriarchy. West European feminists were more critical towards the liberal than the socialist tradition. Alexandra Kollontai and Simone de Beauvoir were rediscovered as feminist classics alike.

The situation changed profoundly with the fall of the Berlin Wall, which coincided with the "cultural turn" in feminist theorizing. The opening of the borders reorganized the political and epistemic topography and turned the post-socialist space into a feminist frontier. The transnational moment of 1989 generated asymmetrical relations that seem difficult to undo. It is a deep historical irony that the cleavage was set at the very moment when feminist theory purged itself from master categories and radicalized its epistemology towards the relationality of gender and the situatedness of knowledge.

For two decades there has been an ongoing West-East debate in feminist studies carried out in telling terminological nuances. Scholars situated in the West emphasize refer to traveling ideas and opt for transculturation. Scholars rooted in the East prefer a harder parlance about imposed ideas and mimicry, stressing the hierarchy between Western producers and Eastern transmitters or users of gender knowledge. The unequal relationship replicates a pattern that resembles the familiar male-female order between the theoretical and the empirical: the West figures as the generalizable, the East as the concrete Other. This generates what critics call an "epistemic void". It constantly produces absences, lacks and deficits rather then enables to see and name what IS. The aim of the conference is to make the absent present.

Feminist scholarship has constantly struggled to move beyond dichotomies. To acknowledge differences without reifying them remains a challenging task. Feminists have learned that the strategy to let women and other Others articulate their different experiences is not a very promising path, it reinforces dichotomies rather than dismantles them. The focus of the conference lies on concepts and their in/adequacy to analyze gender relations in the European space that appears as the second Other. Its ambition is to disrupt hegemonic feminist theorizing. Power works through oblivion - oblivion naturalizes what becomes excluded and marginalized. A precondition of disobedience is then to constantly reconstruct what has been silenced and/or forgotten - memory work as foundation for a disobedient feminist knowledge production.


The conference panels are organized around the following concepts:

1. "Conceiving Bodies"

2. "Citizenship and the Others"

3. "Masculinity and Nationhood"

4. "Experiences and Subaltern Voices"

5. "Queer Sexualities"

6. "Intersectionality and Social Politics"


Confirmed keynote speakers

Agnieszka Graff, Warsaw University, Poland

Gail Lewis, Open University, UK


Research Committee

Teresa Kulawik, Professor of Gender Studies, Södertörn University

Yulia Gradskova, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Baltic and East European Studies, Södertörn University

Renata Ingbrant, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Stockholm University

For more information, contact the co-ordinator:

Renata Ingbrant renata.ingbrant@sh.se

About Keynotes:

Agnieszka Graff is lecturer in American Studies and Gender Studies at Warsaw University, a graduate of Amherst College (Massechusetts, US), Oxford University and School of Social Sciences at Polish Academy of Sciences. She completed her PhD in English literature in 1999. Graff is also a translator, journalist, commentator, feminist and women's and human rights activist; In 2001 she published World without women, a book that was hugely debated in Poland. She is a co-founder of women's organisation Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca (8 March Women's Coalition), with which she organises the annual Manifa (Warsaw women's march). Graff is a member of the Precedent Cases Programme's Programme Board at the International Helsinki Federation For Human Rights.

Gail Lewis is Reader in Identities and Psychological Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Open University, and a former Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Women's Studies at the University of Lancaster, UK. Co-editor of the European Journal of Women's Studies. She has researched the making of gendered and racialised subject positions in welfare discourses and practices. The author of 'Race', Gender, Social Welfare: Encounters in a postcolonial society (2000). Her current preoccupations focus on the intersecting psychic, social and cultural processes through which subjectivity is constituted, in relation to racialised and gendered experience.

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