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Beyond Belief: The Contours of Real Existing Post-Socialism in East Central Europe

Mon, November 25, 8:00 to 9:45am, San Francisco Marriott Marquis, Floor: 5, Sierra J

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Brief Description

This roundtable explores discrepancies between post-socialist expectations and realities, placing the triumphalist narrative of the transition to pluralism in the context of local practices and beliefs in a number of countries in East Central Europe. It examines the role of local leaders and external bodies in shaping the nature of change in the region, as well as ordinary individuals’ attitudes about these changes. Of particular interest is how practices and beliefs from the socialist period have influenced political and economic transformation, and how ordinary individuals, in turn, draw on socialist practices to negotiate the new system. It also considers how the diminished promises of liberal democracy and neoliberalism have affected people’s beliefs, both about post-socialism and socialism. More generally, we aim to illustrate that the disconnect between post-socialist expectations and realities is, in certain respects, akin to the disconnect between socialism as theorized and lived (i.e. real existing socialism) and, in so doing, problematize the meaning of pluralism. Topics of focus include the instrumentalization of the communist past by Czech elites; the role of populism and Catholic fundamentalism in promoting illiberal democracy and exclusionary nationalism in Poland; Viktor Orban’s manipulation of the past in present-day Hungary; the ambiguities of post-socialist citizenship in Romania, especially as it relates to gender; and the historical legacies of war and state-socialism in the Balkans, with a specific focus on how memories of war and dictatorship interact to produce current political and social cultures.

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