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International Conference | The Red Globe. Writing the World in Eastern European Travel Literature of the Cold War

Jun 01, 2022 - Jun 03, 2022

Organised by Susanne Frank (EXC 2020, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Clemens Günther (Freie Universität Berlin), and Matthias Schwartz (Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung), and by the EXC 2020 projects (Post-)Soviet Literary Cosmopolis and Writing Berlin in cooperation with the ZfL project Weltfiktionen post/sozialistisch.

Keynote speakers:
Eleonory Gilburd (University of Chicago)
James Mark (University of Exeter)

After years of isolation and division during the late Stalinist period, the so-called 'Thaw' in the cultural politics of socialist Eastern Europe in the second half of the 1950s enabled a broadening of horizons. This made it possible to address previously hidden facts about the recent past, the appropriation of aesthetic forms and the reception of contemporary art, cinema and literature from the West. Above all, however, it meant the physical opening up of borders. Not only were foreign journalists, cultural and sports delegations, festival visitors and travel groups allowed to visit the world behind the Iron Curtain, but, vice versa, a host of reporters, writers and artists set out to travel to capitalist foreign countries—especially countries engaged in the struggle for independence from their colonisers. Travel literature became one of the most popular genres of those years. Jiří Hanzelka and Miroslav Zikmund crossed the entire Global South with their Czechoslovak Tatra cars, Daniil Granin explored capitalist countries such as Japan and Australia, and Ryszard Kapuściński became the most important reporter of the anti-colonial liberation struggle.

These texts not only meant confronting the readership at home with previously unknown and foreign worlds but also paved the way for the emergence of a new global consciousness, which was to be clearly distinguished from the 'imperial gaze' of the capitalist West. 'Writing the world' on the one hand meant striving to find a socialist understanding of a 'Red Globe' to match the competing narrative of globalisation as Americanisation, which emerged victorious in the end. On the other hand, travel writers quickly moved on from the initial "dumbfounded gaze" (Ilya Kukulin) to develop a language of their own with which to represent and classify the 'blue planet' as a whole. This new language was an essential part of the search for a new, post-Stalinist subjectivity.

While the online conference Inherit the World: Strategies of ‘translatio’ in the Soviet Literary Cosmopolis, held from May 27–29, 2021 and the conference (Post)-Soviet Cosmopolis: The Soviet Project of World Literature and its Legacies, held from December 8–10, 2021, asked how the Soviet understanding of a multinational and world literature as an imperial legacy lives on to this day, the conference on the "Red Globe" will build on this and focus on a specific genre of this world literature, namely travelogues. The planned conference will explore how travel texts of the post-war period developed through encounters with other cultures and ways of life—a socialist perspective on a global scale on collective belonging and imaginary communities in the context of the East-West conflict. Special attention will be paid to focal points of the Cold War conflict, particularly Berlin. In these years, the image of West Berlin as the "window to the free world" and the staging of East Berlin as a global metropolis of peace and friendship competed with each other and made the former German capital one of the key sites for renegotiating globality.

At the same time, writing travel texts always meant comparing one's own point of view with the everyday reality of a world divided by conflicts and wars. The tensions between international solidarity, 'capitalist interventions' and regional interests, global networks and local economies, industrial modernisation and ecological destruction found their way into the travel literature of those years in diverse ways, and also contributed to the development of a cosmopolitan consciousness. The aim of the conference is to reconstruct this phenomenon, largely forgotten due to the economic and political failure of this "alternative globalization" (James Mark, Artemy M. Kalinovsky and Steffi Marung).

Preliminary programme

1 June 2022

14:00-14:30 | Introduction: Susi K. Frank, Matthias Schwartz, Clemens Günther

14:30-16:15 | Panel 1: After War: Travelogues and Decolonization

Chair: Susi K.Frank (Berlin)

  • Lyudmila Parts; McGill University, Montreal, Canada
    War Veterans' Travel: Daniil Granin and Viktor Nekrasov
  • Thuc Linh Nguyen Vu; University of Vienna, Austria
    The Told and Untold Stories of Decolonization: Polish Socialist Travelogues from Vietnam

16:15-18:00 | Panel 2: Socialist Internationalism: Appropriating the World

Chair: Zaal Andronikashvili (ZfL)

  • Olga Nechaeva; University of Pennsylvania, USA
    Vasilii Zakharchenko: Introducing the World to the Soviet Youth
  • Réka Krizmanics; University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
    "...these Clever, Educated Girls Are Going to Rebel Against the Old-Slave-Woman Life.": Depictions of Women's Lives in the Global South by Hungarian Women 1960s-1980s

18:00 | Keynote 1: James Mark; University of Exeter, UK

  • Writing Between the Colonial and the Anti-Colonial in Socialist Eastern Europe, 1949-1989
2 June 2022

10:00-12:00 | Panel 3: Writing the Foreign: Road Novels and Travel Prose

Chair: Anna Förster (ZfL/Erfurt)

  • Kris van Heuckelom; KU Leuven, Belgium
    Go West: Exploring the origins of the polish "road novel" (at the example of some early travelogues by Waldemar Lysiak)
  • Dobrota Pucherová; Slovac Academy of Sciences, Slovakia
    Around the World on a Tatra Car: The Adventures of Miroslav Zikmund and Jiří Hanzelka

12:00-15:00 | Panel 4: Experiencing the Socialist Self: New Aesthetics of Travel Reportages

Chair: Galin Tihanov (London/Berlin)

  • Anja Burghardt; LMU, Munich, Germany
    A Country without Dreams: Julia Hartwig's Reportages about the United States
  • Joanna Moszcynska; University of Regensburg, Germany
    The aesthetics of experience in Ryszard Kapuściński's Latin American writings

15:00-18:00 | Panel 5: Writing Europe: Perspectives on the Continent from the East

Chair: Nina Weller (Berlin)

  • Danijela Lugarić Vukas; University of Zagreb, Croatia
    Beyond the Cold War Gaze
  • Alexander Holt; Northwestern University University, USA
    (Dis-)Inheriting/ (Dis-)Possessing the West: Zbigniew Herbert's Descent into the Depths of Europe
  • Nishant K Narayanan; The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
    Writing Berlin, Narrating Europe: Travelogues as Reflections

18:00 | Keynote 2: Eleonory Gilburd; University of Chicago, USA

  • Traveling When Borders are Closed: The Case of the Soviet Union at Mid-20th Century
3 June 2022

10:00-12:00 | Panel 6: Beyond the Politicial Lines: Gazes from the Periphery to the Periphery

Chair: Erik Martin (Frankfurt/Oder)

  • Marla Zubel; Western Kentucky University, USA
    Kapuściński and the Global 50s: Literary Reportage in and beyond the Soviet Model
  • Nataša Kovačević; Eastern Michigan University, USA
    Writers in Arms: Yugoslav Non-Aligned Travelogues

12:00-14:30 | Panel 7: Narrating Globality: Imagined Geographies and Cultural Encounters

Chair: Gianna Zocco (ZfL)

  • Tatjana Petzer; Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
    Encountering Africa: Tihor Sekelj's "Caravan of Friendship"
  • Maria Galmarini; College of William & Mary, USA
    Blind People Around the Globe: Disability, Travel Writing, and the Imagined Geographies of the Cold War

14:30-16:30 | Panel 8: Conditioning the World for One's Home: Political Travelogues

Chair: Alexandra Ksenofontova (Berlin)

  • George Bodie; University of Cambridge, UK
    Makosch's travelogues from the 1950s-1970s
  • Milán Pap; National University of Public Service, Hungary
    Constructing the World for the Country: Ország-Vilag Travelogues in Socialist Hungary

16:30-18:00 | Panel 9: Socialists Sailing the Seas: The Ship as a Model for Globality

Chair: Klavdia Smola (Dresden)

  • Alexey Kotelvas; Moscow School of Social and Economic Sciences, Russia
    War and Peace: The Image of the Second World War in Travelogues of the Early Thaw
  • Jan Schaldach; University of Leipzig, Germany
    "Dear Mummy in Heringsdorf: It's Summer Here!". Annelie and Andrew Thorndike's Sea Voyage to India

18:00 | Concluding Remarks

Time & Location

Jun 01, 2022 - Jun 03, 2022

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung
Aufgang B
3. Etage
Schützenstraße 18
10117 Berlin