Slavic and Eurasian Studies

Commodities and Culture in the “Other” Europe 1800–1945

The University of Texas at Austin

March 9-10, 2012

The “West” and particularly Western Europe holds a privileged place in the recent state of literature on the history and “social life” of commodities across the globe. Direct colonies of the West, too, have been closely tied in to a history of global commodity exchange. In contrast, work on commodity and culture on Europe’s eastern periphery—including East-West flows of goods and models of consumption—has largely eluded study.

“Commodity and Culture in the ‘Other’ Europe” will gather scholars working in relatively uncharted territory, that is, cultural and social processes surrounding commodity production, exchange and consumption in East Central and Southeastern Europe from 1800-1945. Among other things, symposium participants will consider the following questions. Were commodities and their accompanying social and cultural transformations experienced, lived, and filtered in entirely different ways in the “Other Europe”? In what ways did commodity-driven “Eastern” interaction with the West spawn imitation or, on the contrary, resentment and reaction? Were parts of “Eastern Europe” rightfully a part of commodity-driven coretransformations, innovators not imitators, centers not peripheries? Also, we will explore the extent to which the social lives of commodities were shaped by local mores and experiences.  In other words, was the consumption of certain products tantamount to a leveling “Westernization,” or was it integrated into distinctly local practices, forms, and meanings? 

Finally, how were various incarnations of commodity exchange, production and consumption linked to the ushering in of modernity into the region—to what extent did they make Eastern Europe modern and how tightly was this tied to the West European experience. Ultimately, discussion of these questions promises to shed light on contemporary cultures of consumption in “New Europe,” and more pointedly its ongoing encounter with the West via commodity exchange and consumption.

Friday, March 9

Garrison Hall – 4th floor

Session One   10:00 – 12:00        Smoke, Drink, and Drugs

Robert Nemes,Colgate University: “The Tobacconist.”

Glenn DynnerAssociate Professor at Sarah Lawrence College: “The Jewish Liquor Trade during “Jewish Prohibition” in the Congress Kingdom of Poland. ”

Evguenia Davidova, Associate Professor, Portland State University, “Mens sana in corpore sano: Medicine Consumption in the Nineteenth-Century Balkans.”

Lunch (12-1) – Catered lunch in Conference Room for Participants

Session Two   1:00 – 3:00         East-West Encounters

Antonia Young, Research Associate at Colgate University: “The “Albanian lands” (l870-l930): The evolution of travel, and the genre of travel writing in South Eastern Europe."

Mary Neuburger, Associate Professor at University of Texas: “The Smell of the Orient?: Perfume, Soap and the Bulgarian Rose Valley.” 

Isa Blumi, Associate Professor at Georgia State University: “Harvesting the Empire: The Struggle over Western Balkan Forests and the Cultivation of Global Finance, 1878-1920”

One hour break!  3-4

Session Three  4:00 – 6:00          Bodies for Sale

Keely Stauter-Halsted, Associate Professor at University of Illinois at Chicago: “White Slaves” as Commodity and Moral Barometer in Partitioned Poland.”

Nancy WingfieldProfessor, Northern Illinois University “Sex, Lies, and Venereal Disease: The Commodification of Prostitution on the Habsburg Eastern Front.”

Alison Frank, Associate Professor, Harvard University, "Austria and the Mediteranean Slave Trade in the 19th Century."

Break: 6 -7

Dinner at 7pm at Clay Pit

Saturday, March 10

Session One   10:00 – 11:30             Machines and Motion
Slawomir Lotysz, Research fellow and lecturer at University of Zielona Gora in Poland: “Stitching periphery to the core: Singer sewing machines in Eastern Europe.”
Fabio Giomi, Ecole des Hautes Estudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), "Alone or Together? A Political History of teh Sewing Machine among the Muslims of Sarajevo (1918-1941)."

Nathaniel Wood, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, “‘A Source of Further Development’ or just a ‘Luxury Item’?  The Problem of Promoting Bicycles and Automobiles in Poland, 1885-1939.”

Early Lunch 11:30 – 1:00 – Box Lunches on the grounds

Session Two  1:00 – 3:00               Shoes, Sugar, and Toys
Cathleen M. Giustino, Associate Professor of History, Auburn University: Castles, Kroj, and Wooden Toys: The Commodification of Heritage in Interwar Czechoslovakia”

Zachary Doleshal, PhD Candidate at University of Texas: “The Bat’a Store and the Making of the Modern Customer in Interwar Czechoslovakia.”

Meghann Pytka, PhD Candidate, Northwestern University, "Where has all the Sugar Gone? Suga and Poland's 1922 Election."
3:00 – 3:15 Break

Session Three  3:15 – 4:00                  Imagining Jeans         

Masa Kolanovic, Lecturer at University of Zagreb in Croatia: “How counterculture became commodity culture? The issue of jeans during Yugoslav socialism” 

Dinner  6pm                                        Mary Neuburger’s House

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    Burdine Hall 452
    Austin, TX 78712