September 2014 - June 2015
Balázs Trencsényi is Associate Professor in the History Department of Central European University, Budapest. His main field of interest is the history of political thought in East Central Europe. Between 2008 and 2013, he was Principal Investigator of 'Negotiating Modernity': History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe (www.negotiating.cas.bg), a project supported by the European Research Council. He also serves as associate editor of the journal East Central Europe (Brill). His publications include the monograph The Politics of 'National Character': A Study in Interwar East European Thought (Routledge, 2012) and, as co-editor, the series Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945), vols. I-II and IV (CEU Press, 2006-7, 2014); Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe (Brill, 2010); Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements (Peter Lang, 2013); and 'Regimes of Historicity' in Southeastern and Northern Europe: Discourses of Identity and Temporality, 1890-1945 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
Political Thought in Twentieth-Century East Central Europe
The history of political thought in East Central Europe is one of those subjects that have not be studied in a comparative regional framework despite the availability of many country-based case-studies and a certain number of works focusing on transnational ideological transfers. The literature on the global history of political thought also offers very limited insights; and, although the region features relatively prominently in the literature on nationalism studies, authors working in this paradigm tend to offer broad-ranging generalizations on the history of nationalist political ideas in the region, without however being able to conduct actual research on the intellectual complexities of the cases analyzed. They thus often unwittingly and paradoxically reproduce the ideologically-laden self-perceptions of national(ist) scholarship in these countries.
While not rejecting completely the relevance of the above-mentioned interpretative frameworks, my research - which will result in a chapter of a planned collective volume being edited at the Kolleg, Intellectual Horizons - seeks to offer an alternative model for placing these various local discussions into a multi-dimensional dialogue on key issues of recent European political thought.
With this in mind, I intend to analyze a set of thematic discussions that reflected the complex processes of socio-cultural-institutional transformation that shaped this region throughout the twentieth century. Choosing key authors and drawing on a broader contextual reconstruction of intellectual milieus and subcultures, I plan to organize my material along two axes: thematic and temporal. With regard to the thematic axis, I will focus mainly on the problem of overlapping nation-building projects, political thought about the role of the state and its relationship to its citizens, the social question and the rise of mass societies, the relationship of politics and religion, the political thought of and on totalitarianism, and, lastly, political ideas associated with the ongoing identity crisis characteristic of East Central European intellectuals, a crisis motivating their search for identity narratives that could weave the divergent threads of past, present and future into a coherent narrative. As for the temporal axis, there are obvious shifts in the social-cultural-political context that are conveniently linked to the two world wars and that structure the intellectual history of the region according to the following scheme: pre-1914 belle époque, the interwar period with its ambivalent combination of cultural boom and socio-political collapse, the period of communist domination starting immediately or almost immediately after WWII, and finally, as an optimistic coda, the post-communist period after 1989 (or in some cases 1991).
A politika nyelvei. Eszmetörténeti tanulmányok [The Languages of Politics: Studies in Intellectual History] (Budapest: Argumentum, 2007). A nép lelke. Nemzetkarakterológiai viták Kelet-Európában [The Spirit of the People: Debates on National Characterology in Eastern Europe] (Budapest: Argumentum, 2011).
The Politics of 'National Character': A Study in Interwar East European Thought (Oxford: Routledge, 2012).
Balázs Trencsényi, Dragoş Petrescu, Cristina Petrescu, Constantin Iordachi and Zoltán Kántor eds., Nation-Building and Contested Identities: Romanian and Hungarian Case Studies (Budapest/Iaşi: Regio Books/Polirom, 2001).
András Czeglédi, Zsolt Novák, Dénes Schreiner and Balázs Trencsényi, eds., Ész, természet, történelem [Reason, Nature and History] (Budapest: Áron, 2002).
Balázs Trencsényi and Michal Kopeček, eds., Late Enlightenment: Emergence of the Modern 'National Idea', vol. 1 of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945): Texts and Commentaries (Budapest: CEU Press, 2006).
Balázs Trencsényi and Michal Kopeček, eds., National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements, vol. 2 of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945): Texts and Commentaries (Budapest: CEU Press, 2007).
Sorin Antohi, Balázs Trencsényi and Péter Apor eds., Narratives Unbound: Historical Studies in Post-Communist Eastern Europe (Budapest: CEU Press, 2007).
Dietmar Müller, Zsuzsanna Török and Balázs Trencsényi, eds., "Reframing the European Pasts: National Discourses and Regional Comparisons," thematic issue of East Central Europe 36, no. 1 (2009).
Balázs Trencsényi and Márton Zászkaliczky, eds., Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe (Leiden: Brill, 2010).
Gábor Klaniczay and Balázs Trencsényi, eds., "Mapping the Merry Ghetto: Musical Counter-Cultures in Eastern Europe, 1960-1990," thematic issue of East Central Europe 38, nos. 1-2 (2011).
Anders Blomqvist, Constantin Iordachi and Balázs Trencsényi, eds., Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2013).
Diana Mishkova, Balázs Trencsényi and Marja Jalava, eds., 'Regimes of Historicity' in Southeastern and Northern Europe: Discourses of Identity and Temporality, 1890-1945 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
Diana Mishkova, Marius Turda and Balázs Trencsényi, eds., Anti-Modernism: Radical Revisions of Collective Identity, vol. 4 of Discourses of Collective Identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945): Texts and Commentaries (Budapest: CEU Press, 2014).
Maria Falina and Balázs Trencsényi, eds.,"Coping with Plurality: Nationalist and Multinational Frames of Mind in East Central European Political Thought, 1878-1940," thematic issue of East Central Europe 39, nos. 2-3 (2012).
Constantin Iordachi and Balázs Trencsényi: "In Search of a Usable Past: The Question of National Identity in Romanian Studies, 1990-2000," East European Politics and Societies 17, no. 3 (2003): 415-453.
László Kontler and Balázs Trencsényi: "Hungary," in Religion, Law and Philosophy: European Political Thought, 1450-1700, edited by Glenn Burgess, Howell Lloyd and Simon Hodson (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), pp. 176-207. "
History and Character: Visions of National Peculiarity in the Romanian Political Discourse of the Nineteenth-Century," in'We, The People' -Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeast Europe, edited by Diana Mishkova (Budapest: CEU Press, 2009), pp. 139-178. "
Imposed Authenticity: Approaching Eastern European National Characterologies in the Interwar Period," Central Europe 8, no. 1 (2010): 20-47.
"Writing the Nation and Reframing Early Modern Intellectual History in Hungary," Studies in East European Thought 62 (2010): 135-154.
"Balkans Baedecker for Übermensch Tourists: Janko Janev's Popular Historiosophy," in Popularizing National Pasts: 1800 to the Present, edited by Stefan Berger, Chris Lorenz and Billie Melman (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 149-168.
Diana Mishkova, Bo Stråth and Balázs Trencsényi, "Regional History as a 'Challenge' to the National Frameworks of Historiography: The Case of Central, Southeast and Northern Europe," in World, Global and European Histories as Challenges to National Representations of the Past, edited by Matthias Middell and Lluis Roura y Aulinas, vol. 4. of Representations of the Past: The Writing of National Histories in Europe (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
A full list of publications can be found on the website of the Central European University (CEU).