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Conference Report

Ingrid Sharp

Women’s Organizations and Female Activists in the Aftermath of the First World War: Central and Eastern Europe in National, Transnational, International, and Global Context

Report on an Interdisciplinary, International Conference held at the Institute for Sociology, Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, 17–19 May 2013

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Editorial

Francisca de Haan

In the quarter century since the fall of communist governments across Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, scholars have used increased access to archival sources and the fresh perspective created by time to begin to re-evaluate the Cold War, the “all-encompassing struggle for global power and influence between the United States, the Soviet Union, and their respective allies.” Yet, much of this new research remains centered on traditional topics like decision making amongst political elites, diplomacy, and espionage. Scholars are only beginning to explore the various and complex ways in which gender played a role in the Cold War conflict, in terms of representation and language, as having shaped foreign policy, or as a core field in which the two sides competed, each advocating its way of life, including its gender system, as superior and in women’s real interest. The Soviet Union, having given women full economic, political, and legal rights, at least until the 1970s claimed to have solved the “woman question”; in 1963, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev proudly stated in a message to an international congress of women held in Moscow that women were full-fledged members of Soviet society.

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Gendering the Cold War in the Region

An Email Conversation between Malgorzata (Gosia) Fidelis, Renata Jambrešić Kirin, Jill Massino, and Libora Oates-Indruchova

Malgorzata Fidelis, Renata Jambrešic´ Kirin, Jill Massino, and Libora Oates-Indruchova

Although historians have established that gender was a crucial element of the Cold War competition between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, there is not much historical literature yet exploring that aspect of the Cold War. Even less literature specifically addresses the role of gender and/in the Cold War in Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe (CESEE), the region that Aspasia covers. Since Aspasia’s first issue (2007), each volume has had a Forum, though in different formats. This Forum, based on an email exchange conducted over several months between four regional experts, addresses questions about gender and/in the history and historiography of the Cold War in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Of these countries, the first three were Soviet dominated, but Yugoslavia, after the Tito–Stalin split in 1948, developed its own branch of state socialism.

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In and Out of the Cage

Women's and Gender History Written in Hungary in the State-Socialist Period

Susan Zimmermann

This article discusses writing on women's and gender history in the pre-1945 period, written and published in Hungary under state socialism. Education, struggle for social change, legal history, and the history of work formed the four most important clusters in this rich body of historiography. Considering the position of these publications in the state-socialist or Cold War period and in Central Eastern European historiography and their uneasy relation to gender history as established since the 1980s, we can characterize them as a triply marginalized body of writing. The article pinpoints how the authors connected the history of women and gender to larger processes of emancipation, other categories of analysis, and transnational perspectives in historical writing, and explores their contribution to the historiography of women and gender in the twentieth century and to the intellectual history of state socialism. It also discusses why this historiography has fallen into oblivion.

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The Ladies of Charity in Carniola, 1848 to 1914

Irena Selišnik

This article discusses the timing and character of women's philanthropy in Carniola, now part of Slovenia, in the period from 1848 to 1914. Based on primary research, it explores the beginnings of women's work for the poor; the impact of religion, especially Catholicism, on women's involvement in charity; and finally the rise of women's secular social care. I argue that in Carniola, Catholic women's organizations largely filled the space that opened up for women's philanthropic initiatives. By the late nineteenth century, a re-Catholicization of modern industrial society took place, which particularly focused on women, as seen in the phenomenon of the feminization of the Catholic religion. Catholic women's associations started to proliferate; some of these associations were charity associations that introduced new principles to charity work.

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Masculinity in the Personal Narratives of Soviet Nuclear Physicists

Erica L. Fraser

With the onset of the Cold War and a new nuclear world order, Soviet physicists found themselves at the nexus of scientific research and weapons development. This article investigates the subjectivity of these physicists as an issue of masculinity. Influenced by Connell's models of subordinated, complicit, and hegemonic masculinity, the article finds that the stories nuclear physicists tell about their research in the 1950s are inconsistent and shifting, with the narrators simultaneously remembering unfreedom and privilege. They tell of being conscripted to military work against their will but then enjoying (and deserving) the resulting power, all while maintaining strong homosocial networks in the laboratory predicated on excluding women. Evidence from personal narratives provides unique insight into these multiple masculinities and the way the authors position themselves as (masculinized) Cold War subjects.

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Raportul Tovarăşei Ana Pauker, 11 februarie 1946 Comrade Ana Pauker's Report, 11 February 1946

Raluca Maria Popa

Source discussed: Ana Pauker’s 11 February 1946 report at the Conference of the core group of women activists (Consfătuirea activului de bază feminin) regarding the political situation, the International Congress of Women in Paris, and the founding of the Women’s Democratic Federation of Romania (nine pages), Arhivele Naţionale Centrale ale României (National Central Archives of Romania), Fond Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party, Chancellery volume I, file 13/1946, pp. 1–9.

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What’s in a Book or Becoming of Feminist Thinking?

Oana Bălută

Ramona Păunescu, Evoluţii politice ale maternităţii: Perspective Feministe (Political evolutions of maternity: Feminist perspectives), Iaşi: Polirom Publishing House, 2012, 252 pp., RON24.95 (pb), ISBN 978-973-46-2448-5.

Bianca Burţa-Cernat, Fotografi e de grup cu scriitoare uitate (Group photography with forgotten women writers), Bucharest: Cartea Românească Publishing House, 2011, 237 pp., RON34.95 (pb), ISBN 978-973-23-2946-7.

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Women's Political and Social Activism in the Early Cold War Era

The Case of Yugoslavia

Chiara Bonfiglioli

The Cold War era has been mainly represented as a period of gender conservatism in feminist literature, and communist women in Eastern and Western Europe have been often described as manipulated or deprived of agency due to their lack of autonomy from Communist Party politics. On the basis of archival sources and autobiographies, this article explores the Cold War activities of a women's organization founded in Yugoslavia during the Second World War: the Antifašistički Front Žena (Antifascist Women's Front, or AFŽ). The article describes the activities of the AFŽ from its creation until its dissolution in 1953, focusing on its campaigns for women's political, economic, and social rights in the postwar and early Cold War period. By engaging with the pioneering work of Zagreb feminist historian Lydia Sklevicky and with new archival sources, the article aims to shed light on women's political and social agency in Cold War times.

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After “A Youth on Fire“

The Woman Veteran in Iulia Drunina's Postwar Poetry

Adrienne M. Harris

The article uses Soviet poet Iuliia Drunina's deeply personal and o en autobiographical poetry as a lens through which to view the woman veteran's experience, especially during the time of the state-promoted cult of World War II and the erosion of the cult during perestroika. Gender and World War II remain consistent themes in Drunina's poetry, but in her oeuvre, one finds an evolution in how the poet-veteran relates to the war. From 1942 on, Drunina consciously assumed the role of the voice for women soldiers, but as the war receded into the past and the number of veterans dwindled, Drunina began to write more frequently on behalf of veterans of both sexes. This article details numerous war and gender-related themes: gendered otherness during the war, demobilization, stereotypes of women soldiers, the sacred nature of the war, the duty to remember, front-line friendship, and the persistence of the war in veterans' lives.