As we begin Volume 13, Aspasia would like to take this opportunity to congratulate several of our contributors. First, congratulations to Rochelle Ruthchild on her receipt of the Association of Women in Slavic Studies Outstanding Achievement Award (see the citation “In Recognition: Rochelle Goldberg Ruthchild” following this introduction). In addition, Emily Gioielli's article, “‘Home Is Home No Longer’: Political Struggle in the Domestic Sphere in Postarmistice Hungary, 1919–1922,” which appeared in Volume 11 (2017), received an honorable mention for the 2018 Mark Pittaway Article Prize in Hungarian Studies by the Hungarian Studies Association. Aspasia is pleased to extend its congratulations to Rochelle and Emily.
Despite the fact that Aspasia issued an open call for articles for Volume 13, there are remarkable elements of similarity among the articles we have included. In some way, each of the articles examines issues of identity, whether as citizen, as artist, or as mother. Two articles focus specifically on motherhood, drawing on memoirs to interrogate the narratives used by women to shape and justify their actions. Two others deal explicitly with the history of emotion, highlighting how feelings—whether of euphoria or outrage—contribute to action and experience. Although there is some overlap among the various contributions, the articles are arranged roughly chronologically, beginning in the late nineteenth century in Greece and traveling north to Russia, Poland, and parts of Western Europe, and forward through the end of the twentieth century.
This volume contains two works focusing on gender in the Greek experience. Leading the volume is an article by Dimitra Vassiliadou on notions of masculinity and honor in fin de siècle Athens, expressed through dueling. Identifying the duel as a foreign import, Vassiliadou traces its integration into middle-class Greek society as a means to defend male honor from public and political insult. She argues that protecting one's honor through dueling was a particularly middle-class Greek male imperative that defined and shaped male national belonging while excluding others—such as women and the working class—from membership in the Greek nation. Indeed, it was through dueling that violent, male, emotional outrage became civilized and tamed in service to the nation. Vassiliadou's analysis suggests the deep connections among concepts of honor, masculinity, and national belonging, and the usefulness of applying the lens of emotions to conceptions of national identity.
Despoina Tsourgianni's article shifts the focus to representations of female identity through an exploration of the photographs and self-portraits of the Greek diaspora artist Thaleia Flora-Caravia (1871–1960). Analyzing the self-representations of the artist, in combination with her autobiographical writings and letters, Tsourgianni argues that Flora-Caravia appropriated and inverted the tropes used by male artists of the time, establishing herself as an autonomous, independent female artist within the Greek diasporic community and the wider art world. Flora-Caravia's self-representations thus reveal both the limitations that confined women and the possibilities they created for themselves as they challenged the boundaries they encountered during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The contributions of both Elaine MacKinnon and Natalia Pamula use memoirs to examine motherhood and the ways that women have obtained not only meaning but also empowerment through their role as mothers. In “Motherhood and Survival in the Stalinist Gulag,” MacKinnon explores how motherhood became a powerful motivation for survival for female political prisoners caught up in the Stalinist repressions. Focusing on four memoirs written by survivors, MacKinnon argues that these women's deep personal bonds to family helped them preserve a sense of normalcy and connection to the outside world that facilitated their perseverance through their ordeals. Recognizing that these four women's experiences were not universal, MacKinnon nevertheless raises the need for continued research into the ways that gender and gendered assumptions shaped and complicated both imprisonment and survival.
Natalia Pamula's contribution, “‘Maternal Impressions’: Disability Memoirs in Socialist Poland,” likewise draws on memoirs, published in the 1970s and 1980s, by two women who raised disabled children under state socialism in Poland. Pamula engages in a close analysis of the two memoirs, revealing the ways that these women constructed themselves as good mothers who were devoted to their children and committed to their rehabilitation, but also how they subtly criticized the socialist state. Pamula's discussion highlights some of the differences in approaches to disability studies in the East compared to the West, deepening and complicating our understanding of the individual's relationship with the socialist state.
Finally, Katarzyna Nowak's article, “A Gloomy Carnival of Freedom: Sex, Gender, and Emotions among Polish Displaced Persons in the Aftermath of World War II,” examines another aspect of the post-1945 Polish experience, focusing on Polish displaced persons (DPs) interred in Germany and Austria after the war. Situating her argument within the growing field of the history of emotions, Nowak looks at the ways that sexuality (and sexual violence) reflected deeper issues facing Polish citizens in the DP camps, including emasculation, trauma, and community destruction. She finds that the immediate postwar feelings of liberation and sexual indulgence quickly shifted to the restoration of prewar cultural norms in personal relationships. Nowak argues that the renewed regulation of female sexuality among Polish DPs was part of a broader effort among their community's leaders to reconstruct the Polish family and the Polish nation.
This volume also contains two translations in the section “The Source.” The first, a letter written by Polish entuzjastka Narcyza Żmichkowska to her younger colleague Wanda Grabowska, highlights the deep intimate relationships that developed between women in nineteenth-century intellectual circles. The extensive introduction by Natalie Cornett sets out the historical context for the letter, but it also explores the complex personal dynamics between the two women. The second translation, of a short autobiographical story by scholar Mihaela Miroiu, speaks directly to the current #MeToo movement as it highlights the vulnerabilities of women to sexual harassment in socialist Romania, reminding us of the deep institutional biases and social barriers that women face on a daily basis.
Finally, this volume contains a number of comparative review essays and an extensive collection of reviews of books published in nearly a dozen different languages. These reviews, by scholars working throughout the region of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe, constitute one of the major contributions of Aspasia to the field. They reveal the innovative, diverse, and high-quality scholarship being accomplished on women's and gender history throughout the region, in spite of the limitations and constraints currently placed on the field by politicians and others (see the “Report from the Region” that follows this introduction). They provide access to ideas, arguments, trends, and developments that might otherwise be inaccessible, and celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of women's and gender history in all its manifestations.
As this is my first issue as Managing Editor, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the editors of Aspasia. Dedicated women throughout the region and in the United States work collectively to create this journal, and it continues to serve the important function to make accessible the diverse and innovative scholarship on women's and gender history focused on Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. The editors especially thank Raili Marling for her participation as an Aspasia editor and for her efforts as former Managing Editor. She stepped up to take on this demanding role when it was necessary, and her many years of service to the journal are much appreciated and valued. Krassimira Daskalova's dedication to Aspasia and her efforts as Book Review Editor are reflected in the range, depth, and extent of the coverage and visibility that Aspasia provides for scholars and scholarship in the region. And finally, Francisca de Haan remains the journal's best and strongest advocate and inspiration. The editors remain grateful for the insight, assistance, and guidance of the Editorial Board, and for the continued support of Vivian Berghahn and the staff at Berghahn Books. Their flexibility has enabled the journal to continue publication for this volume and hopefully for many, many more to come. I hope you enjoy this volume. Please continue to contribute your scholarship to the journal.
Sharon A. Kowalsky
Managing Editor, Aspasia