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Eastern Europe’s Dissident Decade: How a transnational figure was forged 1969-79

Drawing on his book “Dissidents in Communist Central Europe”, researcher Kacper Szulecki will explain how the convergence of certain factors enabled the emergence of dissidentism under the Communist period in the Eastern Europe.

Black and white photos of 10 Eastern European dissidents.
Photo: AFP

From unknown novelties to political stars

When in the late 1960s Western media began reporting on the trial of a group of Soviet intellectuals, the word used to describe them – “dissidents” – was still something of a novelty. Ten years later, “the dissident” was a “new type of intellectual”, according to the Bulgarian-French author Julia Kristeva, and a “star in the theatre of the opposition” as Vaclav Havel – one of the prominent specimen – put it. By 1979 Eastern Europe’s dissidents were stealing the show, to the extent that Western critical intellectuals were complaining that after all they are “dissidents too”. What happened over those ten years and how was this new transnational figure forged?

The emergence of dissidentism

Kacper Szulecki will explain how domestic fame, transnational recognition and open, legal opposition activity enabled the emergence of dissidentism. This would not be possible without transnational circulation – enabled by new communication channels, created by émigrés, technological innovations in self-publishing, as well as a new universal “language” of human rights. Together, these factors gave “the dissident” a transferrable charismatic authority, and empowered those who functioned under the “dissident” label in their struggles with authoritarian regimes.

Where and when

October 25, 2.15 PM, seminar room 3, Sophus Bugges hus. Tea and coffee will be served. All interested are welcome.

About the speaker

Kacper Szulecki is a researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Oslo. He holds a PhD in the social sciences from Universität in Konstanz, and an M.Sc. in political science from VU Amsterdam. He was a Dahrendorf Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin and a Visiting Fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at EUI Florence. His main research interests are in energy policy and security, but he spent many years studying social movements and dissents in Central Europe. He is the (co)editor of Rethinking Order (Transcript, 2015), Cracking Borders, Rising Walls (Kultura Liberalna, 2016), and Energy Security in Europe (Palgrave 2017), and the co-author of the first monograph on the Polish anti-nuclear movement. His book Dissidents in Communist Central Europe is forthcoming with Palgrave in October 2019.

Published Aug. 21, 2019 10:59 PM - Last modified Jan. 9, 2020 10:27 PM