At CETOBaC, the interest in South-Eastern Europe dates back to the 1950s and 1960s and to the works of Bennigsen and Gilles Veinstein who did extensive research on the Ottoman Empire and its contacts with the Russian Empire. Starting in the 1970s, Alexandre Popovic’s work on Muslim populations significantly contributed to enlarging the scope of South-Eastern European studies to include the history of South-Eastern European Muslims in the Ottoman and post-Ottoman times. Contributions by other scholars helped bring about a major development of contemporary Balkan studies at CETOBaC, focusing on the region’s political, social and cultural history in the 19th and 20th centuries. Research work into imperial spaces has paved the way for study of the contemporary Balkans which has developed around issues such as the empire-to-nation-state transition while also focussing on how people, ideas and goods circulate over vast macro-regional spaces beyond state borders.
Nation and state building
One of the team’s research activities aims to oppose simplistic and essentialist visions of the “national question” by developing in-depth specialist analysis of the formation state and national identities through both local and transnational processes. X. Bougarel, presently based at the Marc Bloch Centre in Berlin, is currently completing his habilitation thesis on “Islam, national identities and political allegiances in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1878‑2010.” The case of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Muslims enables him to highlight how certain practices and representations inherited from an imperial context may continue in a post-imperial one. This sheds critical light on accounts that convey a linear and inexorable view of the passage from empires to nation states. For her part, N. Clayer is preparing a monograph on Power, Religion and State-Building in Albania in the Interwar Period, with a focus on the separation of church and state. Meanwhile, she will be co-editing a collective work on the transnational history of Kemalism, with F. Giomi and Emmanuel Szurek (Princeton University), within the framework of the ANR-funded Transfaireproject (“Trans-acting Matters: Areas and Eras of a post-Ottoman Globalisation”). Ph. Gelez is researching agrarian reforms in the 19th and 20th century Balkans, with regard to their economic, political and social implications.
History of religion
Another focal point of the Contemporary Balkans research team is the history of religion, in keeping with A. Popovic’s pioneering work on the history of the Muslim communities in South-Eastern Europe. G. Bria is preparing a co-supervised PhD thesis on Muslim mystical fraternities in pre-communist Albania. Several ongoing works focus on the management of religious diversity in 19th- and 20th-century South-Eastern European states, with a view to highlighting how imperial or national policies evolved over time in this regard. A workshop on the topic convened in 2015 by T. Anastassiadis, N. Clayer and F. Giomi will be followed by a collective publication, all within the framework of the Transfaire project.
Associational culture, politicisation, sociability
The Contemporary Balkans team is also working on associative networks. Whether they are related to philanthropy, religion, nationalism, feminism, migration, sport or leisure, associations bring together quite dissimilar individuals around a wide range of activities and ways of mobilisation. CETOBaC Balkanologists therefore study them as essential spaces for learning about politics in which a renewing of forms of sociability can be observed.
These questions have been forming the backbone of a series of seminars held in 2014‑2015 under N. Clayer and F. Giomi’s supervision. They will also be the topic of a workshop to be held by F. Giomi, who is completing a monograph on Muslim women and associational culture in post-Ottoman Bosnia. C. Parfene is preparing a co-supervised PhD thesis on the relation between football, politics and nationalism in communist Romania, while A. Cosovschi has recently begun a co-supervised PhD thesis focussing on the last Yugoslavs. The Muslim press in Greek Thrace between the wars is the subject of I. Bonos’ PhD dissertation.
Wars and violence
Scholars who work on violence in the Balkans at CETOBaC oppose the concept which claims Balkan societies to be intrinsically violent. They are interested in the actors of this violence, in the social, political and cultural processes that underpin its outburst or abatement and in the social, political and cultural effects it produces. They are also attempting to reintroduce the —very often neglected— Balkan case in debates on violence and wars in 20th-century Europe.
In this framework, X. Bougarel is completing his research into the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handscharwhich was set up in 1943 and brought together German officers and Bosnian soldiers. He is also preparing a monograph on this subject. For their part, N. Sigalas and N. Clayer are participating in a CETOBaC-transversal survey of margins and violence, directed by Hamit Bozarslan.
A research program to be launched in 2015 deals with new approaches to the history of the Second World War and its consequences in Yugoslavia, Greece and Albania(1939‑1949).
Every year CETOBaC hosts one to three graduate students working on the Balkans. For doctoral studies, co-supervision agreements have been signed with universities in Italy, Romania and Argentina.
Land, territory and space issues in South-Eastern Europe (X. Bougarel, N. Clayer, B. Lory).
For a history of social movements in 19th- and 20th-century Europe (N. Clayer, F. Giomi).
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