CFP: Spaces of Interaction between the Socialist Camp and the Global South. Knowledge Production, Trade, and Scientific-Technical Cooperation in the Cold War Era (Leipzig, October 26-27 2017)

For readers interested in East-South relations during the global Cold War, see this call for papers for a conference to be held at the University of Leipzig from October 26-27 2017:

International studies on Cold War history have overcome the simplified model of two superpower–dominated blocs defined by a rivalry along an impenetrable Iron Curtain. Transnational history approaches have reintroduced the explanatory axis of an economic divide between the Global North and the Global South. Other than in previous Cold War approaches, the (semi-)peripheries have taken centre stage. The recent debate has highlighted the significance of relations between Soviet bloc and developing countries in shaping the spatial order of the Cold War. “Socialist globalization” has become an integral part of the global post-war economic expansion. Contributing to this debate, our conference will focus on concrete spaces of economic East-South interactions. Transnational hubs, institutions, and infrastructures will be taken as a starting point to identify actors, interests, and power relations.

The conference is organized by Project B3 “East-South Relations during the Global Cold War”, which is part of the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB) 1199: “Processes of Spatialization under the Global Condition” at the University of Leipzig. The SFB is developing a historical narrative about the change of spatial orders under global conditions and a systematic approach that establishes a typology of spatial formats by exploring different scales of territories, networks, chains, enclaves, corridors, (special) zones, as well as the various indications of virtual and transnational spaces. Within this framework, Project B3 “East-South Relations in the Global Cold War” aims to challenge Cold War perspectives that take “Moscow’s” hegemony and centralized control by national communist parties for granted. To this end, the project asks to what degree were the borders of the Soviet bloc actually blurred and redrawn as a result of relations and interactions between the socialist camp and the Global South (with a special focus on African countries).

In what we call “spaces of interaction”, we intend to examine contact and exchanges of actors from the Soviet bloc and from the Global South. These spaces, to a certain extent, emerged and functioned beyond – or at the margins of – national control and opened up pathways into “the world”. Examples include, but are not limited to, ports, transport ships and fishing vessels, international train traffic infrastructure, construction sites, trade fairs, stock markets, joint multinational enterprises, international banks, international economic organizations, scientific conferences, international expert journals, etc.

We invite speakers to present research on such tangible spaces. Taking these examples as a starting point, we would like to discuss how in (the making of) these spaces different scales such as the local, the national, the bloc, and the global were intertwined and to what extent they became platforms of competition and of negotiation of interests between different actors. Furthermore, we want to discuss in which way the “global condition” played out and was addressed there. The guiding questions are the following: Who were the protagonists of these interactions and what were their interests and motives? How did they choose or create such spaces of interaction? Did these spaces become a relevant platform for negotiating different interests? To what extent did the interactions replicate seemingly dominant spatial order of the global Cold War? Did they blur or redraw the borders of the dominant spatial formats – that is to say the bloc and the nation-state?

The conference is organized into three main sections:
-Section 1 “Knowledge production” deals with the transfers of models of development and more generally of economic knowledge in fora of experts, ranging from scientific conferences to expert journals to international organizations.
-Section 2 “Trade and its infrastructures” looks at the exchange of goods and capital between socialist and “Third World” states and more specifically focuses on the infrastructures of international trade from transport facilities to trade fairs to negotiation rounds about trade contracts as a meeting point of the “Second” and “Third World”.
-Section 3 “Scientific-technical cooperation/Development aid” examines the sites of negotiations over and the realization of technical assistance, which consisted of large construction projects, more decentralized developmental measures in rural areas, and the training of specialists.

While we are aware of the overlap between the three topics, we think that a discussion about the dividing line between trade and assistance, for example, will be fruitful for developing a better understanding of the tension in the socialist states’ foreign economic activities between political claims of an “internationalist solidarity”, on the one hand, and economic interests, on the other. We especially welcome proposals focused on the interconnections of European socialist countries with African states. A roundtable discussion about the role of socialist countries in the UN project of a “New International Economic Order” (NIEO) with experts who participated in the NIEO-debate in the 1970s will be held on the first evening of the conference.

Proposals with title of the presentation, abstracts of 200 to 400 words, as well as information about the status and progress of the research project and affiliation of the participant should be submitted to Bence Kocsev, by 30 April 2017. The selected participants will be notified by mid-May 2017. Although funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are expected to be available to a certain extent, we ask potential contributors to explore funding opportunities at their home institutions as well.
Working language of the conference is English. A selection of contributions will be published in a collective volume. We will ask contributors to send short draft papers (10 pages max.) at the beginning of October in order to circulate them among participants in advance.

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