New Books Network

Jessie Labov

Transatlantic Central Europe

Contesting Geography and Redefining Culture beyond the Nation

Central European University Press 2019

New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in European StudiesNew Books in GeographyNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 20, 2020 Steven Seegel

While there are still occasional uses of it today, the term “Central Europe” carries little of the charge that it did in the 1980s...

While there are still occasional uses of it today, the term “Central Europe” carries little of the charge that it did in the 1980s and early 1990s, and as a political and intellectual project it has receded from the horizon. Proponents of a distinct cultural profile of these countries―all involved now in the process of Transatlantic integration―used “Central European”, as a contestation with the geo-political label of Eastern Europe.

In Transatlantic Central Europe: Contesting Geography and Redefining Culture beyond the Nation (Central European University Press, 2019), Jessie Labov discusses the transnational set of practices connecting journals with other media in the mid-1980s, disseminating the idea of Central Europe simultaneously in East and West. A range of new methodologies, including GIS-mapping visualization, is used, repositing the political-cultural journal as one central node of a much larger cultural system. What has happened to the liberal humanist philosophy that “Central Europe” once evoked? In the early years of the transition era, the liberal humanist perspective shared by Havel, Konrád, Kundera, and Michnik was quickly replaced by an economic liberalism that evolved into neoliberal policies and practices. The author follows the trajectories of the concept into the present day, reading its material and intellectual traces in the post-communist landscape. She explores how the current use of transnational, web-based media follows the logic and practice of an earlier, ‘dissident’ generation of writers.

Jessie Labov is the Director of Academic and Institutional Development at McDaniel College Budapest, and a Resident Fellow in the Center for Media, Data and Society, at Central European University.


Steven Seegel is a professor of history at the University of Northern Colorado.