The Event 1989

CFP: a conference in Warsaw, 17-18 Oct

Centre Michel Foucault d'études françaises
Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales
Uniwersytet Warszawski, Warsaw
17.10.2008-18.10.2008, Warsaw University
Deadline: 30.05.2008

In his movie 12.08 East of Bucharest, Romanian director Corneliu Porumboiu turned Ceaucescus' flight attempt, on December 22th 1989, into the symbol of "the event 1989" in Romania. In this country, the December "revolution" has been perceived as a structuring occurrence throughout popular representations and the memory of the past. This conception has also been applied to the dismantling of the Berlin wall in East-Germany, or the political round-tables set in Poland and Hungary. Considered as the meeting point between a still relatively unknown communist past and a present difficult to decipher, 1989 has been conceived as a symbolical crucible spurning transformations leading to an in-depth reshaping of the politics, economics and society in the East of Europe.


Our goal is neither to celebrate the event twenty years after its occurrence, nor to lessen its significance by overstressing the resilient trends emerging under the discontinuities it spearheaded or trying to outline the present in the light of the past. We rather aim to map out the sense-making mechanisms making 1989 understandable. Is there only one 1989 or is 1989 rather made by the coalescence of multiple national 1989, whose unification under a common symbolic was apocryphal? How did the time sequence 1989, from its unfolding onwards, lead to interpretations, reinterpretations and interpretation conflicts depending on the interpreters, the context and the settings producing the discourses? The dominant view exposing 1989 as a sequence of democratic transition or as a liberal revolution seems to have recently lost ground in favor of other emerging interpretations on the nature of these transformations. How does a dominant interpretation settle in our representations and gets ultimately challenged again? Why does this interpretation finally get questioned and leaves space to a plurality of interpretations or, in some cases, to a blurred explanation?

We will be careful not to substantialize the event but to tackle it through political and intellectual discourses, social-studies works, debates and public controversies in the spaces where its writings and rewritings take place.

We will focus on several aspects of the problem: