Skip to main content

Knowledge Exchange and Academic Cultures in the Humanities: Europe and the Black Sea Region, late 18th – 21st Centuries

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - KEAC-BSR (Knowledge Exchange and Academic Cultures in the Humanities: Europe and the Black Sea Region, late 18th – 21st Centuries)

Reporting period: 2019-01-01 to 2021-09-30

When the transfer of modern sciences to and the study of the Black Sea Region (BSR) began in the late 18th and early 19th centuries this terra incognita was not yet considered part of Europe. The title of the inter/multidisciplinary research and exchange project KEAC-BSR refers to that fact. Knowledge and science exchange between Europe and the BSR intensified in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries and was interrupted when the Caucasian part of the BSR after WWI and a significant Balkan portion of the BSR were integrated into the Soviet Union’s orbit after WWII. The BSR disappeared behind the Iron Curtain and only low level knowledge exchange was kept upright; the academic cultures of the West and the East fell apart. The previous quarter of a century has witnessed not only strengthening ties between the countries of the BSR, which is increasingly considered as the wider Southeast Europe, and between the BSR and the rest of Europe as well as globalisation of knowledge and scientific exchange. The integration of the region into the European Research Area (ERA) is on the way but not yet completed. This project has provided excellent opportunities to critically reflect the sketched historical processes and paved the ground for a continuous exploration of knowledge exchange with and within the Black Sea Region.

KEAC-BSR's quality, credibility as well as novelty lies in its
* attempt to investigate systematically knowledge and cultural exchanges between the BSR and Western Europe from the second half of the 18th century to the present,
* theoretical and methodological approaches which have the potential to establish new pathways for future research and in its
* foregrounding of gender aspects.

The suggested international and inter/multidisciplinary project has established a network consisting of twelve research institutions from twelve countries of the Black Sea region and Austria. It included representatives of all the core disciplines of the humanities around 1900. Innovative aspects of KEAC-BSR consist of 1) drawing attention to an emerging region (BSR) consisting of countries previously considered as belonging to seperate historical regions, 2) systematic investigation of knowledge and culture exchange within and beyond the region, 3) innovative theoretical framework, 4) inter/multidisciplinary methodology and 5) explicit gender perspectives.
The project's initial phase aimed at establishing a theoretical basis on knowledge exchange in the Black Sea Region in historical perspective – an endeavour reflected in the first joint book. The research of the region as a sphere of foreign influence and external representation resulted in a rich diversity of papers, all of them connected by the theme of regional exchange in the fields of the humanities. Several studies underlined the influence and long-lasting implications of the first accounts of Western European scholars conducting research in der wider BSR while others took the influence of traditional knowledge systems and regimes as well as the relationship between (Western) European and Ottoman scientific traditions, the entanglement of non-scientific and scientific knowledge and the manifestation of knowledge within an increasing number of types of publications to analysis.

The second stage looked for continuities and changes to the relationship between (Western) Europe and the Black Sea Region at a time of institution building under foreign domination. A book does justice to the research conducted on the establishment of the first colleges, academies and universities in the BSR under foreign guidance, and analyzes their political and societal contexts of their founding and research on the institutionalization of knowledge. Some papers give a new insight into the biographies of the first generation of domestic scholars and altogether compare the phases and implications of the emerging academic cultures in different parts of the BSR.

The third stage has led to a third book by which the team aims to discuss the main theme of outlining the processes of the emergence of independent and semi-independent academic cultures within the BSR until WWI. The papers reflect the related objectives of conducting research on the backgrounds, discussions and motivation behind the foundation of chairs at BSR universities, on the role of international conferences, congresses and fairs on knowledge transfer and exchange within the BSR and the (self-)representation of BSR countries towards/by Western Europe and on Russian internal colonialism.

In the fourth stage, the consortium put an emphasis on the systematic analysis of dependency and independency of academic cultures in the interwar period. Another book gives credit to the manifold perspectives on the implications of the forceful integration of the South Caucasus into the Soviet Union on the development of local academic cultures but also on Western European political discussions on the BSR and on the transition of an Ottoman to a Turkish academic culture. This stage followed the objectives to analyze the role of Socialism and the Communist International in the transfer of ideas within the BSR and the role of conferences in the framework of the Balkan Entente.

During the fifth stage of the project, the involved researchers followed the overall objective to explore the ideological frontlines that shaped academic cultures in the Black Sea Region after World War II. A fifteen-chapter publication helps to understand the BSR within the Soviet Union’s knowledge exchange system, the relation between ideological concepts and knowledge exchange in the BSR and the shifts in academic cultures caused by the doctrines of Socialist realism.

The sixth stage took the project to the recent past of a transitioning BSR and to the very present and allowed the involved researchers to engage in discussions on the progressive integration of the region into the European Research Area and globalization. A forthcoming publication builds on a systematic analysis of the ongoing developments in academic cultures after 1989/91 and especially on the role of the internet and new media for knowledge exchange. These debates put the reorganization and restructuring of universities and academies into perspective and allowed critical discussions on the establishment of new networks and new concepts within the region’s academic cultures while engaging also with the causes and effects of brain drain and a new quality of communication across diaspora communities.
The project has been in full accordance with the ER in its ambitions to intensify the research exchange between EU Member States, associated countries and third countries. The European Union’s association and integration process of BSR countries such as Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Macedonia and Moldova demands more efforts for creating a field of cultural and research dialogue. The project has contributed to the efforts of overcoming narrow visions, ethnic and denominational stereotypes of national histories and the politics by promoting a framework for a shared history of peoples in a region worthy to be considered of being a space of knowledge exchange, both on a larger BSR stage as well as on a smaller level, encouraging dialogue beyond conflictual settings in the region.