Once repressed under communism, a new breed of scholars now blossoms in Romania. For some of these scholars, like Romanian historian Serban Papacostea, whose two colleagues were murdered for their work, opportunities for intellectual exploration that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago are more and more accessible. Next week, for example, Papacostea will take part in an international conference in Bucharest that will unflinchingly examine the myths and truths of his country's cultural identity.
And, as exciting as this time has been for academics in post-communist countries, it is equally so for academics on American soil, who are now able to collaborate and develop relationships with Eastern European researchers and professors.
From May 27 to 30, the Journal of the History of Ideas, an interdisciplinary scholarly journal that examines the evolution of ideas and their influence on historical developments, will hold a conference titled "Culture and the Politics of Identity in Modern Romania" in Bucharest's Elisabeta Palace.
The Journal of the History of Ideas was founded in 1940 by legendary Hopkins philosopher Arthur O. Lovejoy and is now published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.
Hopkins philosophy professor Jerome Schneewind, president of the journal's board of directors, says the Bucharest colloquium is the first of many such conferences the quarterly publication hopes to sponsor over the coming years. Discussions are under way for a conference to be held in China, and there are hopes to hold conferences in other areas where the journal has not been readily available.
"Our board members would be interested in funding conferences in Russia, the Middle East and Africa," Schneewind said. "The world is shrinking, and we can learn a great deal from these countries. For academic journals to stay exciting and continue to reach a wider audience, it is important that we increasingly internationalize our contributors and audiences."
The four-day colloquium will look at modern Romanian intellectual and cultural history and will cover a wide range of topics, including some that remain highly controversial in Romania; among these are feminism, the self-understanding of Jews and other ethnic minorities, the direction of the country's economy and the country's historical myths and cultural identity. It will feature talks and debates by leading scholars from the United States, France, Israel and Germany, though the majority of the speakers are Romanian. The conference and its topics already have generated a great deal of excitement in Romania, and the panel discussions are expected to be covered by the Romanian media.