Geographies of Europe

Senior Research Seminar



Cristofer Scarboro

303 Gregory Hall

Phone 333-4491 (o); 367-3361 (h)

Office Hours: 12:00-1:00 Mon.-Thurs. (or by appointment)


Outside the conveniences of maps and ideas of tectonic plates Europe has never been a fixed space but rather always resides within the flexible and permeable boundaries of convention.  Who belongs to Europe, who is excluded, and the consequences of this demarcation have changed dramatically over time.  This course is designed to investigate the creation, transformation and enforcement of these boundaries of Europe. 


Central to this course’s project is the idea that “Europe” is essentially a project of representation—the creation of a series of selves and others linked in a sequence of mutually constitutive roles.  This course engages the multiplicity of these fashioned identities and the interplay among them—focusing on how this creation impacts our understandings of what Europe is, the power relations involved in these acts of representation and the manner in which ideas of Europe impact our interpretation of such diverse ideas as “culture,” the production of knowledge, temporality and space.  The diversity of your research will demonstrate the vast range of conceptions and uses of “Europe” and “Europeaness,” their transformation through time, and their role in ordering our understandings of the world.


We begin the course with an overview of the European relationship to the problem of representation under the section, “Europe in Peripheries / Europe(s) as Peripheries”.  In this section we investigate how “Europe” is created in dialogue with a set of expressed differences that manifest themselves across, and are instrumental in the creation of, an imagined boundary between a unified and cohesive “Europe” and sets of “others.”  The section will culminate in our deconstruction of V.S. Naipaul’s novel A Bend in the River where we will be asked to analyze the presence of “Europe” in a Trinidadian novelist’s work in which the central character is an Asian shopkeeper in Kisangani, Congo.


The second section of the course, “Europe and Other / Europe as Other,” is a more in-depth examination of the problem of Europe in the singular context of Eastern Europe (my own field of expertise).   This section is intended as a series of models for your own research work and is grounded application of the theory of the first section.  Here we will be asking questions of how “Europeaness” is measured: the manner in which Eastern and Western Europeans define themselves through shared and divergent notions of Europeaness,  how these imaginings are mapped and fixed in real geographical conventions and how these conventions change over time.  This section will be framed by our analysis of two Eastern European films Underground and Before the Rain where we will be asked to examine the costs and possibilities contained in notions of east and west Europe—of “European” selves and others.


The final section of the course, “Stakes and Possibilities,” investigates the transformation of the European imaginary space by the changes of 1989 and the expansion of the European Union.  How does the collapse of socialism in Eastern Europe transform understandings of a European self?  What is the role do “European others” have in the space of an “ever closer union?”  We will also be utilizing this section of the class to review our own research papers as contributions to the question of Europe and representation. 


Course Objectives and Structure


Research Paper


The final and most tangible result of this course will be a 20-25 page research paper written on a topic of your choice under the larger rubric of “Europe and Representation.”  In writing this paper you will critically engage and evaluate primary and secondary sources and present your analysis of them in clear and persuasive writing.   In short, you will engage in the creation of historical narrative as an academic historian.  These everyday tools of the historian will serve you well in any field you chose to enter.  


The process of writing this research paper will be spread over the course of the semester in a series of small steps.  During the first week we will schedule a tour of the library and discuss the many research possibilities our library and computer system affords us.  Our first series of classes, under the heading “Europe in Peripheries(?) / Europe(s) as Periphery?”, introduce the types of questions that we will address in our discussions and in your research paper.  We will schedule individual meetings in my office during the second and third week to discuss the types of questions you would like to investigate in your research paper and arrive at possible topics and methodologies. By week four you are expected to come to class with several preliminary topics for the research paper.  By week five you will have selected your topic and will come to class with a one-paragraph description of your plans, including your ideas for sources.  This week will also mark the beginning of the section “Europe and Other / Europe as Other” where we will read and discuss the problem of Europe as it pertains to Eastern Europe—this section is intended to be a more grounded investigation of a single locus of the European problem and to serve as a series of models upon which you can begin thinking about your own work for this class.  By week seven you will have compiled a working bibliography for your paper.  In class we will discuss each other’s paper topics and construct research strategies.  By week nine you will write a formal two-page research proposal will be due in class.  By week eleven you will have completed a rough draft of your research paper.  In weeks twelve and thirteen, two of your peers will present a written critique of your draft and the class as a whole will offer commentary.  The final draft will be due in class on week fifteen.


Research Possibilities


Finding sources for your research paper will not be a problem.  The difficulty in terms of sources for this paper will reside in the selection of your topic and winnowing the resources to a manageable and effective number. 


Your paper is intended to investigate the manner in which Europe is created through representation—through the creation of selves and others.  If this topic seems rather vague, remember that we will be working together both in class and in individual meetings to refine and sharpen the focus of your research.  In class we will be investigating the representation of two films and a novel as a series of models for how to approach sources, the possible range of sources, and the types of questions that you should be asking when conducting your research.  I want this paper to investigate a question that excites your interest and the research project to be something that you are personally invested in.  If you are interested in the Victorian novel, Yugoslav film or German avant guarde art of the 1930s, this course will be an opportunity for you to dive into it.  


The University of Illinois library is a tremendous resource replete with research possibilities.  The potentials of interlibrary loan make the list of possible sources nearly limitless.  Print culture is represented in the innumerable collection of monographs, English language sources are found in abundance in the Newspaper Library including hundreds of English language newspapers with runs back, in most cases, to the early 19th century.  Ability to read in other languages only increases the number of potential sources.  The various International Studies Centers (The European Union Center, East Asian and Pacific Studies Center, Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center, African Studies Center, South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Center and the Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Center) can each provide valuable sources.  For example, the Russian, East European and Eurasian center houses an extensive collection of films from Russia, Eurasia and Eastern Europe (subtitled in many cases into English) that could form the basis of a very good paper.  The London based School for Slavonic and East European Studies,, has been holding a series of seminars on Eastern European travel writing entitled “East Looks West”.  The resulting bibliography could also serve as a valuable starting point for papers.  The Krannert Art Museum, (which is currently presenting a exhibition entitled, “Beyond East and West:  Seven Transnational Artists”) the Chicago Art Institute and other regional art museums, have collections that could provide extensive primary source material for a paper.  Through the process of selecting a topic for your research paper you should always keep in mind the possibilities and limitations of sources and consult with me on a regular basis in order to ensure that your project will have potential for interesting and controllable source material.


Peer Review 


Peer review is an integral part of the writing process, helping both the author, with critical commentary, and the reviewer in strengthening his/her own writing. You will write a peer review for two of your fellow students.  Your peer reviews will be 2-3 pages long and should demonstrate critical reading of the work and provide constructive criticism for the author.  Your peer reviews should focus both on style and content of the paper and provide suggestions on how to improve it in terms of style, argument and the use of historical evidence. 


Class Participation


As well as providing you with the methodological and analytical tools for engaging in historical research, this class will ask you to actively take part in a larger conversation of historical issues within the class.  I expect this class to allow us to delve deeply into the historical topics of each week’s readings.  To that end you need to make sure that you arrive to class on time ready to discuss the weekly readings, having carefully read and thought over the material.  You must take an active role in the class discussions.


You will also be responsible for leading one week of class discussion.  The first week of class you will chose one of the weekly topics and readings and plan to lead the class discussion on that topic.  This will require you to read the material particularly carefully, briefly introduce the materials to the class and to steer the class discussions.  As part of preparing the discussions, you will e-mail a series of 8-10 questions to other class members four days before our class meeting.


In a class of this nature it goes without saying that a classroom environment in which everyone feels comfortable is essential.  You should treat your fellow classmates with respect, listen carefully to their comments and respond to them in a polite manner. 


Reactions to Weekly Readings


You will be required to respond in writing to each week’s readings before class.  This will provide you an opportunity to focus your thoughts on the weekly readings and to prepare for the class discussion.  Assignments will be announced at the end of each class and will be kept short (around one doubled-spaced typed page).  They will due via e-mail to me no later than midnight the night before our class.   


Academic Integrity


The Department of History adheres to the guidelines on academic integrity contained in the Code on Campus Affairs and the Handbook of Policies and Regulations Applying to All Students.  Cheating and plagiarism will be penalized in accord with the penalties and procedures indicated in that source.  All students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the definition of these infractions of academic honesty.  Copies of the Code on Academic Affairs can be consulted in the History Department, at the Illini Union Information Desk and on line at


Grade Breakdown


Class Participation                                30%

Peer Review                                         10%

Weekly Reactions to Readings              10%

Research Paper                                    50%


Course Texts:


Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provicializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, 2000).


Goldsworthy, Vesna, Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination (Yale, 1998).


Naipaul, V.S., A Bend in the River (New York: Vintage International, 1989).


Todorova, Maria, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford University Press, 1997).


Wolff Larry, Inventing Eastern Europe:  The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, 1993).


Week One –  Introduction


This week we will meet each other.  I will introduce the course its goals and requirements, the basics of reading, researching and writing history and assign weekly discussion leaders.  We will also begin thinking about possibilities for research topics.   


During this first meeting we will arrange a time for library tour.



Europe in Peripheries? / Europe(s) as Periphery?



Week Two – Selves and Others


Said’s work, Orientalism, investigates the collection, standardization and use of knowledge about the ‘East’ by the ‘West’ as a means of generating and maintaining power as well as a manner of defining the self.  This section examines the manner in which “Europe” is created through representations of the “Other.”  In your readings for this week think about the way this act of creation impacts our understandings of what Europe is.  What are the power relations involved in this act of representation?  What are the stakes for the manner in which we interpret such ideas as “civilization,” the production of knowledge, geographical space and “the modern.”




Said, Edward, “Knowing the Oriental” in Orientalism, (Vintage, 1979), 1-31.


Fabian, Johannes, “Taking Stock: Anthropological Discourse and the Denial of Coevalness” in Time and the Other:  How Anthropology Makes its Object, (Columbia University Press, 1983), 25-37.


Diderot, Denis, “Supplemet to Bougainville’s ‘Voyage,’” in Remeau’s Nephew and Other Works, trans by Jacques Barzun and Ralph H. Bowen (Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1956), 179-228.


During this class we will schedule a time for to meet individually with each of you to discuss possibilities for you research paper.


Week Three – Europe as Periphery


This week’s readings focus on conceptions of Europe as normalizing agents which frame, and focus the dominant conceptions of historical subjectivity, time, culture and power.  We will be playing particular attention (keeping in mind that your preliminary topics for your research paper due next week) to the role that historical narrative, and the choices of the historian, play in fashioning these narratives. 




Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provicializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, 2000), selections.


Trouillot, Michel-Rolph, Silencing the Past : Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), selections.


Week Four – Locating Europe


This week will be the first of three sessions in the semester in which we investigate “Europe” in differing texts.  We will speak of the manner in which ideas of Europe are found in Naipaul’s novel in which the central character is an Asian shopkeeper in Central Africa.  We will be asking questions in geography—if Europe is an imaginary, where are its boundaries?  What is the relationship between self and other in this narrative?  What are the effects of Charkrabarty’s understanding of Europe as the measure of things? 




Naipaul, V.S., A Bend in the River (New York: Vintage International, 1989).


Assignment:  Preliminary topics for your research paper



Europe and Other / Europe as Other


Week Five – “Aboriginal Europeans”


This section begins looking at the question of “Europe” within the geographical boundaries of the continent itself.  The readings for this week address doing anthropological work in Greece.  How are “degrees of Europeaness” measured and applied and what are the consequences?  How are notions of time constructed?  How are the boundaries of Europe constructed in representation and how they are enforced and negotiated?   What role do “aborigines” play in constructing their selves? What is their relationship to knowledge and power?  We will also be investigating the question of Europe the through the Macedonian movie Before the Rain




Herzfeld, Michael, “Aboriginal Europeans,” in Anthropology Through the Looking Glass (Cambridge, 1987), 49-76.




Before the Rain: A Tale in Three Parts, New York : PolyGram Video, 1995.

Assignment:  One paragraph proposal of paper topic including ideas for sources



Week Six – “Inventing Eastern Europe”


This week we will be addressing the question of how Europe came to be conceived of in terms of East and West.  How did Western Europe define itself by comparison to invented Eastern European cousins?  How were notions of the Enlightenment born in the imaginings of a depraved East?  How did these imaginings become mapped and fixed in real geographical conventions?




Wolff Larry, Inventing Eastern Europe:  The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, 1993).

“Introduction”: (1-16)

“Possessing Eastern Europe: Sexuality Slavery and Corporal Punishment”: (50-88)

“Mapping Eastern Europe: Political Cartography and Cultural Cartography”: (144-194)

“Conclusion”: (356-376)

and either:

“Addressing Eastern Europe, Part I: Voltaire’s Russia” (195-234)


“Addressing Eastern Europe, Part II: Rousseau’s Poland” (235-283)


Assignment: Working bibliography


Week Seven


No readings

Assignment: Discussion of research proposals


Week Eight – The Balkans


Maria Todorova introduces her work, Imagining the Balkans, with the question; “Balkanism and Orientalism: are they different categories?”  In the readings for the next two weeks we will approach this question and its possibilities.  What can the Balkans and Eastern Europe as a whole tell us about representation and the creation of selves and others?  Central to these discussions will be notions of gender, geography, culture and time.




Todorova, Maria, Imagining the Balkans (Oxford University Press, 1997).

            “Balkans as Self Designation” 38-62

            “From Discovery to Invention, From Invention to Classification” 116-139

“Between Classification and Politics: The Balkans and the Myth of Central Europe” 140-160


Flemming, K. E., “Orientalism, the Balkans and Balkan Historiography,” in The American Historical Review, October, 2000.


Assignment: Formal two-page research proposal


Week Nine – Eastern Europe as Narrative




Goldsworthy, Vesna, Inventing Ruritania: The Imperialism of the Imagination (Yale, 1998).

            “‘And What Should I do in Illyria?’:  English Literature and the Balkans” (1-13)

            “The Balkan Threat: Vampires, Spies Murder and the Orient Express”

--Dracula and the Balkan Gothic(73-86)

--Balkan Settings of the Spy Novel (87-100)

--On the Orient Express Route (101-111)


Week Ten – Socialism as Other / Capitalism as Other


What role did socialism and capitalism have in the creation of “European others” in European imaginings of east and west and shared and divergent Europeaness?  How were socialist and capitalist selves created in the manufacturing of their imagined opposites?  How does socialism’s collapse affect the general narrative of Eastern and Western Europe?  This week we will pay particular attention to the role that notions of time have to play in the conception of self and other.  We will also be discussing the question of Europe and socialism in the final of our shared texts, the Yugoslav film Underground.




Verdery, Katherine, What Was Socialism and What Comes Next? (Princeton, 1996).

“Introduction” (3-17)

“What Was Socialism and Why Did It Fall” (18-38)

“The ‘Etatization’ of Time in Ceauşescu’s Romania” (39-58)


Kligman, Gail, The Politics of Duplicity:  Controlling Reproduction in Ceauşescu’s Romania, (University of California Press, 1998) (1-48)


Lenin Lives! (something on ostalgia?)




Underground (New York, Polygram Video, 2003). 


Week Eleven – East Looks West (and East)


This week’s readings speak specifically to Eastern European notions of themselves in the European context.  “Europe” does not play an unambiguous role in the formation of Eastern European mentalities.  What role did (and does) notions of “Europe” play in Eastern European self-definition?  What possibilities does this suggest?  What relationship did (and does) Eastern Europeans seek to have with a larger Europe?  What role did (and does) “Europe” have to play in Eastern European conceptions of history, time, place and culture?




Iorga, Nicolae, Byzantium After Byzantium, trans. by, Laura Treptow, (Portland, OR: Center for Romanian Studies, 2000). selections


Hitchins, Keith, "Imagining Europe: Autochthonist Social Thought in Southeastern Europe, 1920-1940," in Hitchins, The Identity of Romania (Bucharest, 2003),


Bakic-Hayden, Milica, and Robert M. Hayden, “Orientalist Variations on the Theme ‘Balkans’: Symbolic Geography in Recent Yugoslav Cultural Politics,” in Slavic Review, 51, no.1 Spring 1992.


Assignment: 15 page rough draft of your paper


Week Twelve –


No readings

Assignment: Discussion of peer reviews


Week Thirteen –


No readings
Assignment:  Discussion of peer reviews
Stakes and Possibilities
Week Fourteen – 1989


This week’s readings focus on the transformation brought about by the radical socio-economic, political and cultural change brought about by the collapse of socialist regimes in Eastern Europe.  What does this mean for questions of Europe?  How do understandings of “Europeaness” change?  What are the possibilities brought on by notions of a Central Europe, most forcefully put forward by Czech exile Milan Kundera?  What place does socialism have in the shared experience of a European past after 1989? 




In Search of Central Europe, George Schöpflin and Nancy Wood, eds., (Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble Books, 1989), selections.


Antohi, Sorin, "Habits of the Mind: Europe's Post-1989 Symbolic Geographies,"
in, Between Past and Future: The Revolutions of 1989 and Their Aftermath,
edited by Sorin Antohi and Vladimir Tismaneanu (CEU Press, 2000), 61-77.


Kundera, Milan, “The Tragedy of Central Europe,” New York Review of Books, vol. 31, no. 7, April 26, 1984.


Moise, Dominique, Michael Mertes and Timothy Garton Ash, “Let the Eastern Europeans In,” New York Review of Books, vol.38, no. 17, October 24, 1991.




Week Fifteen — EU? National / Post National?




Seton-Watson, Hugh, “What is Europe, Where is Europe?  From Mystique to Politique,” in In Search of Central Europe, George Schöpflin and Nancy Wood, eds., (Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble Books, 1989),  7-29.