Conference Programme



Day 1: 23rd February

Conference opening remarks 10:00-10:15

Panel 1 – Bureaucracy and Knowledge Production. 10:15-12:00
Chair Jan Surman (Herder Institut Marburg)

Ana Sekulic (Princeton)
The Power and Limits of Imperial Bureaucracy: Catholic Monasteries and Community Building in Ottoman Bosnia (17th – 19th Centuries)

Rachel Schaff (U Minnesota)
Classifying Czech Melodrama: Mrs. Morality Sweeps through the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia

Alina Popescu (U Bucharest)
Working with Head and Soul: Portraits of Censors and Practices of Censorship in Communist Romania

12:00-13:00 Lunch

Panel 2 – Rethinking Images of Bureaucrats and Bureaucracy 13:00-14:45
Chair Jiřina Šmejkalová (Prague College/ Palacký University, Olomouc)

Margarita Vaysman (St Andrews)
The Office of Forking Paths: Bureacracy and Narrative Agency in Mid-Nineteenth Century Russian Novels

Scott Moore (Eastern Connecticut State U)
Resisting the “Constraining Net of Bureaucratic Form”: Images of Educational Bureaucracy in Late-Imperial Austria, 1867-1914

Alice Lovejoy (U Minnesota)
State Bureaucracies and the Cinematic Avant-Garde in Central Europe

Panel 3 – Bureaucrats and Regime Change 15:00-16:45
Chair Felix Jeschke (Charles University)

Ilya Afanasyev (U Birmingham)
“Communists became bureaucrats”: the concept of bureaucracy and debates on ‘nationalities’ in the intellectual history of the Bolsheviks

Marián Lóži (ÚSTR)
Implementation and Results of Stalinist Legitimization Practices. The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia at the Regional Level (1948-1952)

Molly Pucci (Trinity College Dublin)
Stalinist Bureaucracies

The Bureaucratic Unconscious: Keynote Speech by Ben Kafka (NYU) 17:15-18:15

Day 2: 24th Feburary

Panel 4 – Cultural Bureaucracy 10:30-12:15
Chair David Vaughan (Anglo-American University in Prague)

Joanna Curtis (NYU)
The Cold War in the Kulturnation: Cultural Bureaucracy and the Fate of “Good Music” in Post-War Austria and West Germany

Mirjam Frank (Royal Holloway)
Musical Bureaucracy in the Ständestaat and the Rise of Fascism in Austria

Tereza Willoughby (Hradec Králové)
From the Dictate of the Regime to the Dictate of Audience Figures, or the Bureaucracy of Arts News in the Czech Media

12:15-13:15 Lunch

Panel 5 – Bureaucracy Personified 13:15-15:00
Chair Veronika Pehe (EUI)

Matyas Erdelyi (CEU)
Modernizing Facets of State Bureaucracy: Social Reforms in the Eyes of the Public Servant in Hungary, 1867-1918

Nguyen Vu Thuc Linh (EUI/ Sciences Po)
From the Critique of Party Bureaucracy to Social Movement: Jacek Kuroń and the Genealogy of Post-War Dissidence in Poland

Muriel Blaive (Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes)
The Czechoslovak Communist Police in Action: A Useless Bureaucracy or an Incredibly Efficient One?

Panel 6 –  Gaps in Bureaucracy 15:15-17:00
Chair Ben Kafka (NYU)

Cristian Capotescu (U Michigan)
Frontiers of Confusion: Eastern European Border regimes in Late Socialism

Charles Sabatos (Yeditepe University)
In Search of ‘Narodnost’: Documenting Slovak Family History

Rosamund Johnston (NYU)
Red Tape: Navigating the Socialist Sound Archive

17:00 – Audiovisual installation by students of the Center for Audiovisual Studies (FAMU): Bureaucracy and Totalitarianism + Reception

Call For Papers: Deadline September 5

From Josef K to Lustration: Bureaucracy in Central Europe

23-24 February 2017, New York University, Prague

The image of the bureaucrat stamping piles of documents is recognizable as a Central European cultural trope. Labyrinths of paper and faceless institutional corridors have long been part of the literary imagination of the region. In East Central Europe Between the Two World Wars, historian Joseph Rothschild suggests that bureaucracy was a feature both typifying this region and stunting its growth. But bureaucratic organization is a staple of any modern state (Weber). Why then is it seen as a particular fetish, and downfall, of Central Europe? How did such a stereotype arise and how can it be challenged? How do ideas of at once hyperactive and dysfunctional bureaucracies relate to the notions of stunted progress which have characterized the region? And how can a study of bureaucracy unseat the very idea of Central Europe? The organizers invite reflections on both state and private (corporate) bureaucracies and the myth of bureaucratic coherence, as well as notions of efficiency and inefficiency.

This interdisciplinary conference welcomes proposals from graduate students and early career researchers in a range of humanities and social sciences working on the Central European region in the broadest possible sense. We encourage submissions pertaining, but not limited to work with institutional archives and materiality, representations of bureaucracy and the bureaucrat, anthropological and sociological investigations of embodied experiences of bureaucracy, and studies of institutional change and continuity over time under imperial, authoritarian, and democratic regimes. Despite the twentieth-century examples in the title, the organizers seek submissions relating to earlier historical periods too. Submissions which take a trans-national, trans-imperial and pan-regional view are particularly welcome.

Keynote speaker: Ben Kafka (New York University)

The language of the conference is English. In fine bureaucratic tradition, submissions should include a 300 word abstract and a CV. The deadline for applications is 5 September, 2016. Notification of acceptance will be made before 30 September 2016.

Submissions should be sent to Rosamund Johnston and Veronika Pehe at and The conference will be sponsored by New York University and the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague. Contributions towards travel and accommodation are available.