Reconciling the Irreconcilable – Preface


On June 12 th, 2008, the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen continued the venerable tradition of hosting a day-long conference organized by the Junior Fellows in residence at the Institute, at which the young scholars had the opportunity to present their work to the Institute’s community, benefiting from the input of more experienced colleagues. The 2008 cohort of Junior Fellows was quite diverse both in terms of research interests and in terms of the methodological and theoretical approaches. At the same time, their work fit nicely into three somewhat narrow topical categories that allowed for an exploration of the general theme of “reconciling the irreconcilable” through three thematic panels.

In the first panel – “Public and Private Revisited” – Sushila Mesquita and Brigitte Bargetz (both Ph.D. candidates at the University of Vienna) explored the politically and philosophically contentious boundaries between the realm of the individual’s private life and the areas in which the political may (il)legitimately intrude. Specifically, Brigitte’s paper “ The Politics of the Everyday” begins with feminist theory’s insight that the public/private distinction is too facile, and proposes to extend the existing critique by taking seriously the concept of “everyday life” as a means of usefully overcoming the public/private framework’s analytical shortcomings. While Brigitte’s paper is entirely theoretical, Sushila’s paper “Rights and the Politics of Normalization” focuses on a specific empirical case but does so from a clearly articulated theoretical perspective: she gives a Queer Reading to the Swiss Partnership Law of 2007, highlighting the contradictions that emerge when states attempt to integrate forms of otherness into what Sushila terms “a preexisting framework of recognition structures.”

Whereas the first panel reflected the Institute’s research focus on Gender issues, the second panel – “God, the State and Nation in Eastern Europe” – fit well with IWM’s longstanding institutional interest in questions of nationalism in the modern East European context. Josip Glaurdic of Yale University presented his paper “ Anatomy of Violent State-Building: The Greater Serbian Project and the Evidence in the Milosevic Trial,” in which he convincingly brings together evidence of Slobodan Milosevic’s personal culpability in Serbia’s aggression during the wars of the Yugoslav succession.[1] This political science paper was followed by a presentation from the young historian Sofiya Dyak, of the Ivan Franko University Lviv. Her paper “The Legacies of Others. Dealing with Historic Cityscapes in Soviet Lviv and Communist Wroclaw” shifts the analysis of the relationship between war and nationalism from the individual level to that of cities, and asks how city identities are (re)created following simultaneous radical changes in political authority and in population. Sofiya’s paper focuses specifically on how the architectural environment reflects the city’s changing image (in her case, in Soviet Lviv and communist Wroclaw). The final paper in the panel, by Irina Papkova ( Central European University) departed from the temporal realm to inquire into the ways in which religion continues to play a role in the (de)construction of national identity in the post-Soviet space, specifically, in the Russian Federation. Her paper “Saving the Third Rome: ‘The Fall of the Empire,’ Byzantium, and Putin’s Russia” reflects on a 2008 Russian documentary on Byzantium’s collapse; the film was produced by a prominent clergyman and inspired heated debate within Russian society about the relevance both of Byzantium specifically and of Orthodoxy generally to the contemporary identity of both the Russian state and nation. Thus, the panel raised a number of pertinent questions about the continuing (and possibly irreconcilable) tensions between the construction of post-national Europe and the continued existence of often violent nationalist movements; between the imperatives of remaining true to a city’s past and the need to remaking the cityscape as the city continues to live in a constantly changing present; and between a secular, post-Christian state and societies that continue to be irrepressibly religious.

The afternoon’s final panel – titled “ Cosmopolitanism and Psychology vs. Cosmopolitanism and Economy” – firmly shifted the discussion back from the empirical plane to that of political theory, thereby reminding us of the Institut’s commitment to philosophical reflection. Ariel Ivanier, Ph.D. candidate at Boston University, delivered the paper “Cosmopolitanism without Agents? Engaging the Statist Critique,” in which he challenged cosmopolitan theorists within the International Relations discipline to take seriously the criticism of their work from theorists working in the statist vein. Abram Trosky, also of Boston University, attempts in his paper “Moral Engagement: Cognitive Developmental and Cosmopolitan Conceptions” to argue for the possibility of a transnational morality of states.[2] Both papers, therefore, engage the issue of how morality should be taken seriously within the study of international relations, which until recently has been dominated by perspectives – especially the realist and neorealist – that leave no room for anything other than considerations of state power and interests.

In more general terms, this collection of papers delivered at the 2008 Conference by the Junior Fellows of the IWM both reflects the high quality of the Institute’s young cohort of scholars and represents the broad range of the institution’s theoretical and empirical research directions. On behalf of all of the authors, the editor would like to thank the IWM for providing us with optimal conditions for developing our projects and fostering intellectual growth, as we benefited greatly from interactions and heated discussions not only with each other but with the Senior Scholars at the Institute. Our thanks as well to the staff of IWM for their invaluable assistance and hospitality.

[1] Josip has since published an updated version of the paper for publication in the East European Politics and Society journal; therefore, we only list the reference to it in this volume. Josip Glaurdic, “Inside the Serbian War Machine: The Milosevic Telephone Intercepts 1991-1992,” East European Politics and Societies 23, 1 (February 2009): 86-104.

[2] The paper appears in this volume in an updated form and is now titled “On the Possibility of International Theory: A Cosmopolitan Critique of Communitarian Conception.”


Reconciling the Irreconcilable
IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. XXIV
© 2009 by the author
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Preferred citation: Papkova Irina. 2009. Preface. In: Reconciling the Irreconcilable, ed. I. Papkova, Vienna: IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. 24.