Describing Eastern Europe

January 17, 2024

This event is online


University of Tartu
University of Vienna

Topic areas

Talks at this conference

Add a talk



During the Fall semester 2023/2024, a seminar ran at the University of Tartu, Estonia, that introduced students from a variety of disciplines, who had an interest in Eastern Europe, to papers in social and political philosophy of language. These papers included for example: Sara Bernstein's "Biased Evaluative Descriptions", Rachel Elizabeth Fraser's "The Ethics of Metaphor", and Jessie Munton's "Epistemic Flaws with Statistical Generalizations". The students were set the task of exploring if, and how, ideas from this literature could throw light upon the politics of describing Eastern Europe. At this workshop, these students present the fruits of their endeavours. Scroll down for the timetable, and scroll down further for the abstracts. The students themselves would love to hear what people outside of our seminar think of their work. The event is entirely online. So if you'd like to drop in and join us register at this link:

If you have questions, email the organizers (alex.stewart.davies AT gmail DOT com).

TIMETABLE -- 17th January 2024 -- times are Estonian time (GMT+2)

11:00 INTRO

11:05 "No one in their right mind would want to live there.” - Eastern Germany as the black sheep of Germany?  (Tessa Hedemann)

12:05 BREAK

12:15 “Europe's Backyard”: A metaphor gone wrong (Oliver Daniel)

13:15 LUNCH

14:00 Baltics as periphery or margin – does it really matter? (Sandra Hagelin)

15:00 BREAK

15:10 My Address is the Post-Post-Soviet Union: Examining Two Uses of ‘Post-Post-Soviet’ (Quentin “Vassa” Swaryczewski)

16:10 END


Title: "No one in their right mind would want to live there.” - Eastern Germany as the black sheep of Germany? 

Author: Tessa Hedemann 

Abstract: The "Alternative for Germany" is a radical right-wing party. It has had seats in the German Bundestag since 2017, but has never yet provided a government figure, be it a mayor, state minister or other. This year, the first AfD mayor was elected and their numbers are rising. Not only, but especially in the former GDR federal states (also known as the East). This is one of the reasons why many West Germans have harsh stereotypes towards East Germans. The following Instagram comments were written under a post about a house in Saxony: “They´re nice to other Germans who are white, straight and not leftists.”; “No one (especially foreigners!!) would want to live there.”; “It´s in a part of Germany, where the right-winged parties (Nazis as I would calls them) are on duty.” To counter these stereotypes, I will examine two theories of extreme voting behaviour, draw on Jessie Munton's "Epistemic Flaws with Statistical Generalisations" and apply them to this problem, while providing important background information about the situation in East Germany today.

Title: “Europe's backyard": A metaphor gone wrong 

Author: Oliver Daniel

Abstract: In this talk I look at a metaphor which describes Eastern Europe as “Europe’s backyard”. The question is if this description is somehow problematic and if so how. To answer these questions I look at two possible explanations. One is Rachel Fraser’s model that tackles a similar question. Ultimately, I conclude that while initially appealing, her model has a different objective and application for metaphor critique. Secondly I turn to contemporary cognitive research about how metaphors shape our thoughts in order to show how “Europe’s backyard” is a device for framing and reasoning about Eastern Europe. Drawing from the literature, I argue that understood this way and looking at the relevant examples how this metaphor has been used, this metaphor contains an attitude biased against Eastern Europe. I then offer three explanations how this attitude is problematic, which together suggest how the perception about Eastern Europe is distorted.   

Title: Baltics as periphery or margin – does it really matter?  

Author: Sandra Hagelin

Abstract: Among studies on liminal geographies in border studies and political geography a distinction has emerged between peripheries and margins as conceptualizations of the geographical edge. This difference is largely found within a small academic debate, and the conceptual distinction has had limited reach beyond this forum. Within this debate, the margin is constructed to display more agency as opposed to the periphery, a difference that perhaps is not obvious from the point of view of ordinary synonymic usage of the words. Approaching this conceptual distinction, this presentation aims to assess the strength of the arguments put forth in favor of a distinction between periphery and margin, and to investigate into the potential transfer of such a distinction to other areas of research. Given that the debate so far has emerged with limited interaction beyond itself seemingly lacking the intention to distribute the terminology to a broader audience beyond with academic field of spatial studies, the talk aims to answer how the normativity of the language choice plays out in such a context. The talk first applies the theory of metalinguistic proposals to engage with why this distinction has occurred in the first place, second the theory of stipulation is used to engage with the success of the conceptual distinction. The talk argues that conceptual distinctions may have their logic within a contextually dependent debate, but that they can be difficult to suggest for a broader audience, making them loose some of their applicability, and indeed credibility. 

Title: My Address is the Post-Post-Soviet Union: Examining Two Uses of ‘Post-Post-Soviet’ 

Author: Quentin “Vassa” Swaryczewski 

Abstract: Since the mid-2000s, the term “post-post-Soviet” has been used in academia to mark a potential time period following the post-Soviet era. While these academic sources generally do not define the “post-post-Soviet” era or give it specific boundaries, this paper will identify and describe two ways in which the term has been used by scholars as well as argue that the second use is problematic. The first, original use of the term refers to a theoretical future wherein the Soviet past is idealized and sought after more so than a progressive future. The second use, on the other hand, implies a unified cohesion among former Soviet states in which they act and progress at the same pace due to their still being inexplicably Soviet in nature. This paper will explain how this second use is problematic through the lens of Twardzisz’s (2018) writings on the Western vantage point as well as through Bernstein’s (forthcoming) concept of biased evaluative descriptions. In analyzing these two uses of the term “post-post-Soviet,” the final aim of this paper is to encourage scholars to evaluate their intentions when using terms such as “post-post-Soviet.” 

Supporting material

Add supporting material (slides, programs, etc.)

This is a student event (e.g. a graduate conference).




January 17, 2024, 9:00am UTC

External Site

Who is attending?

No one has said they will attend yet.

Will you attend this event?

Let us know so we can notify you of any change of plan.

RSVPing on PhilEvents is not sufficient to register for this event.