Program on Central Europe
PROGRAM ON CENTRAL EUROPE
One of the academic and practical highlights of studies at BISLA is the focus on the Central European region, especially the historical, ethnic, and political conflicts and tensions that define the region and prospects for their resolution in the fast-changing world.
Allen Kassof Center (AKC) – for History, Art, and Ethnic Conflict in Central Europe
In 2022, the Allen Kassof Center was founded at BISLA to respond to the lull in the transition and conflict transformation studies in Central Europe that gradually settled on the academia in the region since the Visegrád 4 countries acceded into the European Union. Focus has shifted to the European Union studies, phenomenon of authoritarian populism, migration studies, all of which are relevant and very much needed. However, the underlying unresolved and often unaddressed conflicts have not withered away and are impacted the political and geopolitical realities of today.
The Center brings together students, experts, activists, practitioners, as well as political leaders from the Central European countries in various formats of long-term roundtable dialogues. Students design own projects of community engagement to foster interethnic understanding and intercultural learning. The Center also organizes series of lectures and public discussions on topics that connect conflict studies with current issues and challenges.
Why the Center?
The reason for forming the Center is that conflict transformation skills, though learned through theoretical studies, need to be coupled with immediate practical involvement. These skills are acquired in the field, where one encounters genuine conflicting views. Dialogue can take place where the conflict is either latent or simmering, before an open conflict already takes place. It is our modest hope that our activities will make a small contribution towards preventing the escalation of conflicts in the conflict-prone Central Europe.
We are also realistic and aware that high ranking officials and political leaders are not likely to get involved in long-term conflict transformation projects. Besides, in today’s world driven by media and monitored by social media, politicians would hardly engage in an open and sincere discussion.
Rather, we involve students, intellectuals, former politicians, advisers and speechwriters of prominent politicians. In an atmosphere of Chatham House Rules, where what is said in the room, doesn’t live the room, these individuals might address and discuss the thorny issues of political, ethnic and international conflicts frankly and constructively.
BISLA can serve as a laboratory of conflict transforming conversations and longterm dialogues in order to understand the nature of conflict and thus enhance students’ conflict resolution skills.
BISLA provides venue for dialogue among various individuals and groups that hold diametrally different views about democracy, capitalism, ethnic issues, war in the immediate neighborhood of Central Europe, etc.
BISLA is a place to study Central European arts, politics, identities, and culture. This is BISLA’s attractive niche, open to students from abroad either for short term projects, summer or winter schools, study exchange, or a full study at BISLA.
Short-term and long-term plans:
In March 2023, a pilot project, involving BISLA students with 4-5 invited students from Hungary, will be launched. BISLA students and students from Hungary will hold a roundtable discussion about the most urgent issues dividing both our two countries and societies. Further, they will also discuss how young people view the age ridden with conflict, fake news, ideologies, and their world inundated with social media and smartphone dependence. Another topic for students will be the education during the covid period and its impact on the quality of education and mental health of young people.
Four Slovak, three Hungarian, and one Roma intellectuals and former politicians met at BISLA on January 19 and discussed the current absence of dialogue between the Hungarian and Slovaks intellectuals and political leadership regarding their long-simmering disputes over historical events, traumas, as well as current ethnic and geopolitical questions. The second topic was the discussion about the feasibility, plans, and strategy of the Center for the Study of Culture and Conflict in Central Europe.
If finding an international partner and financial support, the Center would offer a venue for prominent yet meaningful dialogue among the advisors and speechwriters of high ranking political leaders from various neighboring countries, including Austria, Slovenia, and the Baltic countries. They would discuss their frank views about the situation in the Visegrad 4 countries (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary). Eventually, we would invite politicians’ advisers from the war-torn Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. The goal is that, once they return home, they will talk to the politicians they advise, and help to ease tensions in small steps towards conciliation.
Central Europe Area Studies minor
Concentration in Central Europe Area Studies is an inderdisciplinary study field which approaches the geographical region of Central Europe from a variety of perspectives. Students engage in researching the political systems, their cooperation and their position in the broader European region and the international system, development of political thought in the area of Central Europe, artistic influences, identities, and trends. They consider the spread and the role of phenomena such as nationalism and populism and their lasting impact on current societies.
Central Europe Area Studies minor consist of 30 or more ECTS course credits in this field. Students write their bachelor’s thesis on topics related to Central Europe. In addition, foreign students also take Slovak or another Slavic or Hungarian language.
Core course include
Modern European History
Politics of Central Europe
Nations and Nationalism in Central Europe
Narratives of Conflict and Justice: Transitions in East and Central Europe
Dissertation Unit: Students minoring in Central Europe Area Studies write their bachelor’s thesis in the field of Central Europe.
Example of elective courses
China and Central Europe
Art History of Central Europe
Crisis in the European Union
Nationalism, Ethnicity, and Race
Introduction to International Migration
Other electives available as per current demand and offer
Summer School Central Europe: Off-Beaten Track
Times of great change have always inspired new insights and reflections concerning the character of art, history, culture, politics, and ethics. From the 19th century right up to the present moment, Central Europe continues to be an unusually dynamic region, having witnessed the rise and fall of empires, grand political projects, moments that have profoundly changed the course of history in the West, and brilliant movements in the arts, both traditional and avant-garde.
The driving force behind our summer school is to bring together students and experts from various countries to not only survey this rich tradition but to enter into an engaging debate about its significance. Our approach will not be based solely on written works, but also on students experiencing it for themselves, visiting the places where significant events occurred, encountering great works of art face to face, and observing cultures in a rapid and unpredictable process of development and transformation.
BISLA Bratislava: the daily sessions will take place at the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts in the center of Bratislava. Participants will be accommodated in a nearby dormitory.
The Summer School Study Program features study modules on the Politics, History, Art, Political Theory and Public Space in Central Europe. The program will enable the students to identify the various cultural, historical, and political roots of Central Europe, tracing the development of modern nations in this area, and the impact of nationalism and populism on its political culture. It will also provide an insight into the region’s music, literature, and folk culture. The program includes a photo essay assignment and a few day trips to Austria – 35 miles, Hungary – 10 miles and Czech Republic – 40 miles. And not only to those nations’ capitals but to ‘off the beaten tracks’ to small towns and villages with great history, ethnic variety and rich cultural traditions.