2023 Best First Book Proposal Prize: Winner announced

[Winner] Vita Zalar (Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Ljubljana): The Political Economy of Antigypsyism: Habsburg and Post-Habsburg Perspectives

Photo by Jen Vander Heide

Vita Zalar’s forthcoming monograph, The Political Economy of Antigypsyism: Habsburg and Post-Habsburg Perspectives, breaks new ground by offering a historical materialist reading of the imperial and post-imperial forms of structural racism against Roma and Sinti in the late Habsburg Empire and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Spanning the period between the two global economic crises of 1873 and 1929, this highly original study makes an invaluable contribution to several specialist literatures: that on Romani history, where accounts stretching back in time beyond the 20th century remain few and far between; to Habsburg historiography, where, despite the attention given to minority politics in that eminently multi-national space, the history of the Roma remains a marginal and marginalised subject; and to interpretations of Romaphobia, historical and contemporary, frequently characterised by what the author identifies as a constitutive antinomyof ‘Gypsiness’ oscillating between socio-economic and biologized understandings of the concept. The historical materialist reading informed by Koselleckian conceptual history / Begriffsgeschichte provides a fresh, insightful perspective that allows the author to unpack the nexus of criminalized poverty, (real or imagined) mobility, and labour hierarchies that operated at both micro and macro levels of governance as a mechanism of structural impoverishment of Roma populations. Grounded in impressive archival research on Habsburg, Yugoslav, Swiss, and League of Nations collections, as well as published sources in numerous languages, and giving due weight to Roma agency and self-articulations, the monograph is not only a most welcome addition to the growing and diversifying scholarship on the area of Central, Eastern, and South-Eastern Europe, but has the potential to engage with and contribute to global debates around structural racism. Its methodology helps deconstruct essentialist notions of ‘race’, ‘class’, or ‘ethnicity’, revealing the political economy of anti-Gypsyism as always-already historically determined and rooted in specific temporal, spatial, and economic circumstances. The focus on the materiality of anti-Gypsyism as a historical phenomenon can act as a safeguard against essentialisms and perennialisms that will be useful not only to scholars of minorities, but potentially to policy makers as well.

[Honourable mention] Dr Thomas Loyd (University of Cardiff): Black in the USSR 

For decades, the history of African engagements with the wider world has been overwhelmingly framed as a Western-oriented phenomenon. Thomas Loyd’s original exploration of the lives of the many African students who travelled to the Soviet Union from the early 1960s to its dissolution, and the various educational links it strove to forge with the continent, directly challenges these assumptions. Drawing on an expansive range of previously unexplored archival material from Ghana, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States, as well as Russia and Ukraine, Black in the USSR represents groundbreaking insights into late-Soviet socialism’s role in shaping the cultural and educational landscape of postcolonial Africa.

[Honourable mention] Dr Elżbieta Kwiecińska (University of Warsaw): A Civilizing Relay. The Concept of the Civilizing Mission as a Cultural Transfer in East-Central Europe, 1815-1919

In this excellent proposal, Elżbieta Kwiecińska provides a vital re-examination of the concept of the civilizing mission. In shifting focus away from Western colonial contexts, Kwiecińska provides a fresh perspective on European intellectual history and explores how the civilizing mission was transferred, appropriated, contested, and internalized in East-Central Europe by German, Polish, and Ukrainian intelligentsia. As well as offering a panoramic overview across the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, A Civilizing Relay also demonstrates the continued salience of the topic in the present day. 

Published by sgmhbasees

The BASEES Study Group for Minority History (SGMH) is a forum devoted to the study of minority groups in the national and regional histories of Central, Eastern and Southeastern European from the Napoleonic Wars to the contemporary past.

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