Imagining the Future in Modern Central and Eastern Europe

Workshop at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, October 22–23, 2020

Imagining the future is another form of memory. It is a crucial aspect of modern thinking closely connected to our experiences from the past. Imagining the future is an important but neglected aspect of memory studies. It aims to estimate, create or even avoid the future by discussing various fields: technologies, forms of society, human behaviour, gender roles, lifestyles, wars and catastrophes. Imagining the future has many subgenres, including scholarly works, fiction, sci-fi, children’s literature and political writing. It appears in the form of different media, as books, movies, visual art (cartoons) or journalism. It has existed in the forms of projects, prognoses, prophecies, utopias, dystopias, counterfactual history, programmes, parodies. It is an important source for the culture and society existing at the time it was created, and thus a vital source for understanding modern societies. Its topics have shifted with the spirit of the times, e.g. from flying and space exploration to the misuse of modern machines, from atomic warfare to the use of genetic manipulation and environmental destruction, from alien invasions to humans destroying alternative forms of life.

The main goal of this workshop is to discuss the imagining of the future by Central and Eastern European thinkers and writers during the 20th century. Submitted papers should concentrate on some of the following questions: How were changes in thinking about the future related to major political events in the region? What kinds of major changes were there in the genres and discourses on the future? Which forms of society, technological changes, forms of government etc. were expected to arise? How are communism and fascism reflected in them? What is the relevance of environmental risks and the misuse of technology? The workshop will focus on the time-frame of the interwar period, state socialism and post-socialism. It will aim to establish a dialogue between literary studies, historiography, cultural studies and political philosophy.

Comparative, translational approaches and those giving a voice to minority historical actors (women, ethnic and other minorities) will be particularly welcome.

The language of the proceedings will be English. The conference is planned for one and a half days, with the expected participation of about 15 speakers. The conference will take place on the occasion of the publishing the Czech edition of Rudolf Bahro's book: ‘The Alternative. Critique of Really Existing Socialism’.


Possible Panels:

Interwar imagining the future: sci-fi and other genres, fascism and communism

Sci-fi between Stalinism and post-Stalinism: Space exploration and Big Brother.

Utopia as a way of reforming socialism

Late socialism: future studies and environmental risk

Post-socialist utopias between the collapse of civilisation and cultural wars.

Counterfactual history during the 20th century

Please submit short paper proposals (200-300 words), together with the necessary contact information and a short bio no later than 1 August 2020.


Dr. Stanislav Holubec, Prague: Institute of History, Czech Academy of Sciences

Selected papers from the conference may be published in a special volume.

Accommodation for two nights will be provided to speakers, funding is available for travel – please inquire when sending your abstract.



Further Information (Link)