Bogdan C. Iacob is a researcher at the Institute of History in Bucharest (Romanian Academy). His work centres on the study of East Central and South-eastern European experts (e.g., historians or doctors) in global contexts. He has also published on re-visiting the history of ‘1989’ and its aftermath as well as transitional justice circulations. Among his recent publications are: co-author with James Mark, Ljubica Spaskovska, and Tobias Rupprecht, 1989: Eastern Europe and the Making of the Modern World (Cambridge UP 2019) and editor the special issue “Socialist Experts in Transnational Perspective” for the journal East Central Europe (2018).
The project historicizes the project of Southeast European studies in order to shed light on its role in the successful coalescing of trans-ideological Balkan identities in times of bi-polarism. Regional scholarly collaboration was the product of multi-leveled and -directional appropriation. The process took place both laterally (absorbing contemporary trends in other geographical areas, Western Europe, UNESCO, the postcolonial states) and diachronically (integrating national and European culture of the past). It became the foundation of the new identity of the local political regimes and of the re-invention of the Balkans from 1960s onwards. Starting with the sixties, social scientists from countries such as Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Albania, and Turkey (along with representatives of other twelve countries), under the umbrella of the AIESEE (the International Association for Southeast European Studies), established a milieu of interaction that allowed them to formulate regional scholarly discourses and narratives that could escape the mark of periphery. AIESEE was funded by UNESCO and local Academies of Sciences (Romania and Bulgaria were its most active advocates). By early 1970s, this scholarly endeavor even functioned as model for similar enterprises in other geo-cultural regions (Scandinavian countries, North Africa, etc.). The project of Southeast European studies emancipated regional epistemic and political discourses through the integration of validated traditions and international postcolonial cultural practices. It simultaneously projected and legitimized ethnocentric topoi onto the Balkan and European stage. Perceived alterity was addressed by agreeing on what set apart the Southeast in either Europe or the bipolar world; and, by consenting, at least for a while and only to certain extent, not to challenge new, postwar epistemically-founded particularlisms.