The Disciplines Series: The Idea of Development

Malinowski’s Children: East Central European “Betweenness” and Twentieth-Century Social Science

Friday, May 16, 2014  12:45pm - 6:15pm The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room


Image credit: London School of Economics Library, reference MALINOWKSI/3/B/18/1


Heyman Center for the Humanities

East Central European Center, Columbia University

Balassi Institute: Hungarian Cultural Center, New York

Workshop with pre-circulated papers.
Registration required by Monday, May 12, email [email protected]

This one-day workshop positions Eastern and Central Europe as a critical field for global modern knowledge by looking at the “betweenness” of East Central European intellectuals and their contributions to the history of social science in the twentieth century. Betweenness is here understood in both regional terms—that is, East Central Europe’s historic position as a culturally and developmentally ambiguous periphery of the West—and biographical ones, including experiences of exile, dislocation, and/or statelessness. As an analytic category, betweenness forges transnational histories among regions and countries (such as Israel or India) that based their global position and intellectual production on their liminality.

Such an approach re-illuminates the history of twentieth-century social science in important ways, reflecting James Clifford’s reminder that these disciplines were always part of the very “processes of innovation and structuration” they hoped to investigate. On the one hand, it highlights the seminal role of colonial subjects and stateless exiles like Malinowski and Znaniecki in generating early and influential—albeit highly contested—disciplinary models, suggesting that key narratives of social science history may be best understood from the margins. On the other, it illuminates how East Central and South Eastern Europeans have used their position between “West” and “East,” “civilized” and “savage,” and “first” and “third world” to mediate global regimes of knowledge.



  • Tal Arbel

    Ph.D. Candidate in History of Science

    Harvard University

  • Deborah Coen

    Professor of History and Chair of History of Science and Medicine

    Yale University

  • István Deák

    Seth Low Professor Emeritus of History

    Columbia University

  • David Engerman

    Professor of History

    Brandeis University

  • Manu Goswami

    Associate Professor of History

    New York University

  • Jan Kubik

    Department Chair of Political Science

    Rutgers University

  • Katherine Lebow

    Research Fellow, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute

  • Jeremy Lin

    PhD Candidate in History

    New York University

  • Małgorzata Mazurek

    Associate Professor of Polish Studies

    Columbia University

  • Mihály Sárkány

    Senior Honoris Causa of Institute of Ethnology

    Research Center for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

  • Vítězslav Sommer

    Research Officer

    Centre d'études européennes, Sciences Po

  • Scott Spector

    Professor of German, History, and Judaic Studies

    University of Michigan

  • Andrew Zimmerman

    Professor of History and International Affairs

    George Washington University


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