Conference: Walter Benjamin in the East – Networks, Conflicts, and Reception


This conference will trace the reception of Walter Benjamin’s thought throughout Eastern Europe, more specifically in a late and post-Socialist context. The dissolution of the Eastern Bloc and the Soviet Union to some degree ended the rivalry of two contingent versions of modernity. Among other things, it catalyzed an intellectual and artistic engagement with the 1920s, directed at different authors, strands of Marxism and Materialism in the formative years of the communist project. As a historical materialist thinker and Western intellectual sympathizer, Benjamin is referenced and appropriated in the context of various Eastern European approaches that rework the legacy of the communist project, starting in the Glasnost period. Thus, the 2020s come as a fitting occasion to re-read and historicize late and post-Socialist retrospections of the 1920s. In doing so, the conference also focuses on the ways in which academic cultures govern implicit imaginaries of the East and West (division) that remain prevalent in theoretical practices until today.

The main objectives of the conference on Benjamin’s reception in the East concern three aspects: the different networks (1), the conflicting appropriations (2), and a collaborative historicizing of these theoretical transfers from scholars across Europe (3).