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Institute for East and Southeast European Studies Regensburg

Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies Regensburg

Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca



Call for Papers

International workshop

Elites, Groups, Networks.

Collective actors in Central and Southeast Europe from the 18th to mid-20th centuries


Regensburg, 8-9 May 2017


Gregarious tendencies represent one of the defining attributes of human psyche, as well as one of the societal cornerstones. Groups formed in most socio-professional environments (e.g. churches, parties, corporations, trade unions, freemasonry) include members from a wider range of social layers, and sometimes function as a springboard for future leaders. Others however (e.g. academic societies, private clubs) consist exclusively of individuals who had already achieved recognition as elites, their membership being subjected to careful selection, due to the heavy prestige load it carried. Regardless of other particularities, all groups can be understood, from their emergence to their dissolution, as the sum of personal relations both between their members (the inner-group, binding ones), and between the latter and other individuals or groups. In this sense, network analysis may help in highlighting how the architecture of these more or less permeable groups influenced their strategies, the ways in which they related to other actors (including the State), and their composition.

In Central and Southeast Europe, where the birth of modern society was inextricably linked to the emergence of modern nations, elite groups played an instrumental role. Wielding decision-making power to a greater or lesser degree, various elite groups were involved in both processes, with ethnicity/nationality often having a deeper influence on group membership than education or social background. The phenomenon is best observable within the multi-ethnic empires, where national political parties, cultural associations, economic and financial enterprises were often the result of the joint efforts of several groups, united on a national(ist) platform, but otherwise sharing antithetical perspectives and agendas. Equally interesting is the case of the national states, in which the emergence of prestige groups like academic and cultural societies has been supported by the political authority out of reasons related to both the development of culture and science (as indicators of the nation’s progress and standing among others), and cultural diplomacy. Given regional particularities, such as: a high degree of informality in governance, relatively widespread multilevel governance, and a low degree of effective state control the further one went into the territory, elite groups played a key role in relation to both the macro-level (the State) and the micro-level (individuals and small clusters of actors), constantly refashioning the bases of power.

A glimpse at the historical literature on Central and Southeast Europe during modern times reveals an abundance of references to groups of various nature, dimensions and with varying aims, covering a wide spectrum of activities. Within the historiography of the successor states they are often regarded as one of the main engines of the national movements and of national progress. However, research on groups seldom reached beyond empirical approaches and when it focused on membership it usually dealt, at a biographical or prosopographical level, only with the leadership structures. Furthermore, comparisons between groups remain a rare commodity. Given these premises, our workshop aims at bringing together scholars with an interest in, or just dealing with the general topic of groups, with a special focus on the role played by elites and networking in the former’s lifespan, development and legacy.

The main outcome would be shifting the focus from empirical approaches – already integrated to larger national or imperial historical narratives – towards comparative and methodological ones. The conceptualization of these groups as collective actors and the analysis of their activity as such, within a milieu of entities alike, open up a path worth exploring within the larger framework of historical research on Central and Southeast Europe during modern times.


Due to the macro-level conditions in this region, collective actors often appear to the historian’s gaze as ‘fuzzy’ objects, i.e. their membership criteria, borders and interactions, and the transfer of persuasive, programmatic content within their boundaries do not easily lend themselves to a structured, quantifiable analysis. The high degree of associational informality, coupled with the multilevel ties often present within groups (kinship ties overlapping or strengthening political loyalties, business interests, lifelong friendship, etc.) suggest that a networked view of these collective actors is necessary. In the past two decades, the term ‘network’ has begun to figure prominently in discussions of elite groups in the 19th century, without however bringing about any noticeable difference in the explanatory power of analyses. It then becomes apparent that only by overcoming this methodological hurdle – network as metaphor – and implementing formal network analysis, can these loosely-bound but nonetheless influential actors be comprehensively discussed. This approach should enable the quantification and ensuing transnational or regional-level comparisons between groups on the basis of their architecture, cohesion, modes of communication, etc. It will also permit the formulation of new research hypotheses focusing on the establishment and transmission of trust as a key factor in ensuring the functional coherence of these collective actors.

In light of these issues, a special section of this workshop will be dedicated to papers employing formal social network analysis in the study of collective actors who operated between the 18th and mid-20th centuries in Central and Southeast Europe. Submissions dealing with one or more of the major topics announced below, with a ‘networked twist’, are encouraged.


While organizers welcome all contributions to the study of elites within the given timeframe and conceptual/geographic area, special attention will be paid to papers approaching one or more of the following issues:

- Crystallization of elite groups: placing social theory in a historical timeframe;

- The inner mechanisms that allowed the perpetuation of elite groups and the development of group strategies;

- The role of leadership and financing in group development;

- Groups and the State: a tale of two actors;

- Group aims and interests: is it all about power, wealth and prestige?

- Composition and behaviour of groups within a multi-ethnical environment: how did ethnicity impact on group membership?

- Gender and collective actors/groups: what forms did groups whose membership was based primarily on the criterion of gender assume in Central and Southeast Europe? How did such groups operate in the public space, how were their strategies adapted to fit specific goals?

- Interactions between groups: collaboration, cohabitation, competition;

- Individual and group (inner- and inter-) networking;

- The dissolution of groups and their historical legacy.


The official languages of the workshop will be English and German. Presentations and discussions can take place in both languages. However, in order to ease and speed-up the editorial process of the proceedings, organizers strongly encourage paper proposals in German to be submitted along with a full English translation. Authors using German should also keep in mind that participants are expected to submit a final version of the paper, in English, by 30 June 2017.

Applicants are asked to submit a title and a 2-300 words abstract by 1 November 2016.

Information on acceptance and further steps will be available by 1 December 2016.

A final version of the presentation should be prepared by 31 March 2017, in order to ensure participants’ access to all presentations before the conference.

The organizers will provide accommodation (two nights) for all participants. A small number of travel grants (2-3), covering travel expenses, will be available for PhD students and early stage researchers. Applicants for the travel grants must also submit, alongside title and abstract, a short bio (max. 150 words) and a short list of publications (max. 3).

Applications are to be sent to one of the following e-mail addresses:;;

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