2020/21 academic year: books by the IAS Fellows and Alumni

June 16, 2021

The 2020/21 academic year has often been labelled as 'quiet' and 'slow' as almost all academic life in its habitual format has frozen and on site events and meetings cancelled or postponed. However, for many of the IAS fellows and alumni it has created much desied space and given time for finalizing their work and preparing it for publication. This is a recap of what books authored, co-authored or edited by the IAS fellows and alumni saw the light of the day in 2020/21.

The academic year started with great news. Former Senior Core Fellow of 2019/20 Maya Nadkarni shared the news that her book Remains of Socialism Memory and the Futures of the Past in Postsocialist Hungary (Cornel University Press, 2020) was published. 

In Remains of Socialism, Maya Nadkarni investigates the changing fates of the socialist past in postsocialist Hungary. She introduces the concept of "remains"—both physical objects and cultural remainders—to analyze all that Hungarians sought to leave behind after the end of state socialism.

Spanning more than two decades of postsocialist transformation, Remains of Socialism follows Hungary from the optimism of the early years of transition to its recent right-wing turn toward illiberal democracy. Nadkarni analyzes remains that range from exiled statues of Lenin to the socialist-era "Bambi" soda, and from discredited official histories to the scandalous secrets of the communist regime's informers. She deftly demonstrates that these remains were far more than simply the leftovers of an unwanted past. Ultimately, the struggles to define remains of socialism and settle their fates would represent attempts to determine the future—and to mourn futures that never materialized.

Later IAS CEU was delighted to congratulate 2020/21 Senior Core Fellow Róbert Somos on finalising his translation of the work of Origen in the volume Órigenész, Zsoltárhomíliák. 

In 2012 Marina Molin Pradel, an Italian archivist of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, identified twenty-nine Greek homilies on Psalms in Codex Monacensis Graecus 314 as works by Origen. By now, Origenian authorship is already taken for granted, and the critical edition of the text of these homilies has been published by Lorenzo Perrone and his colleagues in 2015. The recent discovery is perhaps the most momentous event for the early Greek Christian studies of the last few decades. These homilies are the last work of the Christian master and the earliest non-fragmentary Christian explanations of Psalms.

The Hungarian translation, made by Róbert Somos, senior fellow of IAS, has been published in December 2020. The 14th volume of the series of Catena, edited by the Centre for Patristic Studies of Pécs University and Kairosz Publisher, contains the Hungarian translation of the twenty-nine Greek homilies and that of five Origenian homilies, which remained to us only in Rufinus’s Latin translation.

The book Reassessing Communism: Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989 (CEU Press, 2021) edited, among others, by the IAS CEU Thyssen alumna Agieszka Mrozik was published in June 2021. 

The thirteen authors of this collective work undertook to articulate matter-of-fact critiques of the dominant narrative about communism in Poland while offering new analyses of the concept, and also examining the manifestations of anticommunism. Approaching communist ideas and practices, programs and their implementations, as an inseparable whole, they examine the issues of emancipation, upward social mobility, and changes in the cultural canon.

The authors refuse to treat communism in Poland in simplistic categories of totalitarianism, absolute evil and Soviet colonization, and similarly refuse to equate communism and fascism. Nor do they adopt the neoliberal view of communism as a project doomed to failure. While wholly exempt from nostalgia, these essays show that beyond oppression and bad governance, communism was also a regime in which people pursued a variety of goals and sincerely attempted to build a better world for themselves.

The book is interdisciplinary and applies the tools of social history, intellectual history, political philosophy, anthropology, literature, cultural studies, and gender studies to provide a nuanced view of the communist regimes in east-central Europe.

Finally, IAS CEU Director Prof. Dr. Nadia Al-Bagdadi shared the news that the volume Striking from the Margins. State, Religin and Devolution of Authority in the Middle East summarizing theoretical and empirical insights discussed within the project Striking from the Margins that she had been leading has also been published. 

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Arab world has undergone a series of radical transformations. One of the most significant is the resurgence of activist and puritanical forms of religion presenting as viable alternatives to existing social, cultural and political practices. The rise in sectarianism and violence in the name of religion has left scholars searching for adequate conceptual tools that might generate a clearer insight into these interconnected conflicts. 

In Striking from the Margins, leading authorities in their field propose new analytical frameworks to facilitate greater understanding of the fragmentation and devolution of the state in the Arab world. Challenging the revival of well-worn theories in cultural and post-colonial studies, they provide novel contributions on issues ranging from military formations, political violence in urban and rural settings, transregional war economies, the crystallisation of sect-based authorities and the restructuring of tribal networks. 

Placing much-needed emphasis on the re-emergence of religion, this timely and vital volume offers a new, critical approach to the study of the volatile and evolving cultural, social and political landscapes of the Middle East.