Álvaro Carvajal-Castro

I am currently an IRC Postdoctoral Fellow in UCD School of Archaeology in Dublin, where I am working on a project that aims to develop comparative approaches to early medieval polities in Ireland, Anglo-Saxon England and NW Iberian Peninsula. I graduated in History in the University of Salamanca (2008), though I also studied in the University of Edinburg for one year (2007). For my PhD, which I completed in the University of Salamanca (2013), I was awarded a grant by the Ministry of Education of Spain, which also enabled me to spend some time in the University of Oxford (2011) and Birkbeck College, London (2012). My dissertation focused on state formation processes in the early medieval kingdom of León (NW Iberian Peninsula) between the 9th and the 11th centuries. My research interest lies within the study of early medieval polities –though not so much of early medieval politics–, which I try to approach from the study of both the written and the archaeological sources.

The Contested Body of the King: Producing and Challenging Political Consensus in the Medieval Kingdom of León

In my contribution I will analyse the construction and development of political discourses in the kingdom of León between the mid-ninth and the mid-eleventh centuries. In early medieval north-western Spain the monarchy emerged as an encompassing political arena in which actors from different backgrounds interacted and negotiated their power relations. In spite of their differences, they shared a common interest in the existence and reproduction of the monarchy. By the end of the ninth-century the ideological foundations of this basic consensus, and thus of royal authority, were defined. However, as times of political tension and instability came that consensus was increasingly challenged, particularly by some aristocratic groups. At the end of the 10th century those in the ecclesiastical entourage of the kings of León, whose position was being threatened by the increasing power of certain aristocratic groups, sought to reinforce their political position by strengthening the image of the king while at the same time asserting their own authority, even over the king. The image of the Visigothic kings, already present in the late ninth-century chronicles, was then put forward as a model for royal behaviour. Which were the foundations of political consensus in the kingdom of León? How did the different actors use them in order to articulate their own political discourses? To what extent were the essential aspects of consensus modified by conflicting political discourses?

Paweł Figurski

I am a Ph.D candidate preparing a dissertation under the supervision of Prof. Roman Michałowski, graduated summa cum laude from the Institute of History, University of Warsaw in 2011. I am a member of Collegium Invisibile Association, working under the supervision of Prof. Hagen Keller (WWU Muenster). I was honored with Scholarship START 2012 and START 2013 for the best young Polish academics given by the Foundation for Polish Science. I am also a leader of the project funded by the National Science Centre: Royal Power and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Study on Religion and Politics in the Ottonian and Salian Political Culture up to so called Conflict over Investiture. According to many scholars this period was a time when the concept of sacral kingship reached its height. The scope of my study would be limited to the second half of the eleventh century, when the Gregorian reformers of the Church put the supernatural character of royal power into doubt. In order to achieve that aim they alleged mystery of the Eucharist - a sacrament whose theology was not yet clearly defined and was being explained in various terms. Therefore it seems interesting to explore the relationship between royal power and the sacrament of the Eucharist in a period which led to the Age of Reform, what can shed new light on the political culture of Ottonians and early Salians.

Gradual of Boleslaus II of Mazovia and the Political Theology of Medieval Europe

The aim of my research is to reconstruct political theology in the duchy of Mazovia at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries. The subject of my analysis is the Graduale of duke Bolesław II, preserved in the National Museum in Cracow, Czartoryski Library, Rr. 4922-4940. In the survived parchment leaves of this manuscript there is an Exultet, that is to say the hymnus performed during Easter, where we encounter prayers for bishop of Płock, John, duke Bolesław II and his sons: Siemowit and Wacław (Wańko). The paschal vigil was a special moment in the liturgical year when the position of the ruler could have been exalted. Therefore in the Christian kingdoms there were various forms of commemoration of the king’s presence during Easter, like the announcements of official prayers for rulers, presentations of their images, embodied in the manuscripts or paschal rolls and other performances of public rituals. In my article I will try to trace the reception of the ”imperial liturgy” in the provincial duchy of Mazovia. With the help of this approach I will describe the mazovian attempt to build a State ideology within the European context.

Wojciech Kozłowski

I am a medieval historian by training and a bit of an IR theorist by practice. I have earned my MA degrees in history at the Institute of History (Univ. of Warsaw) and in medieval studies at the Department of Medieval Studies (Central European Univ., Budapest). In December 2014 I defended my PhD dissertation at the Department of Medieval Studies (CEU). Before coming to CEU, I was an unpaid doctoral student at the Institute of History at the Polish Academy of Sciences and was making my living as a member of the developing team of the Polish History Museum. While pursuing my doctoral degree at CEU, I spent an academic year as a New Europe College International Fellow (Bucharest, Romania) and had a month-long stay as an affiliated researcher at the Department of History at Harvard.

In general, my field of specialization is medieval Central Europe (the kingdoms of Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland) and its political culture in the broader context of Latin Christendom. Specifically, I work on medieval “international” politics by bridging political history and IR theories. Therefore, I take an interdisciplinary approach with elements of comparative politics.

Apart from seeking new perspectives for elucidating medieval “international” politics, I am an aspiring professional in the field of teaching history in higher education. I have participated in a number of courses and trainings provided by the CEU Center for Teaching and Learning and I have completed its Program for Excellence in Teaching in Higher Education for CEU doctoral students. Besides, I cooperate with the Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński (a fairly new cultural initiative based in Warsaw) on the issues related to developing its permanent exhibition and its research and educational agenda.

Political Theology and “International” Conflict in the Thirteenth-Century Latin Christendom

Is the thirteenth-century “international” system of Latin Europe informed by political theology? To put it differently, is the concept of political theology in any way helpful to determine how the “international” order of the thirteenth-century Latin Christendom was organized, structured and justified by its agents? Was there, in fact, any organizational or legitimizing effort involved?

These research questions reveal a working assumption that underpins my research agenda for the “Rex nunquam moritur” project. Namely, however different the thirteenth-century “international” politics was in comparison to the contemporary world order, it is still possible to imagine Latin Christendom as by and large a community of lords (and lordships) that formed a certain type of international society. This society was essentially conceptualized as Christian society (a community of God) and therefore, it was powerfully constituted by religiously-driven mindset that remained the predominant element (or component) of the political culture.

Pursuing this religious component in all its possible aspects goes beyond the confines of this particular research project. Narrowing down its scope, I propose an inquiry that will address only the practical element of interaction between the culturally co-constructed “international” system and Christianity. This research utilizes the original understanding of political theology as a legal theory of political arrangements and aims to investigate what was the role of Christian religion in governing the “international” practices of Latin Christendom in the thirteenth century. More specifically, I will analyze how the thirteenth-century Christian society of lords (de)legitimized “international” conflict within its ranks (hence excluding conflicts with outside world). I am particularly interested in narratives that described causes of such conflicts, methods which were applied to resolve them, and the presence and significance of religious argument in recognizing or rejecting justifications of political (military) inter-lordly conflict.

In other words, my research will examine intra-Christian controversies and seek to determine whether (and if yes, then how) pious and religious reasoning (as a constituent of political culture) attempted to influence behaviors of lords on the “international” stage.

In order to arrive at more general conclusions, I will interrogate and compare two different sources that shed light on the problem from two different perspectives, macro and micro: „international” decisions and rulings of the thirteenth-century ecumenical councils (Latin Christendom-wide scale) and Chronicle of Great Poland (the Polish lands micro-scale).

Alexandra Ion

I am an archaeologist, an osteoarchaeologist, and lately I have become interested in the (cultural) anthropology of the body, the ethics and politics of body research and display. My research focuses on the construction of scientific knowledge (in Archaeology and Osteoarchaeology), the relevance of these disciplines in the contemporary world and the (value ascribed to the) human body in this process. Thus, my interests lie at the cross-road between theoretical archaeology, anthropology of the body and public archaeology. In this line, I have published several articles, I have presented papers at national and international conferences, and I have discussed such topics via my "Bodies and Academia" blog.

I am currently a research assistant at the Institute of Anthropology "Francisc I. Rainer" (Cultural Anthropology Department), and I have been a teaching assistant at the Faculty of History (University of Bucharest). In the past I have collaborated with the National Museum of Romanian History, the Institute of Archaeology "Vasile Pârvan", the Museum of Bucharest Municipality and the Centre for Research and Consultancy on Culture. Studies: Faculty of History (University of Bucharest) and University of Sheffield (UK), with a defended PhD thesis on the topic "The body and its limits. Approaches of human remains in the Archaeology and Osteoarchaeology from Romania."

And then they were Bodies: Medieval Royalties, from DNA Analysis to a Nation's Identity

On 28th of June 2012, the tomb of Vladislav Vlaicu (1364-1377), one of the first rulers of Wallachia was opened by a team of scientists, who took a left hand phalanx, a molar and a right metatarsal bone. The action was part of a multi-disciplinary project called GENESIS (Genetic Evolution: New Evidences for the Study of Interconnected Structures. A Biomolecular Journey around the Carpathians from Ancient to Medieval Times, 2013-2015), Romania. Their premise, as declared on their project website is that "Often, the image presented by molecular techniques completely challenges past suppositions. Archaeology and history [..] Being concerned with recounting and reconstructing past lives, they involve, at some point, the study of ... human remains, and thus, are also affected by the molecular revolution that sweeps other biological domains." (http://www.ibiol.ro/proiecte/PNII/GENESIS/rezumat.htm). Thus, history and archaeology are viewed as subjective discourses regarding the past, and it is time for an "objective", modern science to test these stories (through aDNA, genetic or isotopic analysis). In this context, the body of Vladislav Vlaicu becomes very important, along other Romanian princes' bodies, because it is expected to provide an "objective" testimony regarding his ethnic origin.

The question that such an endeavour raises is: what does it mean to be Romanian? What are the epistemological consequences of defining a ruler's identity in biologic or rather cultural terms? What is a legitimate way of writing a nation's history? My intention is to explore such issues, to see how the princes' bodies are turned into a political matter. Modernity has brought to the fore the concept of the body understood as a relative concept, open to change and historically, culturally, and socially constituted. Therefore, starting from the particular case of the Genesis project, it is my intention to analyse the way the king's body is understood in a contemporary scientific context. Concepts such as the foundations of the nation and its identity, ethnicity, the ownership over a territory, and the power of historical accounts are also brought forth by such a project. In this case, they all revolve around rulers' bodies, turning them into bones of contention.

Ágnes Máté

I was born in 1983 in Szeged, Hungary. I hold two MA degrees from the University of Szeged – in Italian language and literature (2006) and in Hungarian language and literature (2007). My main fields of research are Neo-Latin literature and its connections to Old Hungarian culture. I am particularly interested in the spread of Francis Petrarch's Giovanni Boccaccio's and Enea Silvio Piccolomini's works in East-Central Europe. I have already published articles on four different translations of Enea Silvio Piccolomini's best-selling early modern love story, the Historia de duobus amantibus (1444).

I am a member of the Hungaria Latina – Hungarian Neo-latin Association.

Since 2010 I am a PhD-student of the program “The Traditions of Mediterranean Humanism and the Challenges of Our Times: the Frontiers of Humanity” at the Faculty of Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw. At present I am finishing my PhD thesis written on the early modern reception of four Humanistic short stories in Central European cultures. Apart from my academic interests in philological investigations, I like any form of crime stories and science fiction as well. My dream is to see all the works of Sandro Botticelli which are nowadays in public collections all around the world.

Life and Afterlife of the Pontifical Indiscretions in the Renaissance

The Popes were among the most important figures of the European culture through the centuries. Both their private and public acts could turn out to be politically and religiously seminal. Therefore both their lives were a subject of constant and common attention. Disseminating the gossips and indiscretions about popes could advance one's career at the Papal court and other political centers of early modern times, but it could just as well exacerbate it.

The Popes were among the most important figures of the European culture through the centuries. Both their private and public acts could turn out to be politically and religiously seminal. Therefore both their lives were a subject of constant and common attention. Disseminating the gossips and indiscretions about popes could advance one's career at the Papal court and other political centers of early modern times, but it could just as well exacerbate it.

The circulation of these indiscretions did not use to end with the demise of a sinful pope. Posterity recycled them as an argument in the debate on the reform of the papal office and the whole mystical body of the Church; the question of celibacy in particular. Only the council of Trent cut this debate in Catholicism. The protestant apologists went on using pontiff's family lives to discredit the papal authority. Thus, the deeds of office holders' body physical became permanently entangled with the image and legitimization of the body politics.

Karolina Mroziewicz

I am a PhD Candidate of the Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw, researching within the International PhD Programme founded by the Foundation for Polish Science. My thesis, “Imprinting Identities: Illustrated Latin-Language Histories of St. Stephen’s Kingdom (1488–1700)” concerns the role of illustrated books on history in the pre-modern cultural communication and identity discourse in the Hungarian Kingdom.

In my research I draw on my background in Art History (MA 2010) and Classical Philology (MA 2009), which I studied at the University of Warsaw. I also studied and researched at the Central European University in Budapest (2012–2013, 2014), University of Oxford (2011–2012) and Freie Universität Berlin (2007–2008). I was a holder of scholarships from the KAAD (Katholischer Akademischer Ausländer-Dienst, 2007–2008) and the Polish Minister of Science and Higher Education (2008–2010). In recent years I participated in two collaborative research projects: Byzantium and Renaissances. Dialogue of Cultures, Heritage of Antiquity - Tradition and Modernity (headed by rev. prof. Michał Janocha) and Inter-cultural Transmission of Intellectual Traditions in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. A comparative perspective (led by dr. Adam Izdebski)

My research interests encompass mechanisms of visual communication, identity-building functions of texts and images, cultural memory and Hungarian art. Apart from that I love to spend my time listening to the third programme of the Polish radio, watching inspiring movies and backpacking in distant parts of the world.

The King’s Immature Body: Representations of Children’s Coronations in Medieval and Early Modern Central Europe

‘All the laws were carefully preserved in the case of the noble king Ladislaus, and on the day on which his grace was exactly twelve weeks old. And you probably know that as the Archbishop placed the Holy Crown on the child’s head and held it there, he held up his head with the strength of a one-year-old, and that is rarely seen in children of twelve weeks.’ (The Memoirs of Helene Kottanner (1439-1440), transl. and ed. by Maya Bijvoet Williamson, Cambridge 1998, 43-44) – wrote in her diary a lady-in-waiting of Queen Elisabeth of Hungary, who was personally engaged in the arrangement of the ceremony. In her account Kottanner mentions not only that the king was mature beyond his age, but also that the colours of his ceremonial garments by chance corresponded to the dynastic colours of the Habsburgs. Many other circumstances of the enthronization seemed to further favour the newly crowned baby king.

In medieval and early modern Central Europe a child-monarch reached adulthood rather early. Despite this fact the region saw several rulers who were crowned at a very early age – in the first months of their lives (as Ladislaus the Posthumous) or before their fourteenth birthday (as Hedwig, Louis II of Hungary, Sigismund II Augustus, Joseph I). The phenomenon of children coronations, studied in detail in the case of French or Scottish history, remains on the margins of investigations on the history of Central European culture. Therefore, the main objective of my contribution is to fill this gap in scholarship by the examination of the corpus of literary and visual sources in order to demonstrate the ways in which the authority of the immature royal body was established and/or contested. In so doing, my research aims to answer the following questions: What were the limits of the power of the infant king and what strategies were developed to strengthen his/her authority? Did they have their local colouring which could be observed in visual and literary representations of the coronation rituals? Were they similar in the case of female and male rulers? Who was the main author and beneficiary of the representations of the infant monarchs? Finally, in what ways did political theology serve the young rulers and their wardens?

Emilia Olechnowicz

I am an art historian based in Warsaw, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Arts of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN). I graduated from the Jagiellonian University with a master’s degree in art history and film studies. I completed my post-graduate studies at the Institute of Art of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In 2012 I defended magna cum laude my Ph. D. thesis on the court masques of Charles I, for which I was granted the Szczęsny Dettloff Prize for the best Ph. D. in art history. In my dissertation I analyzed how the political idea of the divine right of kings was reflected in the iconography of the 17th-century court masques.

My research area is cultural history, art history and history of ideas, especially in Early Modern Europe. I am particularly interested in ephemeral architecture, rhetoric of clothing, anatomical theatres and the concept of an ideal city. I admire the work of sir Thomas Browne and I plan to translate it into Polish.

I have also been working as a translator and a book editor. I co-translated Roberto Calasso’s La folie Baudelaire. I published the The Court Masques of Charles I Stuart. The Iconography and the Divine Right of Kings (2014), Chosen pages from the Joseph Czapski diaries (2010), Radiation. Zbigniew Herbert’s Sketchbooks (2009).

Embodied Kingdom: Royal Iconography and the Queen’s Body

The purpose of my research is to examine how the royal portraiture helped to create and sanctify the image of kingship and royal authority. I would like to read royal images as the visual representation of the king’s spiritual, sacred and immortal body that transcends the earthly and serves as a symbol of his office. The main subject of my analysis are representations of queen Elizabeth I – mainly visual, but also textual. The question I am trying to answer is how Elizabeth’s extensive iconographic repertoire helped establish her sacred majesty, her divine royal identity, both as the chaste, beautiful goddess and as the powerful Christian ruler. How she managed to create (self-fashion, as Stephen Greenblatt calls it) the image of herself as a super-natural creature using royal attributes and symbolic imagery.

The purpose of my research is to examine how the royal portraiture helped to create and sanctify the image of kingship and royal authority. I would like to read royal images as the visual representation of the king’s spiritual, sacred and immortal body that transcends the earthly and serves as a symbol of his office. The main subject of my analysis are representations of queen Elizabeth I – mainly visual, but also textual. The question I am trying to answer is how Elizabeth’s extensive iconographic repertoire helped establish her sacred majesty, her divine royal identity, both as the chaste, beautiful goddess and as the powerful Christian ruler. How she managed to create (self-fashion, as Stephen Greenblatt calls it) the image of herself as a super-natural creature using royal attributes and symbolic imagery.

The Early Modern idea of the empire (espérance imperiale, as Dame Frances A. Yates calls it) always had a strong religious subtext. To exercise royal authority wasn’t just a political aim – not in today’s meaning of the word. The king’s main obligation was to execute God’s plan of salvation: protect the perfect order God had established, defend true faith, uproot vices and make virtues flourish. In other words, to restore the perfect harmony of nature and men that the ancients called the Golden Age.

The aim of my research is, firstly, to analyze what visual means were used to define the sanctity of royal power and, secondly, how royal iconography in general was influenced by this religious vision of politics.

Wiktor Ostasz

I grew up in Rzeszów and studied medieval history at the universities of Kraków (MA, 2004–9), València (visiting student, 2008) and Oxford (MSt, 2010–11). I am currently based at New College, Oxford, where I do DPhil research on the history of domination and resistance across the frontier space of eleventh- to fourteenth-century Anatolia (Asia Minor), supported by grants from the A.G. Leventis Foundation and the British AHRC. In between presentations of eight pieces of the resulting work to audiences in England, Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany and Poland, the project has lured me out to wander around western Turkey, spend a season as a field archaeologist, and plunge into diverse currents of social theory, inquiry and critique. I am broadly interested in a kind of history that goes against the grain by exposing and demystifying structural relations of power; themes I have recently addressed include fortifications and medieval colonialism, the politics of gender and sexuality, the relationship of banditry or piracy to social dissent, and historical political ecology. I enjoy radical politics, heavier music, board games, and an occasional good movie.

An imperial father restores an abducted girl from ‘barbarian’ hands back to his household where she is reunited with her mother Constantinople – thus an anonymous Byzantine poem, published recently by Foteini Spingou, symbolises the reconquest and refortification of the city of Dorylaion (Sultanyügi, present-day Eskişehir) in 1175, a century after the initial Turkic arrival in Asia Minor. The portrayal invites questions about how political institutions have been predicated on women’s corporeality, and how the ancient spousal axiom making woman into a phallic extension of man’s own body has prefigured the mystical unity between the ruler and the state. While celebrating the emperor’s invulnerability, the poem points to an imminent crack in the body armour of the patriarchal family: the daughter’s sexuality charged with political surplus value. What grounds the supreme authority of the father/emperor in one moment, in the next can turn into the prize of victory for the intruder. Patriarchal anxieties over the chastity of daughters, central to the aristocratic neo-Roman ethos of Kekaumenos and contemporaries, find their realisation in the epic of Digenis Akritis and ultimately in the medieval Turkic lore of a young Byzantine who betrays her father and assists the gazi hero announced to her in a dream in breaking her out from the paternal castle. The swashbuckling champion of the faith seemed to signify for the early Ottoman rulers what the ‘twyborn borderer’ Digenis did for the Komnenian dynasts – a political myth and the point of imaginary identification – and his ethos also fueled the imperial fantasy of Paul Wittek, an eminent historian of medieval Anatolia who shared intellectual ties to the George-Kreis with Ernst Kantorowicz. Wittek’s austerely mystical proclivities made him dismissive of the erotic dimension to the Anatolian Rapunzel tale which he treated in detail – but it is precisely by putting sex back in the body politic and by tracing the denial of desire and sexual difference to the psychoanalytic ‘holy family’ that the founding exception of the sovereign exempt from earthly passions and deriving power from the control and sublimation of female bodies can be better understood. My contribution aims to investigate the political theology enframing relations of power in medieval Anatolia, and to destabilise the perception of a unitary and static imperial order by focusing on the tensions and contradictions inherent in the frontier space, where the subsumed ‘good’ bodies of chaste women, tributary producers and dutiful citizens are forcibly segregated from their ‘evil’ counterparts – the dangerous jezebels, vagrants and savages – yet constantly threaten to slip away. The figure of the daughter, whose demanded sacrificial purity remains open to doubt and emancipation, will be my guide in the search for the patriarchal familial roots of imperial theology in the tributary (pre-capitalist) age.

Andrzej Probulski

I’ve received an M.A. in Comparative Literature in 2011 and I’m currently a PhD candidate at the Department of Polish Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. My main research interests involve Early Modern literature, history and theory of rhetoric and the relationship between literature and philosophy – but studies on popular culture have always drawn my attention, as well. It is safe to say that my research in the Rex nunquam moritur grant combines my scholarly and personal interests into a single field as I consider myself an avid fan of comic books and games - both tabletop and video.

Most of my published work focuses on literature between the 15th and 17th centuries (Thomas Malory, John Barclay, Pierre-Daniel Huet, Michael de Montaigne, Stanisław Herakliusz Lubomirski), but I already did some excursions into the superhero area (No name, no other alias: Twarz i maska w Batman Begins (2005) i The Dark Knight (2008) Christophera Nolana, an article published in the special „superhero” issue of „Maska” anthropological journal).

I’ve received a scholarship of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education (2010/2011), a Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Foundation scholarship (2013/2014) and a „PRELUDIUM” research grant from the Polish National Science Centre (2013-2015).

The Superman’s Two Bodies: Corporality, Costume and Power in the DC Universe

The main question of the research I would like to conduct: how do the DC Universe comic books, movies and video games depict the relationship between the superhero’s body and the community of which he is a defender or a ruler?

The main question of the research I would like to conduct: how do the DC Universe comic books, movies and video games depict the relationship between the superhero’s body and the community of which he is a defender or a ruler?

Some of the issues that the research project will focus on include: the analogy between the destruction of the body and the destruction of the community (The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Dark Knight Rises); the relationship between the mask and costume as reproducible means of becoming a superhero and the issue of ”democratization of superheroes” (Gotham City Impostors, Dark Knight, Batman Incorporated); elseworlds narratives depicting Batman or Superman as tyrannical rulers, objects of worship or national heroes (Injustice: Gods Among Us, I, Joker, Superman: Red Son and others).

Gábor Szegedi

I was born in Budapest in 1980. I received two masters degrees at ELTE University, Budapest: one in American Studies (2005) and one in Political Science (2006). I also hold a Masters degree in History from the Central European University (CEU). For years I worked as a translator in Hungary and Belgium and as a history teacher in a secondary school in Budapest and then for five years as a policy analyst at the Australian Embassy in Budapest.

I spent 1 semester at the University of Turku in Finland with an Erasmus scholarship in American Studies in 2002. I did research for 2 semesters at the Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin in 2003/2004 with the funding of the German EVZ Foundation, writing my thesis on denazification in the U.S. zone in Germany.

I wrote a PhD dissertation at CEU's History Department on sex education, marriage counselling and premarital health examinations in twentieth-century Hungary between 2009 and 2014 and I will be a 2014/2015 Research Fellow at the Wiesenthal Institute in Vienna, focusing on race defilement cases in interwar Hungary. During my doctoral studies I spent 1 semester at Durham University in the U.K. and 1 month at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and received a 6-month write-up grant at the end of my studies, all grants awarded by CEU.

I am the English-language proofreader of the bilingual Hungarian medical history periodical ”Kaleidoscope History” and I am an editor of the re-launched Hungarian sex education journal, ”AISZED Szemle” (AIDS and Sex Education Review).

I am interested in research on the history of sexuality, marriage and public health. In addition, I have a research track record in the history of denazification and anti-Semitism and my focus has been and remains 20th century Hungarian, German and Austrian history.

I enjoy films (both watching and discussing), sports (both watching and playing), and spontaneous conversations (both listening and speaking).

Bodies on the Threshold: Race Defilement as a Line of Sexual Demarcation in Interwar Hungary

Anti-Semitism is one of the concepts that define interwar Hungary's right-wing authoritarian regime. Social and economic policies and legislation, biological and health measures, but even Church-sponsored sex education were all infested with the ideology that saw the Jews of Hungary as “race” and as a “spirit” that needed to be contained and rolled back for the good of society. It is probably impossible to find the “core” of this ideology with various actors displaying a heterogeneity of approaches and the State gradually arriving at a more and more racial and biological definition of “Jewishness” but with race and its components remaining vague and floating until the fall of the regime in 1944/45.

One point of anchor can be an analysis of anti-Semitic laws that were passed in great number after 1938. In this project I will deal with the 1941 Marriage Law that became known as the “Third anti-Semitic Law” and the practice of race defilement in specific (race defilement being the prohibition of sexual contacts on a racial basis). I will treat it as a policy that reflected on national and individual health: a direct biopolitical intervention of a eugenic kind where certain bodies were seen as permanent dangers to the health and body of the nation. In the race defilement proceedings individual bodies became subject to public scrutiny and these bodies (both Jewish and non-Jewish) were then used to mark the boundaries of the nation using “respectable sexuality” as the threshold between belonging and otherness. Race defilement touched upon a long-standing tradition of sexual anti-Semitism and racial anti-miscegenation and stands at the intersection of the Foucauldian biopolitical normalization processes for race and (gendered) sexuality. I use Foucault's concept of the “confessional”, a modern transformation of the Christian practice, which has been utilized for sexual normalization. These race defilement cases elevated Foucault's sexual confessional to a new level: it was not just the individual giving the doctor information about health antecedents and sexual habits as in premarital counseling, but an extended group, a micro community got involved in scrutinizing the sexual life of certain individuals and searching for the boundaries of respectability.

These considerations lead to several research questions and there are two I wish to indicate here specifically:
1. How can we use the race defilement cases for understanding the Volkskörper in interwar Hungary? In what ways did these cases provide input to understanding the body of the nation in terms of physical/sexual bodies?
2. How do the Hungarian race defilement cases compare with Nazi race defilement in their scope, their psychological effect and their normalization of race and sexuality?

Piotr Słodkowski

I am an art historian and an art critic. My research concerns Polish and Central European modern art, particularly after 1945. I graduated from the University of Warsaw and the interdisciplinary ”Artes Liberales” Academy (both in 2010). Subsequently I became a PhD candidate at the University and a member of PhD Program at the Academy where I work on a dissertation on modern art, socio-political activity and hybrid identity of the Polish-Jewish avant-garde painter Henryk Streng / Marek Włodarski. I have had the chance to publish in leading Polish periodicals on art, ”Artium Questiones” and ”Ikonotheca”, as well as in American periodicals ”ArtMargins: Central & Eastern European Visual Culture”. Currently I am editing a volume of Oral History testimonies on Polish avant-garde plein-airs of the 1960s.

Professionally I am interested in the methodology of the humanities, especially history and art history. My research on art history is based on Piotr Piotrowski's ”horizontal art history,” the idea of non-hierarchical comparison between art from the Central European periphery and great artistic centers.

Apart from the humanities, I am a big fan of the cinematographic work of Woody Allen, Michael Haneke, Stanley Kubrick, Roman Polański and Quentin Tarantino. I find very enjoyable is a piece of good literature, as well, like Janusz Głowacki or Stanisław Lem's books.

Ambivalent Appeal to Communist Theology: the Case of Marek Włodarski

It is commonly accepted that social realism, established in the Soviet Union c. 1932 and introduced in the ”satellite states” of the Communist Bloc from the late 1940’s onward, should be perceived not as one of the artistic genres or ‘styles’, but rather as a rhetorical tool of political propaganda. Therefore, far from being located within autonomous processes of modern art, it turns one's attention to a wide range of inevitable tensions between avant-garde, politics and ethics, including such issues as representations of power, artists' engagement versus strategic retreat and, finally, fluid (dis)belief in political theology (and teleology) of Communist utopia.

The aim of the following project is to put the above mentioned questions in relation to one particular case study – a socialrealist fragment of the postwar oeuvre of Marek Włodarski, Polish-Jewish avant-garde painter, active in the People's Republic of Poland (PRL) between 1945 and 1960.

Such a frame of the subject is understandable for at least two reasons. Firstly, although socrealism remained a relatively short period of Polish art (c. 1949–1955), there are no doubts that – as, among many, Piotr Piotrowski and Andrzej Turowski persuasively argued – it deeply affected the whole field of visual arts throughout the history of the PRL. Secondly, Marek Włodarski can definitely be regarded as a vivid example of a profoundly ambivalent response to socrealism or – by and large – the teleology of Communism. On the one hand, in the PRL of the 1940’s Włodarski was remembered to be an interwar Communist activist, who tried to create the visual language that would be truly understandable for masses (so called ‘realism of facts’, Polish: faktorealizm). Not surprisingly, at the time the Party saw him as a Communist painter and gave a prize for his Barykada, the replica of an interwar fact-realist canvas, proudly presented at the very first socialrealist exhibition in Warsaw in 1949. On the other hand his socialrealist works from 1949–1951, in which Włodarski consequently combined socialist propaganda, contain an extremely modern visual form. Meanwhile, being labeled as ‘abstractionist’ and ‘formalist’, he quit public activities at the turn of 1950/1951 and conducted an undisturbed socialist experiment of his own accord. 

Therefore, what seems to be the most valuable in the following case study is ambivalence in relation to political power, its ideology and representation. Being situated in the middle between apparatchiks and the “uncompromising” (as Wojciech Włodarczyk called this group of opposition artists), Włodarski allows us to obtain new, non-simplistic answers to the questions already addressed both to social realism(s) in particular and art/power relations in general.

Regarding this subject, the following research questions arise: what is the relationship between interwar and postwar communist engagement? Similarly, what is the relationship between these two realizations of socio-political art? How is the avant-garde visual language used to replace (socialist) realism? Finally, how, based on the daily artistic practice and its results, can we trace the course of negotiation between political doctrine and autonomy of art? In other words, where within the artwork can we locate the ambivalence of engagement?

Foteini Spingou

After studying Classics at the University of Athens (Faculty of Greek Philology), I did my master’s degree (MPhil) in Byzantine Studies at Oxford University (Wolfson College), where I also completed my DPhil thesis in 2013 (Keble College). During the academic year 2013/14 I was awarded a research fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection (Harvard University). I have further worked as a research assistant for projects on the poetry of the twelfth-century Manganeios Prodromos (Profs. Elizabeth and Michael Jeffreys), prose dialogues in Byzantium (Prof. Dame Averil Cameron), and medieval Constantinople (Prof. Cyril Mango). My research interest lies in medieval (Greek and Latin) poetry, and especially in poetic anthologies. I am further interested in the relationship between word and image in medieval cultures, story-telling, the ritual use of literature, as well as medieval manuscripts. My first monograph consists of the first complete edition, translation and commentary of the anonymous eleventh- and twelfth-century poems in the famous manuscript Marcianus gr. 524.

The King, the Gift, and the Bribe: Medieval Political Gifts and Modern Bribes

Both Louis VII and Manuel I Komnenos became the most unexpected heirs to the throne (French and Byzantine respectively), as they were the youngest sons of the former kings. Although in their reigns education and learning were flourishing, they are remembered for great military defeats and their anxiety for acquiring a male heir. Their parallel lives met at the engagement of their children in 1179 — although the two rulers died a year later. I will discuss how their parallel reigns are reflected in gifts (objects and literary works) from political friends and enemies. I will examine what kind of gifts they received, who offered them, what was the motivation of the donor, when was the appropriate moment to offer a gift, and what was the ritual of gift-giving in medieval times.

All these question are most relevant to our modern era. Gifts and bribes are often separated by a thin line which is easy to cross or mis-present. I will compare medieval gifts to the moderns gifts, bribes familiar to us and I will try to elucidate the difference between a gift and a bribe using the medieval comparison.

Aleksander Sroczyński

I am a PhD student at the Faculty of “Artes Liberales” at the University of Warsaw. I hold an MA in Polish literature and Language (Jagiellonian University).
I studied Medieval Studies at the University of Utrecht. I also worked as an intern in the project Carolingian Scholarship and Martianus Capella: The Oldest Commentary Tradition. Digital edition at the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Finis Regnorum:Political Theology and the Fall of States in Early Modern Literatures of Central and South-Eastern Europe

My contribution Finis regnorum will be devoted to the politico-theological aspects of the visions of falling kingdoms and republics in the early modern times. I will attempt to approach this phenomenon from a comparative perspective, focusing on the regions which early modern writers dubbed Sarmatia and Illyria and contemporary scholars research in the framework of national philologies and histories; respectively in the Old-Polish and Old-Croatian departments. These two geographical areas produced similar ideologies (like antemurale christianitatis in confrontation with the non-Christian world) and according to many scholars (most notably by the Italian Slavist Giovanna Brogi-Bercoff) even shared a “Slavic” vision of history. I would like to investigate the functions of evoking the real, fictional and professed ends of political bodies in the ideology of power. I will show how the politico-theological thinking was triggered by a variety of internal and external crises faced by a community (eg. in debating the execution movementof Polish 16th-century gentry, opposing or backing the reformation, mobilizing against the Ottoman threat and retrospectively justifying the successes of the Sublime Porte). The title of this project states that “king never dies”, however often this statement about the body politic was only proved true by propagating a vision of its death that helped to consolidate it, steer it and secure its continued existence.

Joanna Szwed-Śliwowska

I am a graduate of English Studies at the University of Warsaw (2007) and Medieval Studies at Utrecht University (2010). Currently I am a PhD candidate at the University of Warsaw, completing a project entitled Between History and Literature: Portraying the Enemy in Poetry and Historiography of Early Medieval England, as well as a lecturer of English language in the Foreign Languages Centre at Vistula University in Warsaw. My research interests include the Robin Hood legend, medievalism, adaptation of medieval motifs and legends in contemporary literature, film and television, especially in the genre of fantasy, as well as the mechanisms by which historical events, processes and characters are presented in literature.

From Tolkien to Martin. Secularising Theology of Power in Contemporary Fantasy Literature

As a literary genre, fantasy has long been on the margins of literary research, mainly due to its categorization as popular literature of rather low quality. Still, regardless of the scholars’ increasing interest, the general audience rarely recognizes the noble origins of high (epic) fantasy: the epic form, medieval romance and Scandinavian sagas. The most prominent example of the sophisticated fantasy are J. R. R. Tolkien’s works – the model and source of continuous inspiration for generations of writers, and, even though his novels were and still are meticously analysed as regards the literary, linguistic and historical influence, it is only recently that the same research, covering the borrowings from and inspiration with the medieval tradition, is being performed on the works of other fantasy authors.

The research may cover issues coming from the classical literary questionnaire, as well as the reception of past perspectives on the order of the world, expressed by means of archetypical characters present in quasi-medieval societies of fantasy. In such manner, fantasy co-creates contemporary stereotypes about the Middle Ages, and, at the same time, projects modern imaginary and social nostalgia onto the secondary world. Among these, one of the key topics is presenting power and its different aspects, as contemporary society’s ideas about medieval sovereigns and authority, often coming via fantasy, become the point of reference for popular visions of politics. Thus, the aim of my contribution/work is to investigate the nature and function of medieval symbolic attached to the person and institution of a ruler as described by Ernst Kantorowicz in the King’s Two Bodies in literary works classified as high fantasy.

Kantorowicz describes the based on chrystological dispute division of the royal persona into the natural, biological body (corpus naturale), and the social and mystical one (corpus mysticum). While the physical body of a king could suffer from a disease, or simply die, the social, political one was more of an abstract-spiritual nature, and functioned as the symbol of justice and order. Since the character of a king is often a key one in fantasy narration, it seems obvious to ask whether the dichotomy described by Kantorowicz is present (preserved) in the genre. Which components of contemporary visions of power, adapted in fantasy, react with Katorowicz’s ones? Or, maybe, is fantasy creating its own political theologies, using the fictitious religious systems described in its texts? Do the perception and archetype of a ruler in fantasy literature change along with contemporary society, or do they remain unchangeable?

The text corpus for the analysis of royal characters and the perception of royal obligations in fantasy that is the core of this study will include the literary works of two classical authors: professor J. R. R. Tolkien, first and foremost an English philologist and medievalist, and G. R. R. Martin, an American epic-historical fantasy author, often compared to Tolkien.