International conference "Soviet States and Beyond: Political Epistemologies of/and Marxism 1917-1945-1968"

Event ended
The October Revolution of 1917 proclaimed the rise of a new society based on the Marxist(-Leninist) philosophy. Dialectics, materialism, proletarianism etc. have since then dominatedSoviet discussions in arts, scholarship, sciences etc. However, the epistemic questioning ofthe boundaries between science, ideology, politics – but also between science and arts, orbetween science and technology – could now immediately effect changes in legislation,education, or administration. Yet, Marxist epistemology still transgressed Soviet territories,since discussions of Marxism and its intellectual importance were carried out from Paris toPeking, from Almaty to Avenida Viena. After 1945, new geopolitical conditions gave powerto certain Central European Marxisms. Clearly, both continuities, but also breaks occurred tothe whole intellectual sphere on personal, social, epistemic etc. levels, influencing not onlythe Soviet Union but the whole globe.

Conference programme

Our conference concentrates on the political epistemologies of broadly understood intellectuals – in the first place scholars and scientists, but also artists or literati. Following Yehuda Elkana’s ideas on “anthropology of knowledge,” and Karl Mannheim’s description of epistemologies as “aspect structures,” we concentrate on the question how individual and collective epistemologies were structured by, and at the same structured political attitudes of intellectuals, scholars or scientists, but also artists and literati. Accepting the malleability and interchangeability of what we analytically describe as cultural, social, political etc., we want to inquire how these categories, with their key epistemic concepts, like truth, proof, experiment, but also critical intervention or autonomy, were framed and also how they informed the identity building of individuals and groups intending to represent them.

With a wide range of examples, from the sciences and the newly appearing projects of a “science of science”, through arts to a broader intellectual and academic sphere, we encourage interdisciplinary approaches. This should bring together aspects Marxism intended to amalgamate and which since the demise of Marxism grew apart. At the same time, looking at the ways Marxist epistemology was differently appropriated and contested, allows us to bring forward its specificity and the specificity of approaches adjacent or contesting.

The conference is a second event of a series of meetings on (Eastern) European Epistemologies. The first meeting, “Political Epistemologies of Eastern Europe,” took place in Erfurt in November 2017, the third will be held in Erfurt in October 2018 (“A New Culture of Truth? On the Transformation of Political Epistemologies since the 1960s“). 

Organized by

Friedrich Cain (Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies, University of Erfurt)

Alexander Dmitriev (Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities, National Research University Higher School of Economics (IGITI HSE), Moscow)

Dietlind Hüchtker (Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO), Leipzig)

Jan Surman (IGITI HSE). E-mail:  

The conference will be held on June 21st at 20 Myasnitskaya St., room 327-K, and on June 22d at 11 Myasnitskaya St., room 518.  

The conference starts at 10am.


For admission, please write to Andrei