Brown Bag:Modernism on the Margins: A Transnational Fellowship of Southeast European Women Intellectuals, 1923-1939

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Zentrum für Südosteuropastudien, SOEGA


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BB: Suzana Vuljevic - Modernism on the Margins: A Transnational Fellowship of Southeast European Women Intellectuals, 1923-1939

In 1923, representatives from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece and Poland set up the Little Entente of Women, which sought to coordinate responses on a number of key issues including women’s suffrage, the protection of children and minorities, the abolition of the death penalty, and education reform. By 1930, the first Balkan conference convened in Athens to evaluate the possibility of forming a Balkan union, calling women activists into the fold. The interwar women’s movement intersected with efforts at greater region-wide integration. Hence, my aim is to retrace the national networks of women’s movements outward toward the circles they collaborated with in neighboring states, especially around social-democratic reform and pacifism, namely in the work of the Albanian Emine Toptani, leader of the most radical women’s association in the country, and editor of Shqiptarka (The Albanian Woman) from 1929-1931; Greek pianist, music teacher and women’s activist Avra Theodoropoulos (1880-1963), who founded the League for Women’s Rights in Greece and served as its president from 1921-1958; and Serbian philosopher Ksenija Atanasijevic (1894-1981), editor of the first Serbian feminist journal, and the country’s first Serbian woman to earn a doctorate and a professorship at the University of Belgrade. All of these women took part in the Balkan conferences of the early 1930s, which called for political, economic and intellectual union of Yugoslavia, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Albania, following a moment of great optimism for European integration. The questions I will address are as follows: how did women build a sense of fellowship that transcended national borders, and on what grounds? Which contemporary debates did women enter into and how?

Suzana Vuljevic is a historian of modern Europe and the Balkans. She earned a Ph.D. in History and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. Her dissertation, "The Crisis of Spirit: Pan-Balkan Idealism, Transnational Cultural-Diplomatic Networks and Intellectual Cooperation in Interwar Southeast Europe, 1930-1941," reconstructs the transnational networks of a largely forgotten elite group of liberal idealist intellectuals who coalesced around pan-Balkan initiatives in interwar southeast Europe. Her research focuses on the nexus between culture and politics, cultural internationalism, peripheral modernisms, and ideas of European and Mediterranean unity. Her new work will seek to integrate women writers and thinkers of the region into the intellectual history of Southeast Europe through an examination of the interwar women’s movement. Suzana holds a B.A. in History and Comparative Literature from the University of Michigan. She is an emerging literary translator of Albanian and Bosnian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Serbian. Her translations of selections of Ervina Halili’s prize-winning collection of poetry titled "Amulet," have appeared in Balkan Poetry Today. She has translated the work of Ljubomir Micic (1895-1971), founder of Zenithism, an avant-garde movement unique to the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. These translations are forthcoming in an anthology of Zenithism.

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