Call for papers


The unmaking and making of imperial centers and peripheries: Hungary’s new borders and Central Europe’s reconfiguration

Panel within the ‘Border Making and Its Consequences: Habsburg track’ of the Association for Borderland Studies World Conference 2018, Vienna and Budapest, 10th to 14th July 2018



Éva Kovács, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute, Institute of Sociology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest

Gábor Egry, Institute of Political History, Budapest


The unmaking of the Habsburg Empire was, arguably, the largest experiment with borders in modern Europe so far. A historical state deeply embedded into the international political and economic system and fostering multiple social, political, economic and cultural relations among its institutions and citizens was dissolved. Regions and people reoriented as the Empire’s population was regrouped, and its internal and external relations were reconfigured. The dismemberment of Austria-Hungary was supposed to replace imperial order and boundaries with national ones; it was justified with the establishment of more just, mutually advantageous relations between states, which had boundaries conducive to this goal.

Decisions about Austria-Hungary’s post-imperial boundaries were made after considering multiple factors (political, economic, administrative, cultural), which had also defined the complex regional hierarchy within the Habsburg state earlier. Apart from the two metropoles, Vienna and Budapest, centers within the Monarchy that profited from a value transfer from the peripheries and defined cultural production sometimes did not have a central place in politics. Administrative centers could be insignificant in cultural terms, while economic significance did not necessarily entail political weight for a region. Such asymmetric relations were often accompanied by ethnic division, creating a political dynamic not necessarily present within more homogeneous states. These inequalities defined the Monarchy at all levels. Yet, the recent literature treats this complexity not as foreordaining the collapse of the Monarchy, but rather as a factor that contributed to its long survival.

Whatever the aims and justification of the new boundaries were, it inevitably reconfigured the Habsburg system of spatial and social inequalities. Existing center-periphery relations were shattered or altered, and new ones established. The new borders created new peripheries (e.g. Southern Slovakia or Burgenland), reinforced and reoriented old ones (e.g. Carpatho-Ruthenia), elevated regions in the political hierarchy (e.g. Bratislava), and transformed some peripheries into economic and cultural centers without political or administrative power (e.g. Transylvania). Spatial relations shaken, the alignment of the political, cultural, social and economic relations, the crystallization of centers and peripheries within and among the new states, took time and made people and societies to adapt and adjust.

The panel intends to explore how the new boundaries contributed to the repositioning and reorientation of regions along old and new borders of dualist and interwar Hungary. Changes, ranging from gradual transitions to sudden ruptures, are just as important as continuities of practices, connections, or networks at different levels and scales. The resilience of transborder connections, like the capital networks of Budapest industrial companies, the changes in commercial ties of individual merchants, the flow of people within and between education systems, cultural exchange, forms of religious and ethnic co-existence, etc., are all aspects and expressions of this process, capable of revealing its contradictions and ambiguities.

Two aspects are especially important from the perspective of recent historiography and social developments. Firstly, New Imperial History emphasizes continuities between the pre-1918 imperial and the subsequent national order. Nation-states often functioned as mini-empires and faced similar dilemmas as their imperial predecessors, while local societies had to rely on their previous experiences when they tried to find their place in the new states. Question remain: How much did imperial practices and structures continue to affect the new states? How much did imperial experiences determine center-periphery relations? How successful was the reorientation of citizens? Answers to these questions can help to reinterpret dualist Hungary. Revealing the imperial aspects of its functioning would integrate it better into Habsburg history and historiography. Secondly, the new boundaries and the reconfiguration of center-periphery relations reshaped the macro-regional level, too. Understanding how ongoing social and structural processes were related to the reimagining of Eastern (or East-Central or Central) Europe can help us better grasp how inequalities between centers and peripheries played out in a longer time span, including the present developments in this part of Europe.

We invite contributions to the topic from scholars of history, historical sociology, historical anthropology, nationalism and cultural studies and related disciplines. Papers could present a broad range of perspectives, like that of localities, social and professional groups, individuals, institutions, companies, state actors etc., in relation to the reconfiguration of center-periphery relations due to Hungary’s new borders.

Please, send your proposal (max. 500 words) and a short bio with contact information to Éva Kovács ( and Gábor Egry ( by no later than September 22, 2017. We will notify selected authors in due time for enabling online submission before September 31.