The History of Feminist Political Thought and Women’s Rights Discourses in East Central Europe 1929-2001 (HERESSEE)

This project will produce the first comprehensive and multi-disciplinary history of feminist political thought and women’s rights discourses in East Central Europe in a broad chronological perspective. The project builds on a solid base of existing scholarship, but does more than weave the stories of individual women or fragmented national case studies in the existing scholarship into a coherent narrative. Instead, it reinterprets the story of feminism in the region in relation to state socialism and the history of state socialism through the lens of feminism. It treats the interwar pre-history of debates between socialism and feminism, as well as the post-1989 struggles to deal with the state socialist past as integral parts of the history of state socialism. Intellectual historians have paid relatively little attention to this region, to women, and to feminism. Yet it is precisely the issues traditionally at the heart of their field – such as the origins and transformations of ideas in their social and cultural contexts – that are required to understand feminism in East Central Europe. Recent advances in the field have often been driven by methodological innovations, and particularly the use of sources beyond political essays and academic publications. This project also draws upon sources like popular women’s magazines, literary and art works, samizdat publications, party documents, and oral history interviews. The research team reflects the diversity of the European continent, mobilizing linguistic and methodological skills to match the project’s broad source base, inclusive geography, and extended chronology and to produce a body of research that is both comprehensive in scope and sensitive to local particularities. By situating them in their local, regional and transnational contexts, this project integrates feminist political thought, women’s rights discourses, and their authors in East Central Europe into the broader European intellectual tradition.

Zsófia Lóránd is Assistant Professor at the Department of Contemporary History and RECET at the University of Vienna. Earlier, she was a Marie Curie Fellow at the Faculty of History and Wolfson College at the University of Cambridge, and had held positions at the European University Institute in Florence and the Lichtenberg-Kolleg of the University of Göttingen. Her book, The Feminist Challenge to the Socialist State in Yugoslavia focusing on the intellectual history of feminism in the 1970s and 1980s was published in 2018 and got translated into Croatian in 2020. Whilst living in Hungary, she worked for 8 years as an SOS helpline volunteer and trainer in the field of domestic violence. Currently, she is working as PI on her ERC-funded project HERESSEE “The History of Feminist Political Thought and Women’s Rights Discourses in East Central Europe 1929 – 2001”.