I sat down with Alex Tipei over lunch and discussed her new visiting lecturer position at REEEC. This semester, Professor Tipei is teaching Introduction to Eastern Europe, REES 201, which is offered every spring. This isn’t her first time at the University of Illinois; Alex graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in French and History. Professor Tipei studied abroad in France during undergrad, which subsequently led her to return to France for two Master’s degrees, in Romanian Studies and European History. She also received a Fulbright to study in Bucharest, Romania. She returned to the United States for a PhD in history at the University of Indiana. Professor Tipei completed her PhD in 2016 with a dissertation titled: “For Your Civilization and Ours: Greece, Romania, and the Making of French Universalism.” Professor Tipei grew up in Champaign and is pleasantly surprised to find herself back in her hometown. “I never thought I would find myself teaching at the U of I. It is a thrill to now be teaching what I learned on this campus to new students. It allows me to go back to the beginning and see the introductory materials of the region from a different perspective.”
Professor Tipei is delighted to teach again. “The students in my class are engaged, interested, and love to learn about the region. I am able to give them materials that are central to the region and my research interests, and it is interesting to see how they respond to it. ” One text in particular that Professor Tipei is excited to teach this year is teaching Václav Havel’s The Power of the Powerless. “It really piqued my interest in Eastern Europe and helped shape my political view of the world. I’m really curious to see what it’ll be like to be on “the other side” of the classroom when we talk about it—the students’ reactions, if the essay still speaks to people largely born after the Cold War, what they make of a playwright turned dissident turned president.”
Professor Tipei’s research interests lie in this transitional nineteenth-century history, which connects France, modern day Greece and modern day Romania. “I’m interested in intellectual/political networks that transcend the national paradigm. My current research deals with the spread of a cluster of French inspired/supported modernization programs in early nineteenth-century Southeastern Europe.” Currently, Alex Tipei is working on a manuscript based on her dissertation. Using archival research, Professor Tipei links intellectual circles, organizations, and individuals across Europe’s 19th century. In her own words, “I try to rethink the center-periphery model in international history, take apart the notion of French “influence,” and question the inevitability of the rise of nationalism in peripheral regions like the Balkans. To do this, I consider interactions within this network—often aimed at facilitating educational, prison, and hospital reform—in terms of development programs and technology transfer.”
Madeline Artibee is a REEEC M.A. student.