Interview with Alex Tipei, Spring 2017 REEEC Visiting Lecturer

alex%20tipei-copyI 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.

Noontime Scholars Lecture: Anca Mandru, “‘Born through literary critique’: Early Romanian Socialism and the Literary Marketplace”

Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea sprang out of the Romanian literary tradition with new methods, new subject matter, and in the political theme of socialism. This interesting historical figure was the centerpiece of Anca Mandru’s presentation, “’Born Through Literary Critique’: Early Romanian Socialism and the Literary Marketplace” in a Noontime Scholars Lecture on November 15, 2016. Set against the backdrop of Romania’s socialist history that began just a few decades after Gherea’s death, Mandru’s discussion focused on his personal history and reception by both the public and intelligentsia.

Anca Mandru

Anca Mandru giving her Noontime Scholars Lecture

Mandru discussed Gherea’s birthplace and Jewishness in terms of a “foreigner’s complex”. Born in the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire (now in Ukraine), Gherea escaped to Romania at twenty, and began building himself as a literary critic and as a businessman. Mandru stressed that learning Romanian as a 2nd language resulted in grammatical mistakes and choppy Romanian prose that actually affected Romanian literary tradition.

According to Mandru, Gherea was loathed by Romanian critics. Not only was he a non-native Romanian, but his style was unorthodox for the Romanian literary tradition. Because of his strong connection to socialism, his writings did not take on the same a-political literary style like his contemporaries. In addition to his unorthodox writing style, he was also very successful outside of academia. He owned a prosperous restaurant in the Ploieşti railway station, and was often depicted as both a theoretician and butcher in literary journals of the time. Mandru suggested that his connection to the public and distance from the ivory tower of academia popularized his methods and theories, but also made him a target for criticism by other writers.

Despite Gherea being a socialist thinker, his work was not recognized by the Romanian communist party. Mandru suggested that this was due to his opinions on the Russian Revolution. Gherea disagreed with the revolution, and therefore was only recognized later in Romania’s communist history.

Mandru’s presentation offered an introduction to literary tradition in Romania and shed light on the ways in which literary tradition changes throughout history.

Madeline Artibee is a REEEC M.A. student.

Children and Globalization: Issues, Policies, and Initiatives – 10th Annual Joint Area Centers Symposium (JACS)

On April 10-12, 2014, the International and Area Study Centers of the University of Illinois, in partnership with the Center for International Business Education and Research, co-sponsored the tenth annual Joint Area Centers Symposium (JACS). The theme of this year’s event was “Children and Globalization” and explored “concerns among parents, educators and public policy officials worldwide about the impact of the global economy, migration, global media, war and social change on the socialization and rights of children.” The breadth and diversity of the covered topics was truly impressive and global in scope, engaging with questions related to legal and social constructions of childhood, child marriages, psychological issues of child soldiers, problems faced by migrant children and child laborers, and children’s rights in relation to corporal punishment, to name but a few.

The symposium’s panel on “Homeless/Street Children and International Adoption” was of particular interest and relevance to members of REEEC, given Russia’s previous status as one of the top countries of choice for inter-country adoptions by American and Western European citizens, and the recent controversy with the “Dima Yakovlev Law” (also known as the “Anti-Magnitsky Law”), which came into effect in January 2013. Although the Russian case was not directly represented on the panel, the presenters engaged with concerns that are relevant and applicable to it.

Both Alyssa Handelsman (Anthropology, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor) and Dr. Marcella Raffaelli (Human and Community Development, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) focused directly on children’s experiences in unsafe environments and on the street, respectively. Alyssa Handelsman’s presentation focused on her ethnographic fieldwork with children and their families in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She shared the many stories she gathered from children in Guayaquil’s shanty-towns and used them as a basis for analysis of the way children think about families, love, community, and belonging within environments subjected to extreme violence. Dr. Raffaelli, in turn, investigated developmental risks and resilience factors of street children in Brazil. Her research asked: what factors allow some children to have more positive outcomes from their experiences on the streets than others? Which children survive and which do not? And why?

Yayasan ARTI (Action Research & Training Institute), Jakarta

Yayasan ARTI (Action Research & Training Institute), Jakarta

With Harla Sara Octarra’s (Social Policy, University of Edinburgh) and Dr. Monica Ruiz-Casares’s (Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry, McGill University) presentations, the panel’s focus shifted to policy and intervention. Ms. Octarra explored Indonesia’s efforts to implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCR) and the country’s recent enactment (in 2010) of a new social welfare policy focused specifically on the well-being of street children. This new policy, Ms. Octarra argues, misguidedly situates the welfare of the street children within their families, charging the latter with the responsibility to keep kids off the streets. Ultimately, Ms. Octarra asserts, the families of origin are often the reason for the children’s street status and, because of this, the policy promises to be largely ineffective in the future. Dr. Ruiz-Casares presented on her team’s innovative usage of the Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices (KAP) mixed-method study in order to gather data for evidence-based intervention in child protection in Liberia. Dr. Ruiz-Casares argues that the cost effectiveness and focused scope of the KAP surveys make them an excellent choice for future research in the field of child protection in low income and post-conflict settings.

Soccer team resting in the shade one Sunday afternoon in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia (2011). Credit: Monica Ruiz Casares

Soccer team resting in the shade one Sunday afternoon in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia (2011). Credit: Monica Ruiz-Casares

Finally, Dr. Luciana-Marioara Jinga (Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile, Bucharest) and Dr. Waganesh Zeleke (Counseling, Psychology and Special Education, Duquesne University) engaged explicitly with the topic of inter-country adoption. Dr. Jinga explored the Ceaucescu regime’s usage of inter-country adoption as a powerful tool for its international relations with the U.S. and Western Europe. Dr. Zeleke investigated the adjustment issues of Ethiopean adoptees in the U.S.

Dr. Jinga’s and Dr. Zeleke’s presentations highlighted the complexity of the politics surrounding inter-country adoptions, which also challenges the often simplified rhetoric that dominates discussions of this issue in the media. The Russian example of the recently banned international adoptions, in my opinion, is no exception. The typical coverage of the issue is familiar to most, if not all: the well-known American angle focuses overwhelmingly on the demonization of the Putin regime and its “heartless usage of innocent orphans” for political retaliation. The typical Russian angle focuses overwhelmingly on “them” (Americans) taking “our children” and, either through carelessness or cruelty, killing or abusing them in disproportionate numbers abroad.

Children with severe impairments in the institutions in the Russian Federation. Credit: Ekaterina Evdokimova

Children with severe impairments in the institutions in the Russian Federation. Credit: Ekaterina Evdokimova

Although touching on important partial truths, both sides allow more important and complex issues that are directly relevant to the children themselves slip through the cracks. Russia’s enormous (social) orphan problem does indeed need to have more effective domestic solutions that go beyond institutionalization or international adoption. Its experimentation with domestic adoption, foster care system, and social support for families has not demonstrated adequate results, leaving hundreds of thousands of children without parental care. For those kids, international adoption is a lifeline that should not be taken away, further reinforced by the fact that the vast majority of Russian-born adoptees are happy and safe in their new homes. The simplified demonization of the ban on international adoptions, however, dismisses the often imperialist history of inter-country adoptions, its frequently corrupt and profitable nature (both in Russia and the U.S.), and post-placement oversight problems. International adoptees in the U.S. have much less protection then their domestically adopted counterparts. In the last couple of years, the Russian authorities, not the U.S. State Department, have first reported the majority of cases of death and abuse of Russian adoptees in the U.S. Furthermore, the U.S. State Department has been largely reactive when local or state authorities finally report to it, and no comprehensive initiative for post-placement monitoring on a national level has been undertaken. This unwillingness to make the safety of international adoptees a federal issue (which, no doubt, would ruffle the feathers of those that believe that government should stay out of parenting and the home) makes the effectiveness and reliability of any treaty between the two countries on the safety of inter-country adoptees questionable at best.

Anya-Hamrick Nevinglovskaya is a Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative and World Literature at the University of Illinois. She is currently working on her dissertation, provisionally entitled “Memoried Flesh: Discourses of Shock and Trauma in Russian Fiction, 1860-1936.” Anya’s research interests include trauma studies, the history of mental sciences, Soviet punitive psychiatry, psychoanalysis, and gender studies. In addition to her research and teaching, Anya also actively pursues opportunities connected to education equity through her work with students traditionally underrepresented in the academic sphere. She is also passionate about the issues surrounding Russian and global orphanhood. She researched Russia’s problem of social orphanhood as an undergraduate Fulbright-Hays scholar and worked at an orphanage in Grenada, West Indies (2006-2008) as a Peace Corps Volunteer. 

The EU’s Big Bang and Beyond: A Decade After Eastern Enlargement

On February 26, 2014, the Consuls General from Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania visited the University of Illinois campus from Chicago to participate in the roundtable “The EU’s Big Bang and Beyond: A Decade After Eastern Enlargement,” an event organized by the European Union Center and the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center.  Prior to the  roundtable, they met informally with students to introduce themselves, discuss foreign service careers, and answer any questions about their countries or about the European Union in general. Robert Rusiecki, Deputy Consul General of Poland, has been in Chicago for three years.  He is not a career diplomat, but started out in banking. In 2008, he began a foreign service career. Marijus Gudynas is the Consul General of Lithuania. His consulate encompasses 28 states, more than half the United States. He calls Chicago the “second largest Lithuanian city.” George Predescu, Consul General of Romania, joined the foreign service in 1990. His first diplomatic posting was in Washington, D.C. One of the highlights of his career was helping Romania become a member of NATO. Not only does his office serve the 60,000-100,000 Romanians in Chicago and others who live in the 12-state area that his consulate covers, but it also tries to promote Romania in the region. Simeon Stoilov is the Consul General of Bulgaria. He joined the foreign service 2.5 years ago from the private sector. He calls Chicago “the third-largest Bulgarian city.” In his work, he find opportunities for cooperation and partnership between the U.S. and Bulgaria. The visit was his second to the University. During the meeting, the Consuls General and students engaged in conversation on a wide variety of topics such as EU agricultural policy and foreign service careers.  Each of the Consuls General agreed that it is a “great honor to serve your country” and encouraged students who are interested in embarking on such careers to do so.  To succeed in the foreign service, they emphasized the importance of knowing one’s country well, but also understanding the needs and demands of the host country. From personal experience, they stressed that a person must really have passion to pursue a foreign service career because diplomats and consuls are “nomads,” though “well-paid.”

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Shortly after the meeting with graduate students, the Consuls General gathered for the roundtable.  Anna Stenport, Director of the European Union Center, gave the introduction. Following her remarks were those of Bryan Endres, Interim Associate Provost for International Affairs and Director of International Programs and Studies, and those of Carol Leff, Associate Professor of Political Science, who was the moderator.

Marijus Gudynas gave the first presentation. He began with a brief history of Lithuania, highlighting its ties to Europe. He mentioned that Lithuania was the first of the former Soviet republics to separate from the Soviet Union. In 1991, the country became a part of the United Nations. It applied for EU membership in 1995, and became a member of the EU and NATO in 2004. Most recently, it held the EU presidency in 2013. Gudynas noted Lithuania’s highly educated and multilingual population, and its strong economic growth as an EU member. At the conclusion of his presentation, he encouraged the audience to follow him on social media and visit Lithuania.

Next was George Predescu, who spoke about Romania. He emphasized that Romania’s EU experience has been very important. EU membership had been a “national goal.” In 2007, Romania joined the EU, along with Bulgaria. Predescu described EU enlargement as a “key factor in the democratization of Europe.” Enlargement is a “significant pillar” to a free and hopeful Europe. Although he acknowledged that EU membership is difficult to attain, it pays in the end because it is a “stimulus for economic reform.” He wholeheartedly showed support for the integration of the western Balkans and solidarity among European states.

Following Predescu was Simeon Stoilov of Bulgaria. He opened with the comment that EU integration was “not a big bang” for any of the countries represented at the roundtable. Rather, joining the EU was a long process that affected a country’s “total environment, its industry, culture.” Like Gudynas’ presentation on Lithuania, Stoilov began with a brief history of Bulgaria. The country was established in 681 A.D. and had always been called Bulgaria. Though the country is at a crossroads between diverse cultures, he asserted that Bulgarians have “always believed our place is in Europe.” Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007. Stoilov expressed Bulgarians’ pride in standing firm with the policies of NATO and the EU, and in Bulgarian becoming an official language of the EU. In conclusion, Stoilov affirmed how the EU values of freedom, respect for human rights, equality, democracy, and rule of law are essentially Bulgarian values. Different ethnic and religious groups peacefully live together. To Bulgarians, equality means uniting because of similarities.  Like Predescu, Stoilov promotes EU expansion as a way to overwhelm economic and cultural crises. To those who believe that the EU will fail, Stoilov asserts that “everyone is sure the EU will survive and expand further.”

The final presenter was Robert Rusiecki. He began with a brief history of Poland, noting how Poland and Lithuania formed a commonwealth in 1569 which had the first written constitution. In 1989, Poland became a democracy; in 1999, it became a member of NATO. Rusiecki called the big bang the “biggest single enlargement of the EU,” when 10 countries joined the organization, in comparison to the average admission of 3 to 4 countries. According to him, the objective of the EU is to “ensure peace and political stability, secure greater prosperity, further democracy, and reinforce Europe’s role internationally.” Speaking specifically about the Polish case, Poland has made a “great leap forward” with EU membership. Economically, it has experienced fast growth and was the only country to avoid a recession in 2008. The relationship between Poland and the EU is a “success story.” However, Poland still has problems that it needs to address, specifically its population decline, which is also a challenge for other EU member states. After 10 years in the EU, Rusiecki proclaimed that 78 percent of Poles support EU membership and 74 percent consider themselves European as well as Polish.

After all the Consuls General presented, they answered questions from the audience. Since the crisis in Ukraine was on many people’s minds, the Consuls General addressed that topic. Marijus Gudynas called Ukraine’s integration into the EU “stolen at the very last moment” by former president Victor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign the Association Agreement. Other questions audience members asked were about nationalism and far-right parties in Europe, EU funds and economic aid, and further EU expansion. All three Consuls General advocated for full EU membership for countries who meet all admission criteria. They agreed that EU membership is “work,” but it is certainly worth the effort.

Stephanie Chung is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research interests are in Soviet literature and culture, Russian women’s writing, and Czech literature. She received her B.A. in Plan II Honors, and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies in 2007; and her M.A. in Slavic Languages and Literatures in 2009 at the University of Texas at Austin. She plans to write a dissertation on Soviet women’s memoirs, with a particular focus on the writer and translator Lilianna Lungina.