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Title: Central Europe : forging a concept in time and space
Author: Simkova, Otilia
ISNI:       0000 0004 5349 9888
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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The thesis critically re-examines classical historical conceptions of Central Europe. Its chief concern is to critique the discourses that, in the main, equated geographical imaginaries of Central Europe with a German dominated territorial entity in the crucial, formative 1880 - 1918 period. It is asked whether these could have played a vital role in the great powers’ endorsement of the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The research hypothesis suggests that ‘conceptualisations of regional identity are exercises in geopolitics, which through the definitive discourse of Self and Other exercise influence over behaviour of political actors, thereby indirectly impacting upon international structure’. The research explores a broad range of Central European conceptions originating mainly in the former Austria-Hungary and the German Empire. Their respective influence on the discourse over Central Europe and their impact on how the notion itself was interpreted are analyzed partly through the use of contemporaneous and sometimes obscure secondary resources (newspaper and journal articles, printed volumes) that were written in a range of languages. A substantial body of archival evidence was also collected in various archives in the UK, USA, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia. The latter category of materials, some of which are little-known in the English-speaking academic world, was used in an attempt to evaluate how concepts of Central Europe influenced the behaviour of political actors in the key countries for this research (Austria-Hungary, Germany, Britain and the USA). The author employed a constructivist viewpoint. The constructivist perception of actors as dynamic units, the identification of a system as a changing social concept, and the attention paid to the use of notions and their influence upon socially constructed international structures, presents a valuable platform for re-examination of classical geopolitical concepts. Constructivism has already found its application in critical geopolitics. In terms of construction of non-nation state identities, the recent works of Veit Bachmann and James Sidaway (2009), Mindaugas Jurkynas (2007) or Michelle Pace (2007) provide interesting examples and applications. It is concluded that conceptualising Central Europe did possess a definite geopolitical purpose, though this varied over time and concept to concept. In many cases this also informed the attitudes of policy-makers to a significant degree, mainly in constructing a negative definition of the Other. However, the final decision to dismember the Dual (Austro-Hungarian) Monarchy was based on more pragmatic military considerations and the perceived near-collapse of the country in late stages of war, rather than any particular concept of Central Europe itself.
Supervisor: Schofield, Richard Neill Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available