Methodologies of Working in Cold War Archives. Facts, Values and Archival Ecologies

March 2nd, 2021

October 14-16, 2021

Place: Blinken Open Society Archives, Central European University (Budapest), Hungary

The workshop aims to contribute to the discussion on knowledge practices in times of reflexive disbelief by addressing the role of scholars with regards to different truth regimes.


The call is addressed to researchers who have been working on cultural, economic, political, social and scientific aspects of Communism and the Cold War and who feel challenged by some of the suggested questions in transdisciplinary ways:

  1. How to interpret the ethnographic detail in state, advocacy and police archives while keeping an ethical standpoint?
  2. How do we position ourselves on the issue of the political construction of issues in / through the archives? Is it possible to assess the truth value of documents beyond the constructivist approach?
  3. How to assess scientific knowledge and expert data on both sides of the Iron Curtain beyond the propaganda wars and the ritualized appropriations of socialist discourses?
  4. How to continue accounting for the specificities of socialist economies/ societies while critically using Cold War conceptual schemes and still engaging with the re-emerging concerns regarding “recurrent totalitarianism”?
  5. How to assess the cultural canon of the past and the possibilities of professional criticism beyond ideological, memory and culture wars? How to re-assess the need for studying intellectual agency as a historically relevant perspective after decades of contesting expertise, prestige and moral authority?
  6. Do (or should) archives and memory institutions recontextualize Cold War related collections in line with new scholarship, combining adjoining archival projects and a generalized need for authority through curation?

Scholars are therefore invited to discuss their use of Cold War archives for writing political, social, or cultural histories, and to reflect on their ethical, methodological and epistemic dilemmas and choices. They should turn their particular case studies into reflexive contributions about the challenges of different archives.

Prospective participants:

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Visegrad program at Blinken OSA, we invite former scholarship holders and a broader range of scholars who have already done research in and on various Cold War archives to reflect on the appropriate theories and methods needed when rigorously analyzing phenomena through the combined and comparative perspectives of advocacy, state or police archives and their distinct truth regimes.

The call is addressed to any students and researchers with historiographic meta-reflexive sensitivities, to artists and film directors with a broad experience with Cold War documents. So, the call particularly addresses Visegrad fellows at OSA who have already worked with the OSA collections, but it is definitely not limited to them.


The workshop aims to contribute to a methodological debate as well to a collective exploration of the relationship between Cold War conceptual schemes and current topics and concerns. We seek to establish a new scholarly network of archival and research institutions to engage in a public discussion about source literacy. The workshop will result in collective volume dedicated to Epistemologies and Tools in Cold War Archives. Discussions will take place on the basis of pre-circulated papers as drafts of future articles.

Application procedure:

Please email an abstract of no more than 500 words and a short CV to Nora Ungar, at by April 30, 2021. Notification of acceptance will be received within one month.

Due to the hybrid format of the workshop, partial travel grants can be provided to participants from the region on a competitive basis. Please submit a brief justification for your travel grant request along with the conference abstract, if you tentatively project to come to Budapest for the workshop.


It is difficult to predict which conditions will still apply in October 2021 with regards to the Covid-19 travel restrictions and physical distance, both in Hungary and abroad. Therefore, we will prepare for the time being a workshop in a hybrid format, allowing speakers to participate both live and online. The workshop will be organized at the Blinken Open Society Archives in Budapest, on October 14-16, 2021. Scholars could visit the Blinken Open Society Archives in Budapest, take part in small group discussions, or request archival materials from the Blinken OSA’s collections within short explorative queries along the thematic lines of the workshop.

Program Committee:

Ioana Macrea-Toma, Anastasia Felcher, Oksana Sarkisova, Robert Parnica, István Rév

Organizing committee:

Ioana Macrea-Toma, Nóra Ungar, Katalin Gádoros, Nóra Bertalan, Julianna Lendvai, Miklós Zsámboki, Károly Timári, Robert Parnica

The project is initiated by the Blinken Open Society Archives with support from the Academic Cooperation and Research Support Office at Central European University.

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