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Katja Castryck-Naumann (ed.): Transregional Connections in the History of East-Central Europe (= Dialectics of the Global; Vol. 9), Berlin / Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2021, VIII + 341 S., ISBN 978-3-11-068043-0, EUR 69,95
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Rezension von:
Marta Grzechnik
Uniwersytet Gdański
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Christoph Schutte
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Marta Grzechnik: Rezension von: Katja Castryck-Naumann (ed.): Transregional Connections in the History of East-Central Europe, Berlin / Boston: De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2021, in: sehepunkte 23 (2023), Nr. 12 [15.12.2023], URL:

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Diese Rezension erscheint auch in der Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung.

Katja Castryck-Naumann (ed.): Transregional Connections in the History of East-Central Europe

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The book under review here is part of the series Dialectics of the Global, edited by Matthias Middell and based at the Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics. As stated by Middell, the series concentrates on three types of dialectics: multiplicity and co-presence, integration and fragmentation, and universalism and particularism. Through these foci, it brings out the many facets of globalization as a complex, multisided process. The reviewed book contributes to this discussion on globalization in that it aims to put the region of East Central Europe in the global context through showcasing examples of connections between it and other world regions from the end of the nineteenth century until the 1980s. The volume is a result of cooperation and discussions between the authors, initiated at the conference "Eastern Europe-Global Area: Eastern Europe in Global Relations," which took place in July 2018 in Leipzig, and was organized jointly by the Leibniz ScienceCampus "Eastern Europe-Global Area" and the Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe (GWZO).

The book aims to decentralize the dominant Eurocentric and nation-centric perspectives on global history and the history of East Central Europe. Furthermore, one of its important arguments is that transregional connections, which stand at the center of the book, were the factor that contributed to the creation of East Central Europe as a distinct region. The book opens with an introduction by the editor, Katja Castryck-Naumann. In it, she not only introduces the themes of the book, its construction and the contributions, but also provides an extensive discussion on such questions as transnational and transregional history, global history and global contexts, East Central Europe as a region and a construction. In this way, Castryck-Naumann provides a solid theoretical basis for the rest of the book and valuable insights into the topics she discusses.

The introduction is followed by nine chapters grouped into three parts, each of them composed of three chapters. The chapters deal with various examples of transregional connections between East Central Europe and the rest of the globe. Part I: "Positioning in Global Entanglements" focuses on the roles which East Central European and Eastern European actors played in global processes, such as dealing with global wheat crises between 1870 and 1939, mobility of individuals from villages in Upper Silesia, and artistic and cultural exchange and networks in socialist Hungary. Part II: "Partaking in International Politics" describes the ways in which actors from the region participated in and contributed to the establishment of international laws and norms. Here, the cases studied are those of the international control of narcotics and the changing German policies in this regard, the Eastern Europeans' contributions to the shaping of international law in the interwar period, and the Eastern European Jews' crucial participation in the drafting of the important international treaties. Finally, part III: "Inter-Regional Connections" deals with interregional connections and cooperation through the examination of Central and Eastern European trade with the Spanish Empire and its colonies in the eighteenth century, East Central European migrants in South America, and the 1970s cooperation between the GDR and Angola. These are examples not only of international trade, but also international networks developing between the socialist bloc and the developing world during the Cold War.

As is visible from this summary, the range of cases presented in the book is quite varied, drawing on the different fields of East Central Europeans' social and political activities. They succeed in proving the case that the studied region forged transregional connections with other parts of the world. Contrary to the established views, it did not - at least not in all cases or at all times - occupy a marginal position in global processes, but actively navigated its way among them. Often, the actors from the region became a part of these global processes - whether by making use of them for the individuals' own interests (as did the migrants from Upper Silesia in the chapter by Andrzej Michalczyk, and the merchants and artists depicted by Klemens Kaps and Beáta Hock), by counteracting the negative consequences (e.g., the wheat crises studied by Uwe Müller and the drug trafficking analyzed by Ned Richardson-Little), or by actively influencing said processes (e.g., as did the lawmakers studied by Dietmar Müller and Gilad Ben-Nun). It can be said, then, that the book succeeds in achieving what its authors and editor set out to achieve, and the overall theoretical framework manages to bring together the very varied cases which the authors present.

At the same time, as is natural in the case of such a diversified anthology, the reader is bound to find some chapters less compelling than others, according to their own personal interests and preferences. Some chapters are too long (e.g., Müller's contribution), and hence at times lose focus. There are also some unclear graphics in the book, for example the graphs on pages 233 and 237, which are difficult to read, and the map on page 225, in which it is unclear what timeframe is supposedly represented (the accompanying text suggests "second half of the eighteenth century" (224), while the lack of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth on the map suggests more precisely the very last years of the eighteenth century).

Moreover, while the range of topics is, as mentioned, diverse, the authors are less so: out of the ten authors, all are affiliated with the German-speaking countries (eight are based in Germany and two in Austria), and as many as six are based in Leipzig, the site of the conference from which the idea for the book originated. While, for example because of geographical proximity, this certainly facilitated the discussions on the content and theoretical approaches in the book, the question of whether the book would perhaps have benefitted from including voices from other centers, including from the East-Central European region itself, remains.

Overall, however, Transregional Connections in the History of East-Central Europe is an interesting contribution both to the series Dialectics of the Global and to the research on East Central Europe and global history in general.

Marta Grzechnik