CfP: Elites, Groups, Networks

Elites, Groups, Networks. Collective actors in Central and
Southeast Europe from the 18th to mid-20th centuries

International workshop

8-9 May 2017

Deadline : 1 November 2016

Convenors : Institute for East and Southeast European Studies Regensburg,
Graduate School for East and Southeast European Studies Regensburg,
Babeș-Bolyai University Cluj-Napoca

Gregarious tendencies represent one of the defining attributes of human
as well as one of the societal cornerstones. Groups formed in most
socio-professional environments (e.g. churches, parties, corporations, trade
unions, freemasonry) include members from a wider range of social layers, and
sometimes function as a springboard for future leaders. Others however (e.g.
academic societies, private clubs) consist exclusively of individuals who had
already achieved recognition as elites, their membership being subjected to
careful selection, due to the heavy prestige load it carried. Regardless of
other particularities, all groups can be understood, from their emergence to
their dissolution, as the sum of personal relations both between their members
(the inner-group, binding ones), and between the latter and other individuals
or groups. In this sense, network analysis may help in highlighting how the
architecture of these more or less permeable groups influenced their
strategies, the ways in which they related to other actors (including the
State), and their composition.
In Central and Southeast Europe, where the birth of modern society was
inextricably linked to the emergence of modern nations, elite groups played an
instrumental role. Wielding decision-making power to a greater or lesser
degree, various elite groups were involved in both processes, with
ethnicity/nationality often having a deeper influence on group membership than
education or social background. The phenomenon is best observable within the
multi-ethnic empires, where national political parties, cultural associations,
economic and financial enterprises were often the result of the joint efforts
of several groups, united on a national(ist) platform, but otherwise sharing
antithetical perspectives and agendas. Equally interesting is the case of the
national states, in which the emergence of prestige groups like academic and
cultural societies has been supported by the political authority out of
related to both the development of culture and science (as indicators of the
nation’s progress and standing among others), and cultural diplomacy. Given
regional particularities, such as: a high degree of informality in governance,
relatively widespread multilevel governance, and a low degree of effective
state control the further one went into the territory, elite groups played a
key role in relation to both the macro-level (the State) and the micro-level
(individuals and small clusters of actors), constantly refashioning the bases
of power.
A glimpse at the historical literature on Central and Southeast Europe during
modern times reveals an abundance of references to groups of various nature,
dimensions and with varying aims, covering a wide spectrum of activities.
Within the historiography of the successor states they are often regarded as
one of the main engines of the national movements and of national progress.
However, research on groups seldom reached beyond empirical approaches and
it focused on membership it usually dealt, at a biographical or
prosopographical level, only with the leadership structures. Furthermore,
comparisons between groups remain a rare commodity. Given these premises, our
workshop aims at bringing together scholars with an interest in, or just
dealing with the general topic of groups, with a special focus on the role
played by elites and networking in the former’s lifespan, development and

The main outcome would be shifting the focus from empirical approaches –
already integrated to larger national or imperial historical narratives –
towards comparative and methodological ones. The conceptualization of these
groups as collective actors and the analysis of their activity as such, within
a milieu of entities alike, open up a path worth exploring within the larger
framework of historical research on Central and Southeast Europe during modern
Due to the macro-level conditions in this region, collective actors often
appear to the historian’s gaze as ‘fuzzy’ objects, i.e. their membership
criteria, borders and interactions, and the transfer of persuasive,
programmatic content within their boundaries do not easily lend themselves to
a structured, quantifiable analysis. The high degree of associational
informality, coupled with the multilevel ties often present within groups
(kinship ties overlapping or strengthening political loyalties, business
interests, lifelong friendship, etc.) suggest that a networked view of these
collective actors is necessary. In the past two decades, the term ‘network’
has begun to figure prominently in discussions of elite groups in the 19th
century, without however bringing about any noticeable difference in the
explanatory power of analyses. It then becomes apparent that only by
overcoming this methodological hurdle – network as metaphor – and implementing formal
network analysis, can these loosely-bound but nonetheless influential actors
be comprehensively discussed. This approach should enable the quantification and
ensuing transnational or regional-level comparisons between groups on the
basis of their architecture, cohesion, modes of communication, etc. It will also
permit the formulation of new research hypotheses focusing on the
establishment and transmission of trust as a key factor in ensuring the functional coherence
of these collective actors.

In light of these issues, a special section of this workshop will be dedicated
to papers employing formal social network analysis in the study of collective
actors who operated between the 18th and mid-20th centuries in Central and
Southeast Europe. Submissions dealing with one or more of the major topics
announced below, with a ‘networked twist’, are encouraged.

While organizers welcome all contributions to the study of elites within the
given timeframe and conceptual/geographic area, special attention will be paid
to papers approaching one or more of the following issues:

Crystallization of elite groups: placing social theory in a historical
The inner mechanisms that allowed the perpetuation of elite groups and the
development of group strategies;
The role of leadership and financing in group development;
Groups and the State: a tale of two actors;
Group aims and interests: is it all about power, wealth and prestige?
Composition and behaviour of groups within a multi-ethnical environment: how
did ethnicity impact on group membership?
Gender and collective actors/groups: what forms did groups whose membership
was based primarily on the criterion of gender assume in Central and Southeast
Europe? How did such groups operate in the public space, how were their
strategies adapted to fit specific goals?
Interactions between groups: collaboration, cohabitation, competition;
Individual and group (inner- and inter-) networking;
The dissolution of groups and their historical legacy.

The official languages of the workshop will be English and German.
Presentations and discussions can take place in both languages. However, in
order to ease and speed-up the editorial process of the proceedings,
strongly encourage paper proposals in German to be submitted along with a full
English translation. Authors using German should also keep in mind that
participants are expected to submit a final version of the paper, in English,
by 30 June 2017.
Applicants are asked to submit a title and a 2-300 words abstract by 1
Information on acceptance and further steps will be available by 1 December
A final version of the presentation should be prepared by 31 March 2017, in
order to ensure participants’ access to all presentations before the

The organizers will provide accommodation (two nights) for all participants. A
small number of travel grants (2-3), covering travel expenses, will be
available for PhD students and early stage researchers. Applicants for the
travel grants must also submit, alongside title and abstract, a short bio
150 words) and a short list of publications (max. 3).
Applications are to be sent to one of the following e-mail addresses:;;

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