Call for papers 2023


Call for Papers

Inventing Eastern Europe, or the land of provisionality. Identity and history in documentary films from Eastern Europe.

 The next issue of ‘Panoptikum’ will be devoted to documentary films from the countries of Eastern Europe. In the spirit of the tradition set by the journal “Studies in Eastern European Cinema”, Eastern Europe includes Albania, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Kosovo, Lithuania, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Hungary, as well as countries that no longer exist with a rich cinematic tradition: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, the German Democratic Republic. Thus understood, this notion is partly geographical, partly political, partly cultural, bearing resemblance to the Kunderian reflections on Central Europe (those parts of Europe that find themselves in the geopolitical East but want to be part of the geopolitical West), and overlapping with ideas put forward by Jacob Mikanowski in his forthcoming book under the telling title Goodbye, Eastern Europe: An Intimate History of a Divided Land.

What distinguishes these countries, compared to Western Europe, is the fluidity of their borders, their transience and provisionality. When we look at the constantly changing political maps of Europe in the 20th and 21st centuries, the difference is striking. The established countries of Western Europe – England, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and even Germany – occupy a relatively fixed place on these maps. In contrast, the map of the eastern part of the European continent is subject to constant change and fluctuation. Countries appear and disappear, move territorially, pass from hand to hand, from one sphere of influence to another. These transformations of political geography inevitably connect with questions of identity. Each change of statehood means entering a new education system, a different vision of history, the imposition of a different language, and sometimes also of a different religion or ideology, not infrequently repression on the one hand and the struggle to save one’s own identity on the other. All this must inevitably have had an impact on the inhabitants’ states of mind and soul, on their sense of identity and on their perception of the world, leading to the crystallization of the sense of one’s own separateness, peculiarity or even uniqueness in some people (messianic or besieged fortress syndromes), and uncertainty, imbalance and chaos in others.

The aim of the planned issue of ‘Panoptikum’ is to describe how these historical circumstances have been reflected in documentary film. In particular, we will be interested in matters of identity – how documentary film has shown the identity paradoxes of the inhabitants of provisional countries and lands, how it has registered the struggle to maintain their own identity, or even participated in this struggle, or – on the contrary – how it has shown the development of the art of mimicry, the blurring of a clear identity, the ease of change, adapting to new circumstances, adopting new patterns and attitudes. Identity is also inevitably linked to the past, to historical memory. What vision of the past emerges from old documentaries? What vision of history is built up by newer ones, especially those leaning towards the past?

The planned issue of ‘Panoptikum’ is about documentary cinema, but its stakes are much higher. Documentary film, that sensitive seismograph that records the oscillations and dislocations within human communities, allows us to learn about the history of a region and, through this, to better understand the contemporary meanderings of its policies and behaviour. This is not necessarily a case of films that openly set themselves the task of describing identity but more a case of those in which these issues appear, as it were, involuntarily, while recording the everyday life of now and then in Eastern Europe.

  • Local customs and identities in early documentaries
  • Cultural colonization
  • Struggles for identity preservation
  • Changes of boundaries and their effect on local identities
  • Times of political transformation
  • Journeys, travelogues, no-boundaries
  • Places, fetishes, rituals
  • The language of found footage and histories of Eastern Europe
  • Screened memories
  • Docanimation as a memory tool
  • Videogrammes, videos and revolutions
  • Living documentary and i-docs
  • Nostalgia for communism.
  • Heroes and victims of the economic transition
  • East / West / Import / Export
  • Tradition and Modernity
  • Self and other


The issue language is English. Deadline for submissions: 31 July 2023.