The Danube is all along the river of Europe: the Danube is an experiment that affects the whole world, what goes awry here can fail anywhere and everywhere; that which succeeds here gives us hope for other places.                                                                                                                                                                    – Karl-Markus Gauß, “The Teachings of the Danube” (1995)


The Black and Blue Danube Symposium — Colgate University, March 1-2, 2013

Co-sponsored by Russian & Eurasian Studies, German, Art & Art History, Film & Media Studies, Geography, History, Political Science, the Office of the Dean of Faculty – and the Central New York Humanities Corridor from an award by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Overview and project proposal:

“The Black and Blue Danube” symposium brings together scholars from diverse disciplinary approaches and across regional fields of study, including Russian & Eurasian Studies, German Studies, Art & Art History, Film & Media Studies, Geography, Anthropology, History, and Political Science. The Danube, Europe’s second largest river, directly connects ten countries; its watershed covers four more. Yet the river, like much of the region it traverses, has attracted surprisingly little scholarly attention, and what exists too often privileges single disciplinary or national perspectives. We instead see the river as both boundary and border, fluidly connecting multiple nations, and cultural and economic spaces, through legal and illegal flow. It intersects civilizations and nature, physical and imaginary spaces and invites an array of critical approaches.

As both a real geographic feature and a guiding metaphor, the Danube river brings together the scholarship of a number of Colgate, CNY Corridor, and – for the Symposium – North America-based scholars across fields and disciplinary divisions. Our proposed symposium builds upon the strong commitment to interdisciplinary teaching and research that Colgate University has established. Humanities disciplines and the powerful interpretative strategies they offer will serve as our primary anchor for discussion and debate. The concepts we use to both metaphorize and actualize the Danube will form the linkage between these discussions and vital issues in natural and social science disciplines, and will compel all participants to elaborate upon each other’s project. We hope that this collaboration and the lasting exchanges it will cultivate can serve as a promising model for genuine, creative, and inspiring interdisciplinary academic work.

1. In an age of tenuous unification, we actively seek to culturally remap Europe by means of the river and river imaginary, thus rectifying Europe’s frequent and erroneous omission from conversations about global engagement and innovative explorations of world culture.  The Danube river has been claimed successfully only by one empire: Austria-Hungary, the (spectral) multicultural state par excellence. Today, the complicated cultural imaginaries entrained by the river help us to call into question paradigms of nation and nationality in areas fraught by aggressive discourses on identity, language, the link between people and place, and blood purity. When examined together, the multiethnic, multilingual, and historically intertwined relations of the Danube populations present an opportunity to explore this broadly conceived site as an instantiation of the global present.

2. Our symposium will critically examine the discourse of Central Europe to undermine autochthonic conceptions of culture. It will challenge the imagined divide between the democratic and western-leaning “center” and “foreign” Bolshevik ideology coming from the Russian East or the Balkan South. The Danube is haunted by historical tragedy and memories of genocide; by the legacies of Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Soviet empires; and by cultural (mis)appropriations of classical antiquity. We will explore the cultural and economic flows moving downriver and upstream as well as the mapping of cultural capital through spatial and temporal metaphors: cities such as Vienna, Budapest, and Belgrade serve as regional centers, while margins appear culturally “belated.”

3. Finally, it is the metaphorical and real power of the Danube as artery, lifeline, and locus for circulation and communication that we hope to exploit intellectually and critically as we search for a way to flow between fields and methodologies: from Germanic to Slavic, from the interventions of experimental art to environmental studies of changing physical spaces littered with actual and figurative historical debris. To facilitate cross-disciplinary communication, our panel topics will embrace broadly conceived bridge concepts relevant to multiple methodologies, such as “pollution,” “watershed,” and “circulation.” ­The working title of our symposium, “The Black and Blue Danube,” points to the transgression explicit in our approach to this symbolic river. By focusing on geopolitical conflict, aesthetic violence, or historical wounds, panels will investigate the blacker dimensions of the “Danube so blue, so bright and blue” celebrated in Franz von Gernerth’s 1889 lyrics for Johann Baptist Strauss’ famous waltz.

Organizing committee: Marijeta Bozovic (REST), Jessica Graybill (Geography, REST), Bill Martin (German), Matthew Miller (German), Robert Nemes (History), Jennifer Stob (Art & Art History, Film & Media Studies)


SYMPOSIUM STRUCTURE and accompanying events (Campus map)

Friday, March 1st:

Danube Student Mini-Symposium:

An Informal Poster Session with Colgate Students from German 477: Vienna at the Turn of the Century

Join us as students present their work on various cultural aspects of fin-de-siècle Vienna.

Coffee and snacks will be provided.

5:00 pm, the Max Kade German Center, 115-6 Lawrence Hall, Colgate University


Reception and light dinner for faculty and symposium participants

6:00pm, the Max Kade German Center, 115-6 Lawrence Hall, Colgate University


Film screening: Donau, Dunaj, Duna, Dunav, Dunarea (Goran Rebić, Austria, 2003, 89 min.)

Introduction by Robert Dassanowsky, University of Colorado

7:00 pm, Golden Auditorium, 105 Little Hall, Colgate University


Saturday, March 2nd:  The Black and Blue Danube Symposium

Ho Lecture Room, 105 Lawrence Hall, Colgate University

Breakfast: Coffee and Heirloom Meadows Bakery Pastries

Max Kade German Center, 115 Lawrence, starting at 8:30 am

(The Max Kade Center in Lawrence 115-6 will serve as an informal gathering space and coffee station during the day of the symposium.)


Overview of Panels (introduction by chair, three papers @ 20 minutes each, discussant)

I. Watersheds: Empire, Nation, Union, 9:00 am

Chair: Nancy Ries (Colgate University)

Discussant: Matthew Miller (Colgate University)


Robert Dassanowsky (University of Colorado, Colorado Springs), “Taking the Waters: The Danube’s Reception in Austrian/Central European Cinema History”

Tanya Richardson (Wilfrid Laurier University), “Where the Water Sheds: Disputed Deposits at the Ends of the Danube”

Robert Nemes (Colgate University), “Ravaged Empire: Water and Power in Prewar Hungary”


II. Spirit of Place and Pollution, 11:00 am

Chair: Claire Baldwin (Colgate University)

Discussant: Marijeta Bozovic (Colgate University)


Dragan Kujundzic (University of Florida), “The Novi Sad Racija of the Jews, the Danube, and the A-destination of Europe.”

Toma Longinovic (University of Wisconsin), “Hister and Istria: Danube in the Ex-centric Imaginary of Europe”

Scott Spector (University of Michigan), “Elsewhere in the Danube Monarchy: On Scholarly and Literary Uses of German by Jews in the Habsburg Empire”

(catered lunch for symposium participants and attendees in the adjacent Max Kade German center, 12:40 – 2:00 pm)


III. Boundary and Transgression, 2:00 pm

Chair: Phil Richards (Colgate University)

Discussant: Tessa Wegener (Colgate University)


Azra Hromadzic (Syracuse University), “On not Dating Anyone: Politics and Poetics of Romance in a Postwar City”

Karl Ivan Solibakke (Syracuse University), “Fremd bist du dir in deinem Haus: Jelinek and the Roma”

Jennifer Stob (Colgate University), “Expansion, Transgression, Duration: The Place of Time in the Cinema of Hans Scheugl”


IV. Circulation and Flow, 4:00 pm

Chair: Alice Nakhimovsky (Colgate University)

Discussant: Jessica Graybill (Colgate University)


Holly Case (Cornell University), “Revolution from Below: Balkan Consuls Between Social Policy and Foreign Policy in the 19th Century”

Robert Lemon (University of Oklahoma), “New York on the Danube: the Transatlantic Transference of Habsburg Ethnology in Kafka’s Der Verschollene

Sukhdev Sandhu (New York University), “Hydropoetics and the River”


Panel structure:

  • chairs introduce panel topics and presenters, moderate Q&A
  • three papers @ 20 minutes each
  • discussant responses to papers and larger topic @ 10 minutes


7:00 pm

Dinner with panelists


One response to “Symposium

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