Close Encounters across the Iron Curtain - Call for Papers

University of Amsterdam 14-15 October 2016

28 April 2016

Twenty-five years after the collapse of Communism, mutual perceptions of “the East” and “the West” seem more than ever to be building on Cold War stereotypes. Exploring the roots of this phenomenon, the European Travel Cultures research group at the University of Amsterdam invites the submission of proposals for the second “Close Encounters” workshop.

The workshop will focus on the sense-making of tourist encounters between East and West during the Cold War. How did tourists and travellers understand their encounters with people, cultures, and political systems on the other side of the Iron Curtain and how were these meanings disseminated and received?

We are particularly interested in papers dealing with East – West encounters at the intersection of mediality and materiality:

  • What kind of media (TV, Radio, Printed matter, dictionaries, books, maps etc.) did tourists use in preparation of their journeys? How critical did the users approach these source of information?
  • How was “being elsewhere” experienced and understood by people traveling across the Iron Curtain for leisurely purposes and work? We invite participants to include attempts at mutual understanding as well as conscious attempts at self-distancing.
  • How did travel experiences influence self-conceptions and identities of the travellers while being abroad and back home? 
  • What kind of images, stories and material souvenirs did the tourist bring home and how did they try to circulate their experiences and interpretations back home?

We particularly welcome papers from the fields of history of the everyday, consumption history, media studies, reception studies, and cultural anthropology exploring mutual misinterpretations, misreadings of the alien environment, cases of conscious and subconscious misconduct etc.

Participants will be required to submit papers for pre-circulation four weeks ahead of the conference. We also ask for the submission of original contributions as we plan publishing an edited volume.

Deadlines: Please send an abstract of up to 500 words and a short bio (max. 100 words) to before 15 June 2016. Conference papers are due on 15 September 2016.

Conference fee: € 50 covering lunches and the conference dinner.

Funding: Very limited funding is available to cover accommodation and travel costs. Please indicate when submitting the abstract if you would like to apply for funding.

Conference organisers: Dr Christian Noack (; Dr Sune Bechmann Pedersen (

Paul Koopman

Published by  Amsterdam School for Regional, Transnational and European Studies