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The Institutionalization of Women and Gender Studies in Higher Education

in Central and Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union:


Asymmetric Politics and the Regional-Transnational Configuration1
by Susan Zimmermann
Since the regime change of 1989/1991, Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union
have presented, in the overall and long-term assessment, an area of exceptional growth for
womens and gender studies. Wherever one looks, womens and gender studies are present in one
form or another. Numerous courses are offered specializing in this area and university programs
specializing in this field have, to a greater or lesser extent, established themselves in impressive
range of tertiary institutions with further expansion on the way. In some countries, nonuniversity establishments and initiatives are also playing a role in spreading the word. Even if
these developments are sometimes limited and/or vulnerable, the period since the end of the state
socialism must be seen as one of triumph for womens and gender studies in Central and Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union.
This triumph has taken place against a backdrop of major restructuring of higher education on a
global, regional and national level. All this has been happening not just within and between
tertiary institutions themselves; rather, higher education has been confronted with diverse new
challenges and demands from outside. Though they may differ both in diagnosis and evaluation,
scholars broadly agree that we are witnesses to, and actors in, a sea change that is affecting higher
education on at least three levels: the institutional structure of higher education itself; the form,
content, perspectives and functions of the creation of knowledge; and the relationships between
higher education and its socio-economic and political environment.2 In this paper I investigate
which actors and interests have influenced, whether positively or occasionally negatively, the to
date broadly successful process of institutionalization of womens and gender studies in Central
and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The focus of the research is therefore on
institutional change in higher education. I will show how this change is to a large extent wrought
by interests which influenced the nature and direction of the post-communist transformation

This paper is in part based on my article Gender Studies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Part 2:
Actors and Interests in the Process of Institutionalisation in LHomme: Europische Zeitschrift fr feministische
Geschichtswissenschaft 16 (2005), 63-88. It appeared in Hungarian in the journal Eszmlet (2007) 73, 25-58.
2
Analyses of these changes include Dominick LaCapra, The University in Ruins?, in: Critical Inquiry 25 (1998), 32-55; Walter
D. Mignolo, The Role of the Humanities in the Corporate University, in: PLMA, 115, 5 (2000), 1238-1245; and Jamil Salmi,
Tertiary Education in the 21st Century: Challenges and Opportunities, in: Higher Education Management, 13, 2 (2001), 105-130.

overall. Those global, transnational, national, and local actors that sought to influence the process,
whether powerful, less powerful or sometimes largely uninfluential, did so and continue to do so
for sometimes very different reasons. I inquire into the function that this diverse spectrum of
actors in gender studies - and also in a broader sense in gender politics have had within and in
shaping this transformation. In the process of institutionalization, the role of actors who have
pursued interests that have been principally academic, professional or connected to higher
educational politics should also not be underestimated. I investigate how the constantly changing
configuration of all the above actors and their interests have contributed to institutionalization of
womens and gender studies.
In closing, I will attempt to assess how this overall configuration has shaped and limited the space
for institutionalization of womens and gender studies in Central and Eastern Europe and the
former Soviet Union. Such a reflection is, I believe, an important part of the self-reflection of all
those who practice gender studies within or across the region. It is helpful in the process to
develop and make explicit ones own scholarly and political agenda, to relate it to the above
configuration whether more or less critically and to use and to extend as effectively as possible
the available space for thought and action that it provides. Finally, such an analysis of the case of
Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union may stimulate further reflection on the
complex and in some senses problematic position of gender research and gender studies in the
ongoing major transformation of higher education worldwide, taking into account the real
existing local and regional diversity and unmistakable global asymmetries and relationships.
The present research reveals important and growing differences in the dynamics and results of this
process of institutionalization between different sub-regions within Central and Eastern Europe
and the former Soviet Union. It also identifies three distinct stages, the last of which is not yet
complete.3

A part of the research on which this text is based was completed in 2004-05. As regards the spelling or transcription of names of
non-Latin actors and institutions, I have kept the spellings used in the individual sources.

I. The Beginnings: A time of activists, hesitant restructuring


and the rise of new political interests
The first of these three stages lasted until about the middle of the 1990s. Early womens activists
have dated to the mid or late 1980s a growing dissatisfaction with how various disciplines
approached questions related directly or indirectly to gender issues. Some of these researchers had
already, prior to the political changes of 1989/1991, developed a proven interest in womens and
gender studies.4 In former Yugoslavia, explicit and implicit feminist interest of academics can also
be identified significantly earlier, and the introduction of courses in womens studies in the
University of Ljubljana occurred as early as 1986.5 For some, though not all of the researchers
involved, criticism of existing relationships between the sexes as articulated in the framework of
gender research meant at this time a clear and radical critique of the status quo as a whole,
including but not limited to the real existing political system of the time.
This political system, whose universities were perforce fundamentally opposed to the idea of
separating gender analysis from class analysis and institutionalizing it in the form of womens and
gender studies, collapsed between 1989 and 1991. In the early nineties the first organized groups
and centers concentrating on gender analysis appeared. They focused largely on information and
research, and were typically concerned with exerting public influence on womens and gender
politics. The Moscow Center for Gender Studies, which rapidly became widely known, was
founded as early as 1990, as a part of the Institute for Socio-Economic Population Studies of the
Russian Academy of Sciences. The work of the Center combined a focus on human rights and
close collaboration with various organizations connected to the UN and the World Bank. It
worked equally closely with the Russian government, particularly in supporting the latter in
fulfilling its international obligations in the field of gender policy.6 The Womens Studies Center
of the University of d in Poland and the Vilnius University Gender Studies Center were also
founded by 1992. The latter was funded by the university, the Open Society Institute Lithuania, a

These researchers include Irina Novikova in Latvia and Mria Adamik in Hungary. Various country reports in Claudia Krops
(ed.), European Womens Studies Guide II. Womens International Studies Europe, Utrecht 1997; Interview with Mria Adamik,
24/3/2004.
5
Biljana Kai, Womens Studies in Croatia. Between Feminist Sensibility and Critical Responsibility, in: The Making of
European Womens Studies, Athena/University of Utrecht, 5 (2004), 30-40, see p. 30-33 in this context; Eva Bahovec, Nina
Vodopivec, Tanja Salecl, Chapter 6: Slovenia, in: Gabriele Griffin (ed.), Womens Employment, Womens Studies, and Equal
Opportunities 1945-2001. Reports from Nine European Countries, Amsterdam 2002, 292-339, 319.
6
http://www.gender.ehu.by/en/, 25/3/2004; http://www.gender.ru/english/index.shtml, 19/05/2005.

part of the Soros Foundations Network, and by private sponsors.7 The Romanian Society for
Feminist Analyses AnA, founded in Bucharest in 1990, has operated since 1993 as an officially
registered institution. AnA came into being without any significant institutional or financial
support, following a now classical trio of goals: to contribute to the improvement of the position
of women, to carry out research connected to this, and to introduce gender studies as a subject on
the curricula of universities.8 The famous Prague Gender Studies Center was founded in 1991 with
the support of the Network of East-West Women and financially among others by the FrauenAnstiftung e.V, an organization closely related to the German Green Party, and based in
Hamburg. The Prague Center operated a library and an educational and advisory centre.9 In the
Prague Academy of Sciences a research group Gender and Sociology was formed under Marie
ermkov, also with external financial support, and is still active today.10
All in all, the first attempts to establish the category of gender in research and teaching in the first
half of the nineties are largely attributable to the labors of a number of individuals. These were
embedded in the efforts of newly-created non-state and non-political actors to make gender a
visible category within their political and cultural achievements. It happened here and there that
these collaborated with official politics as the latter reconstructed itself after the regime change. In
any case, the new Gender Agenda was closely linked to the democratization agenda.
Democracy without women is no democracy this motto of the initiator and co-founder of the
Network of East-West Women, Slavenka Drakuli, could in 1991 count as the watchword of
many activists without any need to be more explicit about the desired content of this democracy,
other than it should address gender equity as one of its central issues.

II. Inequalities in the Politics of Higher Education and in the progress


of university reform in the second half of the nineties
It was only in the second half of the 1990s that substantial progress was made in the establishment
of womens and gender studies in university teaching and research (and also outside the confines
of the university). This change occurred on two very different levels.

About Us. http://www.moterys.lt/index.php?set_lang_id=en, 25/3/2004.


Krops, Guide, 4, 49
9
http://www.neww.org.pl/en.php/links/view/1.html?id=24; http://www.zenskestudie.edu.yu/wgsact/czech/cz-cgs.html; all
19/05/2005.
10
http://www.rewindnet.org/asp/OdabirgupeW.asp?OdabranaGrupa=520; 15/05/2005.
8

II.1 The Time of the Americans: the shadow network of private higher education
The systematic institutionalization and promotion of gender studies in Central and Eastern
Europe and the former Soviet Union in the second half of the nineties was in large part thanks to
an internationalized and privately funded parallel sector, or shadow network of higher education.
The existence of this shadow network was principally due to the systematic engagement of US
foundations and/or institutions with a US or Anglo-Saxon background that strove to create
structures comparable to the Anglo-Saxon private university, particularly at graduate level. As a
part of the development of this parallel sector of international private tertiary education, gender
studies acquired a relatively important place. A breakthrough happened in the second half of the
nineties leading to the founding of independent university programs in gender studies on a firm
institutional and financial footing, which was closely connected to the systematization of
academic outreach activities. This breakthrough was thanks to this parallel sector, particularly to
the institutional and financial support offered by donors and foundations of American or AngloSaxon origin. Through this channel, western academics involved in womens and gender studies
gained the opportunity to set up independent courses of study and outreach programs for gender
studies. This development took place not only in the context of newly-established private
universities but also within or in cooperation with centers of excellence funded principally or
exclusively by foreign donors in state universities and various other non-university institutions.
One example of the important role played in the creation of non-publicly financed centers of
excellence located within state universities is the American MacArthur Foundation. As part of
their Initiative in the Russian Federation, founded in 1992 and providing annual funding to the
tune of almost seven million US dollars, the Foundation supports twenty-five such centers in state
universities.11 The Network Womens Program, a part of the Open Society Institute of US finance
magnate George Soros, is a further example of such non-university institutions. This body played
an important role in the creation and expansion of networks for and related to gender studies.
Since 1997, the Network has supported the development, introduction, institutionalization and
networking of gender/womens studies programs in numerous ways. As early as 1998, the
Network organized a first major conference on gender studies for [sic] countries in transition
with 140 participants from thirty countries. In 1999 the Network published the comprehensive

11

http://www.macfound.org/announce/press_releases/1_20_2005.htm; 28/4/2005.

Gender Studies and Womens Studies Directory. Countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the
former Soviet Union and Mongolia.12
Parallel to such systematic outreach activities, in the second half of the nineties various university
programs in gender studies funded by private donors appeared both in state and private
institutions. The Centre for Gender Studies at the European Humanities University in Minsk in
Belarus, led by Elena Gapova, for example was founded in 1997 with the support of the
MacArthur Foundation, and has continued to receive since then regular and significant support
from this source. The Centre set itself the explicit goal of the transformation of the curriculum
through the integration of gender studies. In 2000, the Centre established its own graduate course
of studies in the form of a one-year MA leading to a degree in Cultural Studies with a
specialization in gender studies. Efforts in publishing, as well as related external activities targeted
at propagating the discourse of feminist theory and gender issues in the post-Soviet region,
played an important role in the activities of the Centre.13
A second centre that has played an important part in spreading the word in the former Soviet
Union is the Kharkov Center for Gender Studies, led by Irina Zherebkina, at the Kharkov
National Technical University in Eastern Ukraine. The Center appeared as a result of teaching
activities going back to the early nineties and has had its own series of publications since 1994.
Although located in a state university, the Kharkov Center is largely financed by private donors,
particularly through a Canadian foundation and also by the Network Womens Program. The
Center has for many years organized the University Network Program on gender studies for the
countries of the former USSR.14
In the private European University in St. Petersburg there has existed since 1997 a masters
program in gender studies. The program is attached to the Faculty of Sociology and Political
Sciences and lives on a research grant from the Ford Foundation to implement an innovative

12

With information on other activities: Network Womens Program. Gender and Education. Gender Studies
http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women/focus_areas/c_education; 26/3/2004.
13
Centre for Gender Studies. http://www.gender.ehu.by/en/; 25/3/2004.
14
http://www.gender.univer.kharkov.ua/ENGLISH/index.html (28/4/2005), and information accessible from here about the
Kharkov Center; notes from the Workshop Gender Studies. Teaching Gender Studies, Womens Studies, Queer Theory and
Masculinities in the University, organized by the Curriculum Resource Center (CRC) of the Central European University from
22.-27. March 2004 in Budapest. Oral reports from participant at this workshop have been of great help in the preparation of this
article.

educational program of Women and Gender Studies in Russia. The program is coordinated by
Yelena Zdravomyslova and Anna Temkina, a scholar from the University of Helsinki.15
In the successor states of the Soviet Union in the south of the Russian heartland and in Central
Asia, the process of institutionalization of gender studies through the shadow network of private
educational institutions under US control did not progress in the same way, either in the second
half of the nineties, nor yet in the early years of the new millennium. A Center for Gender
Studies came into existence in the Western University in Baku, Azerbaijan in the summer of 2000.
Its goals include promoting women and gender researchers, integrating gender theory into social
and humanitarian sciences developing educational basis of gender studies and introducing gender
related courses at universities and schools.16 Todays American University in Central Asia
(AUCA), following initial steps starting from 1993, based on an agreement between the Kyrgyz
government and the US Department of State and the Open Society Institute, was founded in the
capital, Bishkek, in 1997. In this distant southeastern outpost of US intervention in the university
systems of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, based on the need to
advance into the world of free markets and democracy there was neither in the second half of the
nineties nor later any systematic effort to create separate course of study in gender studies, even
though individual courses do have a relevant focus.17
At the opposite end of the Central and Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union region, in Hungary,
another, much more important institution for the development of gender studies within the
shadow network of private institutions under US influence appeared in 1991: the Central
European University (CEU). CEU was the first independent private university in the region. In
the first decade of its existence, the American-style graduate university was in effect financed
solely by the Hungarian-born US stock market magnate George Soros. The early date of
foundation of the university is particularly due to Soros close connections with members of the

15

The Gender Studies Program. http://www.eu.spb.ru/en/socio/gender.htm; 25/3/2004.


http://lists.partners-intl.net/pipermail/women-in-war/2001-March/000284.html; 26/03/2004.
17
http://www.auca.kg/textv/about/history/history.htm; 16/05/2005. The mission statement of AUCA identifies as goals of the
University among others, to help educate a new corps of leaders in the Kyrgyz Republic and in other nations of Central Asian
region und to raise standards and methods of teaching and research in the Kyrgyz Republic and throughout the region and in
this process to be informed by American methods and standards. . 16/05/2005. Taalaygul Isakulova, Elmira Shishkaraeva, Gender
Aspects of Education System in the Kyrghyz Republic: Analysis of Situation, Problems and Prospective, Gender Education.
International conference materials. November 4-5, http://www.bilimdon.uz/library/publ.php?s=view&id=132. A printed
version in Russian appeared in the Russian language publication Gender Education. International Conference Materials.
November 4-5, 2003. Bukhara, 46-53. My thanks to Svetlana Shakirova, who provided me with this article and the relevant
bibliographical information.
16

political and (neo-)liberal intellectual elite in Hungary, a connection that made quicker and more
flexible action possible in comparison with the slow pace of heavyweight US research
foundations. In 1994 the Program on Gender and Culture at CEU first saw the light of day.
Within CEU, the creation of the Program was not so much thanks to the vague or sometimes
reserved expressions of interest on the part of individual teaching staff as to decisive appearance of
Nancy Stepan, renowned historian and

wife of Alfred Stepan, who became rector of the

university in 1994. The Program already began its own teaching activities in the academic year
1994-95. Students came from all countries of the Central and Eastern Europe/former Soviet
Union region, with a small percentage coming from other parts of the world. Soon, within the
university the decision was made to establish Gender Studies as a separate interdisciplinary
Certificate Program. In 1996, the first students enrolled in the new program. The program
offered first of all the opportunity to acquire an MA degree in Gender Studies from CEU, a
qualification that was accredited in the USA shortly after. The second possibility entailed
transforming the MA course into a graduate distance-learning course at the British Open
University, which henceforth acted as a sponsoring establishment for the CEU Program on
Gender and Culture. This two-year applied research-oriented course of study led to a British style
MPhil.18
Practically all of the above-mentioned institutions practiced outreach activities in the second half
of the nineties or later, especially programs of pre- or in-service training in the area of womens
and gender studies for academics of all generations and from the broadest imaginable range of
disciplines. Since 1997, the Kharkov Center has, with the support of HESP and the MacArthur
Foundation, held regular international summer schools, which have had significant snowball
effects.19 This kind of outreach has also played an important role over the years in Minsk.20 The
Moscow Center for Gender Studies started its Russian Summer Schools on Gender Studies
(RSSGS), funded by the Ford Foundation, in 1996.21 In 1994-95 Nancy Stepan and her co-director
Mindy Roseman organized the first Inter-Regional Faculty Seminar in Gender and Culture, at
CEU in Budapest, also co-financed by HESP. The seminar included a number of workshops in
which scholars from a wide variety of countries within the region were able to participate and get
18

This information comes from the internal documentation of the present Department of Gender Studies. My thanks to Jasmina
Luki for her help in excavating the relevant document.
19
http://www.gender.univer.kharkov.ua/ENGLISH/institute.html; 12/5/2005; notes from the CRC Workshop 2004, see note
15.
20
http://www.gender.ehu.by/en/; 25/3/2004.
21
http://www.gender.ru/english/index.shtml; 19/05/2005.

to grips with prepared specialist literature. This first regional seminar was followed by four others
until 2002.22 Since 1995, in close cooperation with the Program on Gender and Culture, and since
2001 with the Department of Gender Studies, and financed by HESP, regular groups of scholars
from the region have been invited to CEU for short visits. The aim of these visits has been
curriculum development in the participants home universities, in other words, the development
of courses in the area of womens and gender studies across the disciplines.23 The preparation of
teachers for the first university course in gender studies in Kazakhstan in 1999 also took place as a
part of a similar outreach initiative (funded by the United Nations Development Programme
UNDP) in the form of a crash course at the European University in St. Petersburg, where
gender studies have been institutionalized since 1997.24
All in all, privately-funded teaching activities at these universities, as well as the externally
oriented network activities unfolding with the help of the programs for gender studies at these
universities and/or directly through international NGOs, have played since the second half of the
1990s an important role in spreading the idea and practice of womens and gender studies both
across the region and across the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences. In other words,
in Central Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space there appeared with the development of this
shadow network of largely private elite universities under US-American hegemony, a system of
institutions of womens and gender studies that was oriented towards American-style graduate
education and supported primarily, both academically and materially, by US and Anglo-Saxon
patronage. Specific institutional features of US-style institutions of higher education, specifically
the credit system of teaching, organizational elasticity and administrative self-government within
the university, the individual institute or the discipline, as well as an emphasis on graduate
education and supervision make these institutions very flexible and open for the development and
rapid institutionalization of innovative thematic and interdisciplinary specializations. Added to
this, governments, parliaments, ministries and central administrations of the individual countries
experienced an increasing need for data and information on gender questions systematically
gathered and processed according to the newly imported international standards. It was therefore
in their interests that the university system should be able to produce the relevant expertise and
suitably trained scholars as rapidly and to as high a standard as possible.

22

See note 19.


http://www.ceu.hu/crc/; 19/05/2005.
24
Interview with Svetlana Shakirova in LHomme. Zeitschrift fr feministische Geschichtswissenschaft 16 (2005), 1, 89-96.
23

These and similar institutional and academic factors cannot alone, however, explain why decision
makers in the (partly) internationally financed sector of the new higher education system in
Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union or in its parent institutions abroad
concentrated so systematically on the institutionalization of gender studies in their institutions.
There was in addition a specific political pattern that sought to use gender studies to influence the
nature and direction of the post-communist transformation as a whole, a trend that occurred only
at this time and in this part of the system of higher education. The educational policy actors
involved here formed the spearhead of a highly asymmetrical functionalization of gender as a
symbol and instrument of transnational interest politics as part of unequal or conflictual
international relations. They were interested in the promotion of womens and gender studies not
for and in themselves, or in other words not, or not only, for the purpose of the academic
strengthening and deepening of efforts concerned with the equality of women and men and the
protection of the human rights of women. Their political strivings were concerned rather more
with two other highly politically contentious objectives. They were specifically aimed at bringing
the education system (and also the activities of civil society organizations involved that are active
in this area) into line with those standards that are the norm in the institutional systems of liberalcapitalist market economies. Mainstreaming gender studies into higher education has been a
priority ... for ... the transformation of educational systems in reform.25 At the same time,
moreover, this specific educational policy can be seen in the context of transnational contention
over political hegemony, which surfaces, in part, as a debate about cultural values and symbolic
affiliation. At this level it is not gender studies or the rights of women that is the real agenda. The
commitment of womens and gender studies is far more a vicarious substitute for a commitment
to values of (largely Anglo-Saxon) western democracy and liberal social and economic order, and
to the expectations of the institutions and political actors representing these values that were in
ascendancy in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
At the latest in the second half of the nineties, this coupling of gender studies and democracy
became a predominant configuration from which it became very difficult for those striving to
institutionalize gender studies to separate themselves. At this stage there were, as will be shown
below, very few alternative routes for the institutionalization of womens and gender studies. The
25

Network Womens Program. Gender and Education. Gender Studies


http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women/focus_areas/c_education; 26/3/2004.

10

institutions of the shadow network of private educational institutions under US-American


hegemony thus acquired a key role in attributing to gender studies the role of a symbolic maker
of westernization and the compliant incorporation of the Central and Eastern Europe/former
Soviet Union region into the western-dominated global system. That these actors pursued and
continue to pursue this policy quite deliberately is clear also from the fact that gender studies have
been and still are frequently lumped together with other highly-loaded markers of the
democratic-liberal agenda for Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The
Network Womens Program, for example, describes its principal agenda as working to
promote the advancement of human rights, gender equality, and empowerment as an integral part
of the process of democratization.26 The above mentioned Initiative in the Russian Federation
of the McArthur Foundation pursues, in its own words two key goals: as well as seeking to
strengthen universities and scholarly infrastructure, within which the promotion of gender
studies occurs, there is equally the aim to support a Russia-wide network of human rights
organizations.27
That it should be gender and gender studies (among others) that received the role of a symbolic
marker of compliant westernization is thanks to a wide range of factors. First, there is a long
tradition of using of the womens question or progressive womens politics for purposes of
western political dominance.28 The role of gender studies within the asymmetrical transnationality
of the transformation of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was following
in the footsteps of this tradition. Second, the globally accelerating process of the commodification
of womens labor and the integration of ever more women into ever new areas of business and
commerce lends increasing legitimacy to the formal recognition of equality of the sexes
worldwide. To the extent that a failure to recognize such a global equality agenda can be blamed
as reactionary or rightist, the gender question is highly suitable as a symbolic marker of the
acceptance of liberal globalization. Thirdly, there were factors specific to or highly colored by the
Central and Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union context. These included both institutional and
content-related aspects of the transformation of the higher education system. Policies for the
institutionalization of gender studies could be put forward largely as policies for the creation of a
new discipline or the founding of interdisciplinary facilities that could find their place next to and
26

http.//www.soros.org/initiatives/women/about, 29/04/2005.
http://www.macfound.org/announce/press_releases/1_20_2005.htm, 28/4/2005
28
For example so-called widow burning in colonial India, eg. Lata Mani, Contentious Traditions. The Debate on Sati in Colonial
India. In: Kumkum Sangari, Sudesh Vaid (Eds), Recasting Women. Essays in Colonial History, New Delhi 1989, 88-126.
27

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in addition to the existing disciplines. In this way, the institutionalization of gender studies
presented itself less as an argument over the redefinition or modernization of existing disciplines
or the annexation of institutionally already occupied fields, and rather as the creation of new,
additional academic spaces. In those institutional contexts in which gender possessed a certain
legitimacy as a symbolic marker of academic transformation, this specific academic location of
gender facilitated the potential or actual institutionalization of gender studies in relation to the
well-organized academic lobbies of the various existing disciplines. At the same time, an emphasis
on the institutional independence of gender studies made much easier a precise division between
new and old academic culture. In the official world view of state socialism, the equality of the
sexes was supposed to be a natural benchmark of science and politics. At the same time, however,
womens issues were automatically subordinated to higher category of class issues, and gender, if
discussed at all, was a legitimate subject of research and study exclusively within the context of
class analysis. This was true even in the late and already ideologically softer context of late state
socialism when many researchers only formally touched upon or else tacitly bypassed class
analysis. It was exactly because the old academic culture systematically disqualified gender as an
independent category of analysis that within the new culture gender could become a category of
analysis in its own right as a part of the overarching project of taking leave of class analysis as a
scholarly concept.
Under these circumstances, many of the actors in the Central and Eastern Europe/former Soviet
Union region who were concerned in the second half of the nineties with the institutionalization
of gender studies, found themselves in a political double bind. Feminist researchers and activists
engaged in areas of research and policy such as questions of human rights that are heavily
influenced by international power relations and contention over global hegemony will be very
familiar with this inherent tension.29
In Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, one problem in this context was the
fact that the potentially strongest allies of the proponents of gender studies were to be found in
the camp of those who identified gender issues as a part of a positive orientation to western-liberal
29

Analysis of the tension between transnational (feminist) gender politics and the asymmetry of global relations in the modern
world raise, among others, the question of feminist self-location and the possibility of the development of an associated antihegemonic global feminism. Cf. Isabella R. Gunning, Arrogant Perception, World-Traveling and Multicultural Feminism: The
Case of Female Genital Surgeries. In: Columbia Human Rights Law Review 23 (1992) 2, 189-248; Uma Narayan, Dislocating
Cultures. Identities, Traditions, And Third World Feminism, London, Routledge 1997; Anne Orford, Reading Humanitarian
Intervention. Human Rights and the Use of Force in International Law, Cambridge etc. 2005.

12

and related national and local interests which were overall concerned with a particular model of
transition from communism to a liberal-democratic market economy. Again and again, the
question arose, in such a relationship between gender studies and post-communist transition
whether and how the socially critical potential of womens and gender studies could materialize.
Repeatedly it became apparent that the interests in gender studies of these allies were in fact
instrumental.
The second (academic and) political tension in which advocates of womens and gender studies
found themselves, whether they liked it or not, appeared in regard to the political and academic
forces that offered themselves as potential allies for a critique of western-liberal-oriented
transnational and local hegemonic interests and/or the real existing dynamic and results of the
post-communist transition. Many of these forces and interest groups were either critical or
dismissive in relation to womens and gender studies. They either assumed this area of study to be
inherently tied to hegemonic power interests, or else they justified their deep-seated aversion or
ignorance regarding the critical potential of gender studies with reference to these ties with
hegemonic power interests as they were indeed visible in the broader field of research
development and educational policy. Again and again, the question arose whether and how, in
such a contradictory relationship between critique of global hegemonic interests and gender
studies, the goals of the latter could receive sufficient attention and legitimacy.
The strategies for the development of womens and gender studies that their proponents
developed in the course of coming to grips with this double tension, or with the hegemonic
configuration that stood behind it, were manifold indeed. The position of individual researchers,
initiative groups and those carrying institutional responsibility were decisively influenced by their
respective positions towards three questions. First of all, was it the critique of the geopolitical and
cultural subordination of the post-communist region and the real existing dynamic of the
transition, together with the polarization of society driven by these issues in the individual
countries, that was a principal concern for them; or did they identify themselves rather, out of
conviction, opportunism or simply a lack of viable personal and political alternatives, various
provisos notwithstanding, with the so-called process of westernization? Secondly, did they seek
to explicitly link their position on the first question to their efforts and debates towards
institutionalizing gender studies; or rather did they make efforts, as far as was possible, to keep the
institutionalization of gender studies separate from this highly political question? And finally,
13

which problems, topic areas, and scholarly and political perspectives of womens and gender
studies lay at the center of the interests of each respective researcher, initiative group or bearer of
institutional responsibility?
Depending on the combined answers to these questions explicit or implicit, well thought
through or merely perceptible from particular academic policy practices there arose a broad
spectrum of strategies and (self)-positioning in the process of institutionalization of womens and
gender studies. In this way, researchers who consciously identified themselves with the agenda of
liberal westernization were equally conscious in making use of the higher chances of
institutionalization of womens and gender studies through the shadow network of private
universities under US/Anglo-Saxon hegemony, though not always successfully. For other
researchers, collaboration with initiatives and programs of gender studies that were
unambiguously linked to the transnational hegemonic interests in functionalizing gender studies
and gender research in no way meant that they identified themselves with this context. In a few
rare cases there were researchers who strove to use their very collaboration with such programs to
develop a (gender-focused) scholarly critique of this hegemonic configuration.
Other researchers again, concerned with socially critical gender studies in general and hegemonycritical gender studies in particular, starting from a critique of the hegemonic configuration of the
period or whatever other reasons, resorted to other strategies of institutionalization. Some, for
example, chose the stony and often highly bureaucratic path of institutionalization of gender
studies in the old-established institutions of state education. Like many other researchers who
were active in this part of the university landscape for other reasons, they encountered manifold
forms of resistance, behind which were hidden, in various combinations, rejection of the
(academically) critical potential of gender studies, die-hard male and professional power interests,
and resistance to new dominant structures in the form of westernization through gender studies.
In a small number of countries, particularly socially and hegemony-critical researchers strove to
establish relatively autonomous extra-university research and study centers.
A very differently oriented group of researchers were concerned, in their efforts to promote and
institutionalize gender studies, first and foremost with the positioning of specific, and in some
cases relatively narrowly defined themes and projects in given institutional frameworks. Others

14

again, in contrast, put thematic orientation in second place to efforts to achieve or use
institutional room for maneuver so as to be able to place gender researchers in institutions at all.
Another equally important group of researchers, relatively independent of the institutional
context, were primarily concerned with content agenda setting, striving to prioritize specific
Central and East European/post-Soviet problems or Central and East European/post-Soviet
experiences as a starting-point for anti-hegemonic or socially critical gender studies.
All these strategies, which were hardly or no longer at all based on the institutions of the shadow
network, yielded different, and more or less far-reaching, results in different parts of the Central
and Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union region.
II.2 The increasing regionalization of state higher education policies
The listing of all the different variations and options that were used in the second half of the
nineties in order to deal with the hegemonic configuration already begins to touch on the second
important element of developments during this period. In the still dominant public sector of
education there occurred, in comparison to the first half of the decade, a rather more substantial
establishment of womens and gender studies in university teaching and research.30 This
development took place in part in quite different ways, and in part in very different academic and
political contexts from the parallel, and in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet
Union, much more emphatic boom of gender studies in the private shadow network of higher
education. In the state-financed sector of higher education, the breakthrough of gender studies
occurred first and foremost as the appearance of a growing number of gender studies courses in
the curricula of universities. In the University of Latvia in Riga, the teaching of gender studies
began in 1995.31 Mria Adamik of the Institute for Social Policy and Social Work of the Etvs
Lornd University in Budapest concluded that in Hungary by the middle of the 1990s it was
appreciably easier to move on matters of gender studies in universities. Courses that gave a
central role to gender issues were taught in the capital, as well as in Szeged and other places in the

30

The factual information provided here regarding developments in this period, unless otherwise specified, are taken from Gender
Studies & Womens Studies Directory. Countries of Central & Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union & Mongolia. Ed. Open
Society Institute Network Womens Program, Budapest 1999.
31
http://www.zenskestudie.edu.yu/wgsact/latvia/lv-cgs.html, 25/03/2004.

15

academic year 1994-95.32 Since 1994, the focus on gender at the University of Ljubljana, where it
had had a longer initial history, was systematical incorporated into university teaching, starting in
the Faculty of Social Work, with a substantial course entitled Women and Men in Social
Work.33 The Bulgarian Womens History Group has held courses on gender history at the
Center for Theory and History of Culture at the University of St. Kliment Ohridski in Sofia
since 1998.34
That womens and gender studies have been able gain a better foothold in state universities in
these and other countries since the middle of the nineties is, at an institutional level, thanks first
and foremost to the reforms undertaken to restructure curricula according to western models. In
some countries, competing orientations towards the US system or the imported patterns of (west)
European style university education could be observed.
In this phase, the flourishing teaching activities received in some cases financial support from the
local Open Society Institute and/or its Higher Education Support Program HESP, such as the
Budapest Interdisciplinary Lecture Series in Gender Studies described below.35 In other cases, the
teaching of gender studies developed through cooperation with individual universities engaged in
womens and gender studies in particular EU countries. Elsewhere their success was due largely to
civil society organizations, and remained in part closely connected to these origins. Only some of
these organizations pursued a clearly defined feminist agenda or one that was overtly based on a
politicization of the gender question, such as, in Budapest for example, the Feminist Network
founded in 1990/91. Many organizations emphasized rather from the outset their character as
information or study centers. This was true for the rapidly international famous Prague Gender
Studies Center, led by Irina Siklov, which began to offer or initiate courses in gender studies in
various Czech universities as early as 1993. Another example is the Romanian Society for
Feminist Analyses AnA, which has also been involved in university teaching since 1997. Besides
this, from the middle of the nineties, researchers became increasingly involved, both within their
own universities and beyond, in creating networks for the teaching of womens and gender
studies. One such example is the Interdisciplinary Research Group for Womens Studies at the

32

Interview with Mria Adamik, 24/3/2004.


Mojca Urek, Women and Men in Social Work. A Gender Course at the Faculty of Social Work in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In: The
Making, note 5 above, 46-49.
34
http://www.historians.ie/women/Newsletter%2034%20Bulgaria.htm; 19/05/2005.
35
Interview with Mria Adamik, 24/3/2004.
33

16

Adam Mickiewicz University in Pozna in Poland. The Etvs Lornd University in Budapest
held a five-year lecture series, starting in 1993, for which participants regularly received certificates
for their involvement. The individual lectures were given by a wide range of experts from
academia, civil society organizations and governmental institutions.36 In former Yugoslavia, the
teaching of womens and gender studies remained mostly limited to non-university structures.
The principal institutions involved included the Belgrade Womens Studies Center, founded in
1992, which has held its own courses in gender studies since 1998, and the Center for Womens
Studies in Zagreb, founded in 1995. In Novi Sad in the beginning of 1997 the non-university
Initiative Womens Studies and Research began a two-year alternative, academic, educational,
interdisciplinary course of studies.37 In Romania, a specific configuration of factors including
comparatively highly developed extra-university initiatives around gender studies led to a
situation where complete programs of gender studies were successfully established in state
universities before the turn of the millennium.38
The reasons why the progress of gender studies in the former Soviet Union with the exception
of the Baltic States encountered far more serious obstacles than Central and Eastern Europe not
only in the late nineties but well into the new millennium, had to do first and foremost with the
persistence in the higher education system of institutional structures from the Soviet times. In
countries like Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, and in the Russian Federation itself, as well as in Central
Asia, the curricula in undergraduate studies remained very strictly regulated by centrally
controlled state standards that prescribed a very high contingent of mandatory courses.
Institutional innovation could in practice only be initiated by ministries of education.
Accordingly, courses in the area of gender studies were, if at all, only offered in the framework of
optional subjects available in the fourth or fifth year of study, or in graduate studies. Doctoral
students had and still have to fight with a trend towards marginalization arising, among other
factors, from strict and again centrally controlled publication requirements. Journals from the
field of gender studies are not included in the list of permitted journals, and publications with a
focus on gender are rarely accepted in these official approved journals.39

36

Interview with Mria Adamik, 24/3/2004.


Svenka Savi, Mileva Maric Ajnstaijn [Serbian mathematician and physicist, first wife of Albert Einstein, SZ] Womens Studies
and Research, Novi Sad, Manuscript, 2003.
38
See also the following chapter and the study by Theodora-Eliza Vcrescu, The Short Exultant Life of Gender Studies in
Romania. Gender Studies and Curriculum Transformation. http://www.ceu.hu/crc/crc_resfel_draft2006.html (restricted
access).My thanks to Theodora Vcrescu for making available to me a printed version of this document..
39
According to the agreement of the participants of the CRC Workshop 2004. Notes, see 15 above.
37

17

In part, and in some countries of the former Soviet Union more than others, this persistent
passive opposition to radical institutional reforms of the higher education system constituted a
form of resistance against western hegemonic efforts or westernization tendencies. The hesitant
denationalization and deburocratization of higher education thus functioned as a form of
institutional shield against these influences. This is clearly a defensive strategy and clearly highly
imperfect as such. It would be an interesting research topic in itself to investigate how state
educational policies in the separate post-Soviet countries positioned themselves in relation to
gender studies. From an institutional point of view, in the post-Soviet region in the second half of
the nineties there was, the above described basic configuration notwithstanding, a perceptible
tendency, albeit hesitant, to integrate gender studies into the curriculum. One example worthy of
mention here is the Technical University of Saratov in the south of Russia where gender studies
have had a secure place in the disciplines of social work and sociology since 1996. The Ivanovo
Center for Gender Studies at the State University of Ivanovo 300 km north east of Moscow,
initially created as a research center and civil society organization, was also active in teaching in
the second half of the decade. Here as also with the Kharkov Center and elsewhere in the postSoviet region (as well as support from private finance) an decisive role was played by a important
individual near the top of the university hierarchy who supported the initiative, and who at the
same time had good connections in regional or national education politics.40 All in all, across
Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, driven by an informal association of
gender enthusiasts and individual specialists womens and gender studies made significant inroads
into traditional institutions and disciplines in numerous provincial universities.41
In Central Asia, a first serious attempt to introduce womens and gender studies into the
framework of academic institutions can be identified in 1997. At an international level, this
development formed a part of a strategic initiative of the UNDP in the area of gender and
development that was started at this time targeted at the entire Central Asian sub-region. In
connection with this, in Kazakhstan preparations were initiated for the first series of lectures on

40

CRC Workshop 2004. Notes, see 15 above.


Julija Khmelevskaja, Olga Nikonova, Gender Studies in the Russian Provinces. In: LHomme. Z.F.G. 14, 2 (2003), 357-365, 358,
as well as internet addresses given in this article.
41

18

gender studies mentioned earlier. In Kyrgyzstan in 1998, at the Kyrgyz-Russian (Slavic) University
a chair in Gender Policy of Human Rights was established.42
These tendencies and initiatives were a part of a broader redefinition of the position of Central
Asia in the international system. This part of the world had since the mid-nineties been
categorized by major international organization like the UN and the World Bank as part of the
developing world and deliberately incorporated into the according international policy model. In
this way in this part of the former Soviet Union there rapidly began to develop a pattern of
internationally promoted activities related to womens and gender studies typical of those
countries or continents generally classified as Third World.43 As will be shown below, this was
to have very ambivalent consequences for the subsequent fortunes of womens and gender studies
in higher education.
All in all, the institutionalization of womens and gender studies in state universities in the second
half of the nineties made significant progress in Central and Eastern Europe and less significant
progress in the former Soviet Union, but did not lead, unlike in the shadow network of elite
private educational institutions under US/Anglo-Saxon hegemony, either in undergraduate or
graduate studies, to the creation of self-supporting programs of study awarding their own
degrees.44 The number of institutionalized centers for gender research in state universities in the
same period, however, increased appreciably . This was particularly true for the Baltic States
(Estonia: Unit of Gender Studies, University of Tartu, founded 1995, Womens Studies Center,
Tallinn Pedagogical University, 1995; Latvia: Center for Gender Studies; University of Latvia,
Riga, Faculty of Foreign Languages 1998; in Lithuania there appeared in 1997 a second academic
center in the form of the Womens Studies Center of the University of Siauliai) and those parts of
central and Eastern Europe that bordered on the European Union (Poland: Center for Social and
Legal Studies on the Situation of Women, University of Warsaw, with a post-diploma program in
gender studies from 1997, for which some of the students had to pay tuition fees; Czech Republic:
from 1998 the first academic Centre for Gender Studies at the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of

42

Interview with Shakirova, as above 25; http://www.undp.uz/GID/eng/index.html, and related links, 26/03/2004;
Isakulova/Shishkaraeva, Gender Aspects, as above 18.
43
Various information on the gender-political consequences of this change can be found in Isakulova/Shishkaraeva, Gender
Aspects, see above 18.
44
Cf. below for the appearance of such a program in Romania in 1998.

19

the Charles University took over the agenda of the earlier civil society organization, the Prague
Gender Studies Center.)

III. The Millennium and beyond: an unholy trinity


The millennium in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union signaled a shift to
the third phase of the post-socialist development of womens and gender studies, a phase which
has still not come to a close today. This period was marked an increasing diversification both of
the university landscapes and of the hegemonic configuration(s), as well as the stabilization of a
changed hegemonic configuration in one of the three now clearly distinguishable sub-regions. In
consequence, trends in the institutionalization of womens and gender studies became themselves
highly diversified.
III.1 The EU-ization of Central and Eastern Europe
In Central and Eastern Europe, and in particular in the EU eastern expansion zone, the
development of womens and gender studies has been and continues to a large, perhaps decisive,
extent to be influenced by the dynamics of Europeanization, or more exactly EU-ization of
public higher education. This process has been accompanied by an institutional opening-up of
higher education. This is principally due to the so-called Bologna Process initiated by the
Bologna declaration of 1999, which targets particularly the standardization of structures and
regulation mechanisms of higher education, increased mobility of students and faculty, interinstitutional cooperation (dual and joint degrees), and across-the-board introduction of a
shortened undergraduate education and a medium-level graduate education (separate BA and MA
courses of study).45 The EU-wide transformation and standardization of higher education,
however, goes far beyond these institutional elements of the Bologna Process. The creation of a
European area of higher education is intended to serve in particular [the] objective of
increasing the international competitiveness of the European system of higher education so as to
promote the latter world-wide. It also aims to provide a key way to promote citizens mobility
and employability. All EU member states as well as prior to accession the new member states
of the eastern expansion zone have recognized these goals,46 although there is no legal obligation

45
46

Central documents of the Bologna Process eg. http://www.aic.lv/ace/bologna/poldoc.html, 19/05/2005.


The Bologna Declaration of 19 June 1999. http://www.bologna-berlin2003.de/pdf/bologna_declaration.pdf; 5/2/2007.

20

attached to it. Policies informed by these ambitions have contributed, in the countries of Central
and Eastern Europe, to the liberalization of this sector of education, the implementation of
competitive management and financial mechanisms, and to the dismantling of institutional and
state barriers to the development of the private education sector.47 These processes have led to a
rapid acceleration of the reform processes in higher education in the new EU member states of
Central and Eastern Europe.
This change has gone hand in hand with a clear shift in the hegemonic configuration that has
hitherto partly determined and continues to determine the fortunes and development of women
and gender policies in general and the institutionalization of gender studies in higher education in
particular. The EU-ized hegemonic configuration materialized through a range of decisions of
the EU taken at the highest levels. These began with the Copenhagen resolutions of 1993 and
were, as far as higher education was concerned, largely concluded with the beginnings of the
Bologna Process in 1999.
The resolutions of the EU Copenhagen summit created the central political foundation for the
policy of eastern enlargement as a whole. The European Council of the EU established on this
occasion the objective of membership for the countries concerned, and at the same time
welcomed their efforts ... to ensure a rapid transition to a market economy. Simultaneously, it
laid down the requirements Central and Eastern European countries were to fulfill as follows:
Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions
guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of
minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with
competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. The European Council will continue
to follow closely progress in each associated country towards fulfilling the conditions of accession
to the Union and draw the appropriate conclusions.48 With this decision the EU definitively
determined the real cornerstones of its enlargement policy of the nineties: democracy, market
economy and the adoption of the EU body of laws and stipulations, the so-called acquis
communautaire, for the next decade and beyond comprised the non-negotiable foundation of

47

This can clearly be seen from, for example The Bologna Declaration on the European Space for Higher Education. An
Explanation, prepared by the Confederation of EUs Rectors Conferences and the Association of European Universities and
distributed by the European Commission. http://ec.europa.eu/education/policies/educ/bologna/bologna.pdf, 2/2/2007.
48
European Council in Copenhagen 21-22 June 1993. Conclusions of the Presidency.
http://ue.eu.int/ueDocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/72921.pdf; 13-14, 25/1/2007.

21

accession negotiations with each of the Central and Eastern Europe countries. Just a few months
after this resolution, the first applicants from Central and Eastern Europe rolled up (Hungary in
March and Poland in April 1994). A few months before Copenhagen the EU had already
internally, with the agreement of the notorious Maastricht criteria (ratified in May 1993), taken
the first steps towards a united economic, monetary and foreign policy.49
The decisive step for gender policy and gender studies came a few years later, with the Amsterdam
Treaty, signed in 1997 and ratified in 1999. This resolution, in the form of amendments to the EC
treaty of 1951, introduced for the first time extensively interpretable provisions for the equal
treatment of women and men in the basic legal framework of the community.50 Article 3 of the
treaty has included since then a wide range of common policies of activities to be introduced
(Article 2). In each of these areas, Article 3.2 states, the Community shall aim to eliminate
inequalities, and to promote equality, between men and women.51 The Amsterdam Treaty thus
marked the arrival of gender mainstreaming, as it had been worked out in global development
and North-South politics, to the European Union.52 The community framework strategy for the
promotion of equality between women and men originating from the European Commission for
the period 2001 to 2005 set in stone that the equal treatment legislation is a firmly established
integral part of the acquis communautaire that countries applying for EU membership have to
respect.53 Among the common policies or activities that were to embrace gender
mainstreaming at all levels, the Amsterdam Treaty enumerates promotion of research and
contribution to education and training of quality. In this way it came to serve as an important
point of departure for the dynamic realization of the common scientific and higher educational
policy of the Community and the Bologna Process, initiated in 1999, which has since then been
further extended and deepened at the highest EU level through several steps (Prague
Communiqu 2001; Berlin Communiqu 2003; Bergen Communiqu 2005), and is still not
completed.

49

Hannes Hofbauer. Osterweiterung. Vom Drang nach Osten zur peripheren EU-Integration, Vienna 2003, Ch. 2.
This required intensive lobbying by womens organizations. Claudia von Braunmhl, Gender Mainstreaming Worldwide.
Rekonstruktion einer Reise um die Welt. In: sterreichische Zeitschrift fr Politikwissenschaft 30 (2001) 2, 183-201, here 192.
51
http://www.ena.lu/mce.cfm; http://europa.eu/scadplus/treaties/ecsc_en.htm;
http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/equ_opp/treaty_en.html, all 24/1/2007.
52
Von Braunmhl, see above 51, 191.
53
http://ec.europa.eu/employment_social/equ_opp/strategy/com2000_335_en.pdf; 24/4/2007.
50

22

Actors in higher educational policy with an interest in womens and gender studies in the
candidate countries of the eastern enlargement thus found themselves, even years before their
actual entry, faced with a clearly-predetermined political configuration. This tight political
triangle was composed of the liberal and competitive transformation and EU-ization of higher
education in these countries, the closely-coupled affirmation of market economy and democracy,
and the political recognition of the relevance of gender (as an equality issue) in education through
which the legitimacy of womens and gender studies was in principle at least no longer in
question. The three sides of this triangle of EU-ization were available in Central and Eastern
Europe only as a package, and henceforth signaled the hegemonic configuration that these actors
had in one way or another relate to.
As a result, the terms and dynamic of the institutionalization of womens and gender studies
shifted in many respects. For one, the opening up of inherited structures of higher education now
affected the higher education system as a whole and this process was unquestionably embedded in
a variation of the post-communist transition which now increasingly had to be considered as a
fait accompli. Gender thus to a large extent lost its function as one of a small number of
selectively chosen, highly politically laden markers of this transition. As the accession process and
then membership in the EU became a fact, a mixture of indifferent tolerance and persistent
ignorance towards womens and gender studies became the norm in higher education. Open
dismissal of gender studies per se as foreign, liberal or western are now in most countries to
be found only in the ranks of right-wing and occasionally left-wing populism.
Secondly, through this process of opening up of the whole system of higher education, the
chances for the institutionalization of womens and gender studies have improved at least in
principle. This has by no means, however, automatically been accompanied by a substantial
expansion of the potential for development of a gender-related scholarly critique of EU-ized and
local hegemonic interests and/or the real existing dynamic and results of the post-communist
transition. On the one hand, the chances of combining gender-related and socially-critical interests
were improved in principle. This was connected to the increasing legitimacy of a research focus
on gender issues, and the embedding of gender into a much wider and more loosely defined
spectrum of values and interests that found their place within the EU-ized hegemonic
configuration. On the other hand, the EU-ized hegemonic triangle described above
simultaneously developed a far more comprehensive influence and political and cultural
23

radiation than the hegemonic configuration of the second half of the nineties. Topics, paradigms
and dynamics of institutionalization that bore one of the many labels of the EU-ized hegemonic
configuration surrounded the development of womens and gender studies like a dense,
impenetrable thicket. There remained little space for a gender-specific critique of the politics of
unequal local and EU-wide dynamics of the eastern enlargement, the social and political economy
of the EU, or its self-positioning in the unequal global system.
In the reality of institutionalization, the EU-ization of gender studies had an impact on various
levels. The establishment of courses of study, particularly at MA and PhD level, based on interuniversity cooperation (dual degrees, joint degrees) has gained increasing importance. All-EU
regional diversification counts in this regards as an important requirement that applicants for EU
research and cooperation support have to and want to meet. The involvement of partners from
the eastern enlargement zone has by now become part of accepted etiquette, although hardly
any initiatives for programs of this sort have so far come from the region itself, and thus
universities from Central and Eastern European countries are (still) rarely to be found
coordinating such projects. The components of the promotion of student mobility do at least
offer young gender researchers from Central and Eastern Europe extra opportunities. We
certainly witness a certain valorization of gender-studies-related expertise and knowledge with
reference to Central and Eastern Europe in the current context of inclusion or rather annexation
of the region into the European Union. To what extent, however, this trend will become a longterm feature, and which scholarly perspectives will, in the process, shift to the center or the
periphery of the field internationally, remains to be seen.
One important institution that pursues its own kind of EU-ization of womens and gender
studies is the gender studies network ATHENA (Advanced Thematic Network in Activities in
Womens Studies in Europe) that by the end of 2006 had begun the third cycle of its activities.
ATHENA has been supported within the respective Framework Programmes of the European
Community for research and technological development throughout these circles. A second
institution, the AOIFE (Association of Institutions for Feminist Education and Research in
Europe), founded according to the appropriate EU guidelines in 1996, works in close cooperation
with ATHENA. Since the beginning of the nineties, supported by a small number of other
western gender studies programs, the Womens Studies Program at the University of Utrecht has
played a significant role in the preparations for this Europeanization of womens and gender
24

studies. ATHENA II (2003-2006) collaborated, before their actual accession in 2004 and 2007,
with partners from all countries of the eastern enlargement zone as well as with institutions from
Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.54 In its publications and collaboration activities, ATHENA
makes efforts to reduce the huge gaps in our knowledges and on our bookshelves that appear as
regards countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and small countries in Europe
generally.55 Leading figures within the (as yet?) western-dominated ATHENA network seek to
contribute to overcoming gender-studies-related hierarchies in Europe and creating more inclusive
European womens and gender studies as regards content. There has, however, been rather less
reflection on the political function of the EU-driven Europeanization of academic identities and
collaboration, on the current policy of the EU in the world, or on the role of the hegemonic
configuration that was inherent in the dynamic of the eastern enlargement in the process of the
institutionalization of gender studies.
From the beginning, activities aimed at the institutionalization of womens and gender studies
formed the focus of the Europeanization activities of ATHENA. One of the two working groups
financed by the first SOCRATES grant that ATHENA received within the Fifth Framework
Programme (1999-2002) of the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission for the
period 1999-2001, was concerned with the development of a European Womens Studies
Curriculum. Since 2006, the Network is again concentrating, in the third round of its EUfinanced activities, within one of three focuses, on curriculum development, the aim of which is
to produce innovative teaching material, new modules, co-taught classes and joint programmes,
at BA, MA and doctoral levels. The official recognition of joint degrees on all three levels is the
main purpose of the activities.56
In the coming years, then, the ATHENA Network can be expected to have an important role for
in building up and developing cross-institutional gender studies programs. ATHENA is not
however, the only motor driving this trend. Just a few years after the beginning of the new
54

AOIFE in contrast was and still is significantly less actively represented in the enlargement zone. Janette van der Sanden, Truth
or Dare? Fifteen Years of Womens Studies at Utrecht University, Utrecht 2003, 72-75; AOIFE Annual Report 2000. Written by
Elisabeth K. Lorenzen, January 2001; http://www.athena2.org/public/partners.php, 25/3/2004 and 4/2/2007;
http://www.let.uu.nl/aoife/MEMBERLIST.HTML; 4/2/2007.
55
Gabriele Griffin, Rosa Braidotti (eds), Thinking Differently. A Reader in European Womens Studies, London 2002. The quoted
material is from the preface, 2.
56
http://www.athena2.org/index.php?pageid=2;
http://www.athena2.org/index.php?ac_id=14&athena_template=custom_module_2&pageid=6;
http://www.athena2.org/private/archive.php?action=all&result_set=0 link to Annex I. Output structure Athena 3; all
4/2/2007.

25

millennium supported by EU funds a considerable number of such programs are under


development, including GEMMA (Joint European Master Degree in Womens and Gender
Studies), with the participation of the Polish University of d and the Budapest CEU, as well as
MATILDA (Joint European Master Degree in Womens and Gender History), involving the St.
Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia and Budapest CEU.57
This kind of initiative can build in Central and Eastern Europe on the wave of new gender studies
programs that appeared around the millennium thanks principally to the EU-ization of the higher
education system of these countries as part of the Bologna Process in the late nineties. The
considerable differences that existed between the higher education systems in the different
countries played a major part in determining the paths and results of this wave of
institutionalization.
The Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic, for example, has had since the academic
year 2004-05 an independent three-year half BA degree course in Gender Studies. This degree is
housed in the Faculty of Social Sciences, and must be studied together with a second main subject
from those on offer in this faculty. The rapid establishment of the program was due to the
combination of a number of factors. The dean seized the opportunity to use EU funds to convert
the traditional education system into the three stage BA/MA/PhD system. A group of young,
ambitious academics from different backgrounds, some of whom had degrees in gender studies,
had already founded a Gender Center NGO in 2000 and were readily available. The relevant
ministry quickly authorized the introduction of gender studies at BA level as part of the EUfunded reform. Finally, the prompt accreditation of the new program was thanks in part to the
fact that the plan for the development of the program fitted in with the policy interests of the
ministry particularly in the area of gender mainstreaming in the Czech Republic and the
requirements of the EU. According to some who were involved in the Gender Center NGO, and
who had hoped to start by creating an MA program, the fact that the new program is in fact a
course of BA studies is purely accidental.58

57

http://www.ugr.es/~gemma/; http://www.dieuniversitaet-online.at/beitraege/news/matilda-joint-master-in-women-s-andgender-history/66.html; both 4/2/2007.


58
Since 2006 Masaryk University has been a member of AIOFE. http://fss.muni.cz/gs/; 19/05/2005;
http://gender.fss.muni.cz/english.php, 4/2/2007; Notes from the CRC Workshop 2004, see 15.

26

At the same time as this was happening in Brno, in Hungary, where there were also plentiful EU
funds available for the conversion to a BA/MA system, efforts to initiate and fund the
introduction of BA programs in gender studies were made practically impossible by the specific
submission characteristics of the education ministry and the highly centralized and hierarchical
functioning of the accreditation system.59
In Romania, in contrast, again due to a peculiar configuration of interests and institutional
structures, there was a boom in institutionalization around the millennium. The process of
Europeanization of the higher education system here was not so closely related to EU higher
education policy as such, and for the time being remained closely entangled with continued
extensive support for gender studies through organizations such as particularly those of the Soros
Network. Among the other international actors, several west European universities or their
womens studies lobbies continued to play a key role in the institutionalization of gender
studies. Local and national factors were, however, most decisive in shaping successful strategies.
Romania has, by Central and Eastern European standards, long pursued a fairly liberal higher
education policy in issues of university autonomy.60 This liberal policy, like in the US higher
education system, makes it possible to establish courses and programs of study largely
independent of ministerial control. In addition to this, following the establishment of gender
studies in the country in the early nineties, a large number of highly motivated researchers were
available to make the most of these advantageous conditions to advance the institutionalization of
gender studies. The Interdisciplinary Group for Gender Studies at the Babe-Bolyai University in
Cluj-Napoca was efficient and successful in introducing a two-semester MA program with the title
Gender, Differences and Inequalities as well as a four-semester undergraduate degree entitled
Gender, Society, and Culture. Financial support was provided by HESP and the initiative as a
whole was professionally assisted by the Research Centre for Womens Studies at the
University of Sussex, Brighton, in England, and the Centre for Womens Studies an the
University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands.61 The Faculty of Political Sciences at the National
Academy for Political and Administrative Sciences in Bucharest has since 1998 run an
independent three-semester MA Program in Gender Studies, developed in close cooperation with
the NGO AnA. The conjunction of a variety of mutually reinforcing interests led to its creation:
59

At the same time, gender researchers in Hungary were agreed that their interests focused on the development of MA level
programs.
60
http://www.bologna-berlin2003.de/en/national_reports/index.htm; 15/1/2007.
61
Interdisciplinary Group for Gender Studies (leaflet); and www.gender.salve.ro.

27

the renowned researcher Mihaela Miroiu led the program and was at the same time dean of the
Faculty of Political Sciences. Two ministries encouraged civil servants from the field of education
and labor market policy to participate in the courses of the new program. The program was
supported by HESP and a British university.62 And finally, Miroius husband, who occupied a
high position in the hierarchy of the education ministry, also had a decisive influence on the
official recognition of the program.63 A further degree program in gender studies was established a
few years ago in Timioara.64
In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, (until 2003, then since June 2006, with the withdrawal of
Montenegro from the union, Serbia and Montenegro), the green light for the substantial
institutionalization of gender studies in universities came only after the NATO attacks of 1999,
and thus henceforth with the way clear to send Western democracy (with an American accent)
through gender. The Belgrade Womens Center has succeeded, since 2001, in establishing gender
studies at graduate level in the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade. Starting
in the academic year 2003-04, with the support of the Open Society Foundation, the entire nonuniversity study program of the Center were relocated in the Faculty.65 In the same year, a
complete two-year MA degree in gender studies was created at the University of Novi Sad. The
body responsible for the program, whose students have to pay tuition fees, is the Center for
Gender Studies, founded in 2003. An important factor in the successful institutionalization of the
program was the involvement of Fuada Stankovi, an academic with long experience in
multiculturally-oriented US gender studies, in the administration of the university, and Svenka
Savi, a scholar of similar experience, in the organization of the MA program.66
In the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, the first MA program in gender studies in the country was
launched at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the St. Kliment Ohridski University
in the academic year 1999-2000.67

62

http://www.anasaf.ro/english/index(eng).html, 19/05/2005; Notes from the CRC Workshop 2004, see 15.
Vcrescu, see 39, referring to her Interview with Miroiu.
64
Notes from the CRC Workshop 2004, see 13.
65
Daa Duhaek, The Belgrade Womens Studies Centre The Next Stage? In: The Making, see. 5, 41-45, here see 41, 45.
66
University of Novi Sad. Association of Centres for Interdisciplinary and Multidisciplinary Studies and Research. University
Centre for Gender Studies. Profile (copy); Notes from the CRC Workshop 2004, see 15
67
http://www.historians.ie/women/Newsletter%2034%20Bulgaria.htm, 19-05-2005.
63

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The identifiable dominant tendency towards EU-ization of higher education systems in the
Central and Easter European enlargement zone and the forces that seek to draw in further
countries of the region is not always necessarily accompanied by a full retreat of the private
shadow network of private institutions and programs under US/Anglo-Saxon hegemony.
Developments in this sector nonetheless show signs of crisis, or are at least uncertain and
inconsistent. In 2004, for example, the gender studies programs at the University of Warsaw and
the Charles University in Prague had to come to terms with the fact that the current era of
financial support from major US foundations was nearing the end, and it was highly unlikely that
further financial support would be forthcoming. George Soros, to name another example, had
already announced at the beginning of the decade the progressive financial withdrawal of the
Open Society Institute across Central and Eastern Europe (with the partial exception of former
Yugoslavia) by 2010. The most important institution of the shadow network of private/US
higher education in the eastern enlargement zone, CEU in Budapest, meanwhile pursues a
strategy of double establishment. Recently the fully accredited US university has, after long and
difficult preparation, also achieved full accreditation as a Hungarian higher educational
institution, in this way gaining equal access to the higher educational system of the EU and its
countries.68 The Department of Gender Studies has reacted to the demands and possibilities of
dual US and Hungarian accreditation with a strategy of expansion of study possibilities, aimed at
facilitating its close incorporation in the European Higher Education Area.69
III.2 The Fight for Russia and its allies and the developmentalization of Central Asia
In the post-Soviet space, the years either side of the millennium were marked on the one hand by
continuity and on the other by important changes. Rigid educational standards laid down by the
state and central control of curricula continued to obstruct a more substantial institutionalization
of gender studies in the non-private sector of higher education. At the same time, in Russia and
the western successor states of the Soviet Union, state or regional educational bureaucracies did
become increasingly involved in the subject area. Many academics, however, have expressed
considerable concern and disappointment at the content and theoretical level, for example, of the
text books that have appeared as a result. These concentrate, according to the general agreement
of some of the participants at a workshop of the Curriculum Resource Center of CEU in

68
69

http://www.ceu.hu/introduction.html#7; 4/2/2007.
See links under Graduate Programs on http://www.gend.ceu.hu/; 4/2/2007.

29

Budapest in 2004, in a narrow manner on questions of family, social policy and the labor market,
and present a view of womens issues that is entirely outdated.70 The wealth of, and also debate
and divergence between, the different perspectives and schools of gender studies that have
developed in Russia and other successor states of the Soviet Union are quite simple ignored.71
These problems notwithstanding, the spread of gender studies continues, particularly in the form
of new courses in more universities.
The first of two important changes in the process of institutionalization of gender studies in the
former Soviet Union since the millennium, and specifically since 11 September 2001, has to do
with the shift or expansion of the geographical focus of many activities of non-European
international actors in matters related to gender studies in Central Asia, the Caucasus and other
southern countries of the former Soviet Union. Here the deployment of gender studies in the
service of geo-strategically motivated policies of keeping in the western orbit72 has moved
prominently into the foreground once again. It is particularly actors with US backgrounds that
have increasingly focused their attention on Central Asia and other southern countries of the
former Soviet Union. On the part of the Soros Network, the Network Womens Program, using
the Womens Information Consultative Center founded 1995 in Kiev as its headquarters, has since
1999 conducted its Empowering Education program, targeted not only at higher education, in
Central Asia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine and Lithuania. The three-year long
program Gender Studies Development in the Newly Independent States, also organized by the
Network Womens Program of the Open Society Institute, deals with in-service training and
support for the research activities of scholars. The Program, it is stated, aims to transform
higher education through the integration of gender studies.73 A major international Conference
Gender Education: Theory and Practice with a focus not limited to higher education took place
in 2003 in Uzbekistan. The over one hundred participants came from Central Asia, the Caucasus,
Mongolia, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia, and the Network Womens Program, the key-resource
persons being from the Moscow Center for Gender Studies, the Consultative Center in Ukraine

70

Notes from the CRC Workshop 2004, see 15.


A certain impression of these debates and insights can be gained from, for example articles published in 2003 by Almira
Ousmanova, Anna Temkina and Elena Zdravomyslova, and Irina Zherebkina in: Studies in East European Thought. Special Issue:
Gender and Culture Theory in Russia Today, 55, 1 (2003).
72
As formulated by Frederick Cooper, Decolonialization and African Society. The Labor Question in French and British Africa,
Cambridge 1996, in his Analysis of the Process of Decolonization in Africa.
73
http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women/events/school_20050309; 19/05/2005.
71

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and the Kharkov Center.74 With the support of HESP and the Network Womens Program, the
first summer school for gender studies was held in Central Asia in 2002 and the first student
conference in 2001.75
At the same time, the activities of major international organizations flourished in Central Asia,
particularly those of the UNO and its sub-organizations concerned with the topic of gender, as
well as the World Bank. As part of their developmentalist and policy-oriented activities, these
organizations pursued a multi-facetted womens and gender policy agenda.76 Although the
academic institutionalization of gender studies was in no way a priority of their activities, these
international organizations nevertheless certainly relied on the relevant academic expertise in
implementing their projects and programs. This was equally true of the governments of the
Central Asian countries, which have had to submit regular reports, action plans and programs on
gender policy in order to fulfill the requirements of the international organizations and
conventions that they have joined. In Kyrgyzstan, for example, there have been efforts since 2002,
initiated by state institutions concerned with gender issues and higher education in close
cooperation with international organizations, to improve higher education in the area of gender
studies. In 2003 the Soros Foundation Kyrgyzstan and the UNDP Program on Social Governance
provided financial support for this initiative.77 In the former capital of Kazakhstan, Almaty, a
Center for Gender Studies has been opened at the Al-Farabi Kazakh State National University
with the support of UNESCO.78
With all this, gender studies in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the other countries of the southern
former Soviet Union have experienced less of a substantial institutionalization in the form of
independent degree or study programs in state universities, and more a development boost at the
level of networking, as well as in the publications, teaching activities and policy-oriented research
of numerous individual scholars.79

74

Interview with Shakirova, see 25; http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women/focus_areas/c_education;


http://www.soros.org/initiatives/women/focus_areas/initiatives/women/events/gender_2; both 26/3/2004;
http://www.civilsoc.org/nisorgs/ukraine/kyiv/womn-icc.htm, 19/05/2005.
75
HESP documentation of their supported Summer Schools. My thanks to Mariann J for making this document available.
76
A comprehensive overview of the relevant information can be found at the Central Asian Gateway. Web site on Development
Issues, http://www.cagateway.org/ , key words gender and gender studies, 16/05/2005.
77
Isakulova/Shishkaraeva, Gender Aspects, see 18.
78
My thanks to Svetlana Shakirova for this information.
http://www.unesco.kz/?lang=&sector=&region=&newsid=1449&announce=, 5/2/2007.
79
Cf. also interview with Shakirova, see 25.

31

A second important development influencing the fortunes of the institutionalization of gender


studies in an increasing number of countries across the former Soviet Union stems from the
various waves of the struggle between the liberal-democratic forces in the West and in the relevant
countries, on the one hand, and local regimes potentially or actively opposing westernization or
pursuing political autonomy on the other. In this debate, policies connected to higher education
and behavior towards international and western NGOs which are active in this area and
therefore also in matters of the institutionalization of gender studies have played an important
role, both symbolically and politically. One specific example is the forced closure by the
Belarusian authorities of the European Humanities University (EHU) in Minsk in the summer of
2004. President Lukashenko officially justified the step as follows: We will educate our elites and
our future leaders ourselves in Belarusian institutions of higher education. We neither accept nor
tolerate that Belarus should be coerced, in whatever form or direction. The EHU, in contrast,
was accused of striving to train an elite that would lead Belarus towards the West. The massive
international protests in the West against this measure involved numerous important institutions,
including the Council of Europe. With enormous support, particularly from those foundations
supporting the EHU, the EHU-International was rapidly created, a virtual distance university in
exile, based in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.80 The McArthur Foundation made a considerable
financial contribution to this project. These funds are to be used, among other things to
strengthen the universitys PhD and Gender Studies programs.81 The masters program of the
Centre for Gender Studies continues to accept new cohorts of students and since 2006 EHU is
accredited as a Lithuanian university.82
It remains to be seen how the geopolitically and economically motivated struggle over the
relationship of various countries of the former Soviet Union towards the West will influence, in
other instances, the future of the institutionalization of gender studies in this part of the world. So
long as higher education remains a domain for this symbolic and political struggle about
westernization and opening up to the free market, gender studies cannot avoid continually
trying to come to terms with the role ascribed to it as a symbolic marker.
***

80

www.ehu-international.org provides a comprehensive description of the events, protests and various other reactions in English
language. My thanks to Tams Krausz for the translation of the explanation given by President Lukashenko, which was only
available in Russian on this website.
81
http://www.macfound.org/announce/press_releases/1_20_2005.htm; 28/4/2005.
82
http://www.gender-ehu.org/?137_1; http://www.ehu-international.org/chronicles/chronicles_eng.html; both 5/2/2007.

32

In many countries of the former Soviet Union, the institutionalization of gender studies has been
trapped in a not always happy alliance with the often contested westernization of the education
system and its simultaneous reform in the direction of the entrepreneurial university. The same
is true, in other ways, for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, which are increasingly
bound up in the process of EU-ization of higher education policy. So long as policies of
westernization or EU-ization continue to dominate, this configuration is undoubtedly beneficial
for the institutionalization of gender studies. If, however, one looks for the development of
gender studies perspectives that address not only the inequality of the sexes and of gender
relations, but also the inequality of relations between the West and the other half of Europe, as
well as the non-European successor states of the former Soviet Union, such optimism is far less
appropriate. Yet such a double critical agenda setting is by no means ruled out by the existence of
the not always amicable alliance described above. Once the context of international inequality
both within and beyond Europe in research and teaching is made explicit, commitment towards
womens and gender studies in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union has
much better chances of realizing this double critical potential and of combining gender critique
and social critique of past and present of Central and Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space.
Translated from German by John Harbord

33