Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden's Austria Centre traveled to Berkeley, California for the Annual Convention of Austria Centers

The fifteenth Annual Convention of Austria Centers took place in Berkeley, California, USA in May 2023. There, colleagues gathered from around the world, coming from Jerusalem, Olomouc, Vienna, Budapest, Edmonton, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Berkeley and, of course, Leiden. The Austria Center Leiden was represented by Prof. dr. Sarah Cramsey (who in fact did her doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley), Mr. Steven Verburg (B.A. graduate in History) and Ms. Anneke Romijnders (B.A. graduate in Religious Studies and current B.A. student in International Studies). The trio joined their colleagues from around the world on trips to the beautiful redwood forest in Muir Woods, the “campus” of Google, Stanford University, the city of San Francisco and, of course, to sights in Berkeley, California. Beyond this, Cramsey, Verburg and Romijnders gave presentations to the conference attendees and interested members of the public to showcase the great work in Central European studies being done at Leiden.

According to Romijnders, the event was a “unique coming together of a diverse group of people, all passionate about research related to Austria. ‘Austria’ should be understood in the broadest sense here. Research topics ranged from modern-day integration policies in Vienna to religious figures in the Byzantine Empire. As a result, the conference showed the rich history of Austrian studies while allowing for, a variety of interests to come together.”  For Verburg, the event stimulated “a scholarly and cordial atmosphere” to discuss “ongoing research on Central Europe, which allowed for a broad understanding of historical, and current, developments and topics of interest. This atmosphere was both created by the academic events in the mornings, as well as by the well-organised activities in the afternoon and the lively dinners that followed.”  At the dinners, Romijnder remarked, we heard “conversations simultaneously in German, English and Czech. This made for some wonderful interactions stimulated by a shared love for Austrian studies. Yet, it also showed the power of national roots and belongingness. After all, an Austrian will react differently to a story about the expulsion of German-speaking citizens than a Dutch person. These small-scale interactions allowed us to see ‘Central Europe’ in action.

This event was generously sponsored by the OeAD, Austria’s Agency for Education and Internationalisation which works on behalf of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.  Members of the OeAD attended this event as well and had the chance to see more than a dozen presentations of original research and hear from all the Austria Center directors. Next year, the annual conference will take place in Budapest, Hungary. 

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