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SSEES Research Blog


A showcase of research from UCL's School of Slavonic and East European Studies staff and students


Archive for January, 2016

FRINGE Centre blog series: S for Statistics

tjmsubl22 January 2016

In the latest entry on the FRINGE Centre blog, Tomáš Cvrček of UCL SSEES considers statistics and their shortcomings. 

Breaking somewhat with the run of blog posts on big intellectual words, here is an entry about statistics, a mundane yawn of a word that starts with S. Where does the letter “S” come in the word “FRINGE”? It does not, although it could perhaps be appended at the end, making it plural. There are many ways in which things can stand on the fringe and one of them is the frontier of measurability. In line with the other themes in the acronym – such as invisibility, elusiveness and grey zones – the letter S can then stand for things that are somewhat in the statistical shadow, out of the gaze of the data collector.

tomas stats


To open with a confession, I think that data, numbers and statistics are a wonderful thing. They can tell us a great deal about lots of things that people are doing. When used properly, they can help one distinguish what is random and what is systematic. At the same time, as primary sources on various social phenomena, data have their limitations but that does not make them useless – rather, the limitations themselves are interesting.


FRINGE Centre blog series: ‘E’ for Elusiveness

tjmsubl7 January 2016

In the sixth of our series of blogs celebrating the launch of the UCL SSEES FRINGE Centre, Uilleam Blacker considers the elusive pasts hidden in the fabric of many east-central European cities.

There are cities in East-Central Europe – like Wrocław, L’viv or Kaliningrad – which were transferred from one state to another after World War II. As a result of the decisions to redraw borders that fell at Yalta, these cities had their populations deported, and new inhabitants forcefully resettled to them. Thus, German cities became Polish or Russian/Soviet, and predominantly Polish ones became Ukrainian, Belarusian or Lithuanian. The Holocaust also played its part in this drastic and violent urban reconfiguration, destroying the large Jewish communities of cities across the region.

Lviv inscriptions

Photo by Uilleam Blacker

Cities are living records of those who build them and live in them. In literature, from urban cultural theory to popular fiction, they are endlessly compared to archives, libraries, or palimpsests: cities are treated by those who represent and study them as memory texts that retain a chaotic, often fragmented record of the past, a record that is constantly reinvigorated, edited and refined. Yet what happens when the previous writers, librarians, and archivists of this urban text are dead or deported, and replaced by new custodians who may not know the language in which the text is written, or who may, indeed, fear and resent what is written in that language? (more…)

FRINGE Centre blog series: ‘G’ for Grey Zones

tjmsubl4 January 2016

In the fifth of our series of blogs celebrating the launch of the UCL SSEES FRINGE centre, Udo Grashoff considers the letter G – for grey zones.


Photo by Cornelia Ogilvie, used with author’s permission.

Today, after the criminalisation of illegal housing in Western European ‘heartlands’ of squatting such as the Netherlands and Great Britain, there is not much squatting or illegal housing left. In England, for example, squatting in residential properties is now a criminal, rather than civil, offence. In recent years, the troublemakers and mucky pups have been shooed away from many European metropolises. Is squatting now merely a historical quirk? And does it hold any interest for the present? If the answer is yes, this is perhaps due to two reasons.


FRINGE Centre blog series: ‘N’ for Neutrality

tjmsubl4 January 2016


In the fourth of our blogs to mark the launch of the UCL SSEES FRINGE centre, Tim Beasley-Murray considers the concept of neutrality.

The story of Icarus, his father Daedalus, and their fateful escape from the labyrinth that Daedalus himself had designed for the cruel King Minos is well-known. Father and son fashion wings from feathers and wax and take flight, leaving Crete behind and the sea far below. Thrilled with the sensation of flight, Icarus soars ever higher. Deaf to the warning cries of his father below that he is flying too high, he climbs closer and closer to the sun. The heat of its rays melts the wax that holds his wings together and Icarus, who had wished to rise to the height of the Gods, falls, only too mortal, to his death in the sea below.

The Fall of Icarus, Pieter Brueghel the Elder, c. 1558 (Photo: Wikimedia commons)

This story, like all myths, is structured by a series of complementary oppositions that give it meaning: father versus son; the wisdom of age versus the foolishness of youth; the Gods on high versus mortals below; the warmth of the sun versus the icy waters of the sea; hubris versus nemesis; life versus death. ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus’, painted in the 1560s and traditionally attributed to Pieter Brueghel the Elder, tells us this story. But this story is not at the centre of the painting. (more…)