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Interview with Jim Bjork--June 13, 2016


Interview with Jim Bjork, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History and Liberal Arts at King's College London. The interview was conducted in London on June 13, 2016. Jim Bjork specializes in the history of nationalism and the social history of religion. His book, Neither German nor Pole: Catholicism and National Indifference in a Central European Borderland, 1890-1922 (University of Michigan, 2008), shows the myriad ways religion competed with nationalism for the "souls" of Upper Silesians around the turn of the century. He’s currently at work on a history of religion in postwar Poland. Interview Themes How Bjork came to the study of East-Central Europe; coming of age around 1989 (min. 1:25) What drew him initially to “Cold War” takes on the communist bloc (4:15) Bjork’s memories of 1989 as a student at Georgetown - "disorienting but exhilarating" (5:55) On his first visit to the region in 1993 and what stood out; the unique atmosphere in Romania (9:20) Learning German, Polish, etc. (14:50) Bjork's plans when he started grad school at the University of Chicago (16:15) On Bjork’s starting cohort at Chicago (17:55) Is there anything that sets his cohort/generation apart intellectually? John Boyer's influential interest in religion and politics; Alf Lüdtke and Alltagsgeschichte (19:35) Comparing Chicago to Columbia in treatment of the Habsburg Monarchy (24:12) How he came to his dissertation/book topic (28:20) On religion as an “independent variable” (31:07) How his interests were influenced (or not) by secessionism of the moment—Yugoslavia, USSR, Czechoslovakia? (34:25) Bjork’s view on plebiscites in the post-WWI period, up to Brexit (38:00) Sovereignty and the problem Westphalia was meant to address (44:00) Were the partitions of Poland in some sense the original geopolitical sin? (46:57) How he came to his current book project on religion in postwar Poland (52:30) On Polish historiographical dichotomies (peasants/szlachta, nativists/Westernizers, Piłsudski/Dmowski, church/nation) and ways of looking at Polish history (58:17) On Vergangenheitsbewältigung and Jan Gross's Neighbors (1:05:55) The recent changes in Poland (with the coming to power of PiS) and how (un)expected it was (1:17:46) On whether there is a desire on the part of East-Central Europeans to stop time (1:23:10) Where the field is going/should go from here (1:29:05) What's different about studying East-Central Europe from Britain as opposed to the US (1:40:42)


"Interview with Jim Bjork--June 13, 2016" (2016). East-Central Europe Past and Present. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.



  • East-Central Europe Past and Present

    This blog features interviews with scholars of East-Central and Southeastern Europe (including the Ottoman Empire and Turkey), Russia and the Soviet Union in which they offer their views on the past, present and future of the region. It also includes—under …