Regional Conference on Censored Images in Present and Recent Europe


A regional conference on censorship will be held during 27-30 September at Tranzit House, in Cluj, Romania.

Papers from students and scholars in social sciences (anthropology, history, psychology, sociology, philosophy) as well as proposals from journalists and artists are equally welcomed.

The severe regulation of what is permitted to be said or shown is not the exclusive characteristic of totalitarian-authoritarian political systems. In the euphoria of the 1989 events, most of us thought that once communists were gone the path was open for what was imagined as “total freedom”. The common sense perception of the obtrusive interdictions had been associated only with the communist regime and the incipient democracy was seen as free from blatant silencing of alternative voices. This view has turned out to be the outcome of naively held wishes. Although the forceful state regulation of public space is no longer the rule in most Eastern European societies, there are instances where censorship is nevertheless present, both in the form of   “survivals” of adaptive strategies linked to self-imposed limitations under communism and in more hidden, less transparent practices. The living memory of the former Secret Services, for example, continues to generate suspicion and inhibits the openness of public information flow.

What types of censorship regimes are relevant today, what are the objects subjected to interdiction, who and how acts as censor? The starting point of our questions is the recognition that censorship also works in a subtler manner. Apart from outright interdiction, silencing may be mediated by various mechanisms. The self-imposed prescriptions, whatever the reason might be, may enforce resistance towards what is, somehow arbitrarily, defined as unacceptable behavior, talk or representation.

The strong reactions some people or institutions have regarding a series of taboos are but few examples of censorship. Violence, pornography, pedophilia, blasphemy are probably the most morally loaded and consequently the most debated issues in the public sphere but this list is far from being complete. In the fields of arts, science, politics, economics “hot” themes are treated and controlled with great care. Nudity, national history, offending authorities, poverty and social inequalities, discrimination of any kind come to mind most quickly. 

Other cases suggest that the sheer quantity of a specific representation excludes alternative views through diminishing the spaces available for its dissemination. Heavy propaganda works in this way. Its representations invade public space while other images are under or misrepresented.  

What could be at stake in censoring? The preservation of political, economic status quo is two paths to start with. An institution controls information that could de-legitimize the right for keeping its position that, in turn provides material, moral, or other types of benefits. There are, surely, other reasons for this practice: psychological comfort on the part of individuals, maintaining monopoly over various goods, keeping in line with a cherished tradition, etc. For all these reasons, and others as well, censorship continues to be part of every society and deserves a closer look. 


Therefore, the main objective of the conference is to initiate a lively and timely debate on different forms, techniques, objects, agents of and reasons for silencing, excluding or stigmatizing as offensive special types of talk, imagery, etc. in the public space; to map the domains (media, arts, religion, literature, etc.), the issues (history, political and/or moral authorities, social division, violence, sexuality, blasphemy, etc.) and the reasons why these are put under control. We hope that the emerging arguments will encourage further projects regarding the issue of censorship and will also contribute to a better understanding of the ways individual choices are controlled and freedom is limited in different societies and historical periods and also to think about and promote ideas for loosening the communication flow in public sphere.

We do not intend to limit the imagination of scholars/artists; therefore the statement should be red as a general guideline not as an imposed grid. Any suggestion or paper proposal is welcomed as far as it is focused on some aspects of censorship.  

Individuals who would like to participate on the conference should send a summary (500 words) of the paper to be presented at the conference or a short description (500 words) of the work to be presented (exhibition, video-projection) during the days of the conference.

The working language of the conference will be English and/or French. All papers/descriptions should be written and/or presented in English/French. 

Deadline:  28 July 2001.   

Practical information:

Candidates from Eastern European countries should address to Soros – Open Society Foundation from their country for travel expenses.

The organisers will support the accomodation.

The candidates from others countries should secure theirs travel expenses from other funds.

Contact persons:

Tranzit Foundation: Konczei Csilla, Tincuta Parv (tel/fax: 0040-64-194039, e-mail: [email protected])