The opening up to modernity of East Central Europe since the late 19th century was marked – among other things – by a triple process generating structural transformations of established post-feudal societies and affecting often radically the status of Jews involved.

Various movements of ’national awakening’ and nation-building lead to the foundation of nation states with more or less definitely fixed frontiers during the decades 1878-1918 on territories of the former Ottoman, Russian and Habsburg empires. These societies, organised mostly in Western type parliamentary states (except for the later Soviet one), complied more or less reticently with Western patterns of socio-political modernization and cultural homogeneization, including or leading to the abolition of feudal privileges as well as Jewish emancipation. The construction of the modern schooling provision was an integral part of the modernization process.

These transformations were concomitant with or accompanied by the birth of laissez-faire capitalism and the growth of new middle class clusters in charge of a number of intellectual services in the administration, the management of industrial, financial or trading entreprises, health care, law, public transportation, the educational market, the arts and the sciences. The ensuing socio-professional restratification of societies concerned was conducive to the emergence of the intelligentsia – a new stratum drawing its social and professional legitimacy from certified competences, its educational ’capital’ – as an increasingly numerous, powerful, sometimes dominant cluster of the new middle classes. In some of its sectors – medicine, law, architecture, etc. – Jews came to secure in many countries disproportionately strong positions, especially in capital cities and big towns.

Due to post-feudal conditions of competition for social standing, positions of influence and prestige, hitherto unknown forms of inequalities appeared in the very process of accumulation of political, economic, professional, cultural an educational assets henceforth necessary for the access to the elites. In the framework of these processes many ’modernized’, secularized or ’assimilated’ Jews could achieve till then unprecedented levels of social integration, participate in the framing of the way of life of the new middle class, achieve occasionally careers in the ruling elites but also encounter forms of rejection and discrimination under the aegis of racial and political antisemitism.

We are planning a comprehensive publication in English reporting on Jews in modern educated elites, that is in professional groups the social position of which was grounded above all in their educational credentials. The project would attract studies on possibly every East Central European society during the inter-war years, not excluding post-1945 and pre-1919, even 19th century developments. This call for papers may appeal to all scholars – whether historians proper or sociologists, political scientists, anthropologists, educationalists or others with historical interests – engaged in research on problems related to ethnic and confessional inequalities, disparities and diversities in higher education and in the intelligentsia at large (comprising Jews) in countries situated between Finland and Greece. Preference should be granted to empirically grounded studies with possibly prosopographical foundations.

The authors of the papers selected for the publication will be invited to an international conference to be held at the Central European University in Budapest (possibly 28th-29th October 1911), the exact dates of which remain to be fixed in common accord with those involved. Projects for contribution (one page summary) are invited to be sent to me by the 31 of May, 2011.

Herewith please find a (not exclusive) roster of the main topical problem areas upon which the papers could preferentially draw :

  • The general problem of the relative Jewish ’over-schooling’. A comparative overview of the development of educational investments of Jews and non Jews in primary, secondary and higher education.
  • The impact of the educational market : number and accessibility of schools of different levels for Jews and non Jews, preferential or discriminative admission policies of educational authorities, size, quality and outreach of Jewish school networks, etc.
  • The same with reference to gender differences, father’s profession (social  selection of students), mother tongue, ethnicity (cultural background like the Ashkenazi or Sephardi heritage), birth place, urbanisation, residential and regional origins and ties;
  • Historical patterns of socio-professional mobility via education for Jews and non Jews in modern times : differential strategies and attitudes following religious persuasion (Orthodox and others), family size, degrees of secularization, intellectual capital of the family, professional groups, economic standing, etc.
  • Differential options for educational tracks and study branches (medicine, law, arts and sciences, technical, artistic and other vocational studies) and/or degrees, especially in higher education (doctorate, professional degrees);
  • Qualitative educational inequalities and discrepancies between Jews and non Jews in their schooling trajectories: differences of academic performance, degrees and qualifications acquired, marks obtained in different study subjects (like at graduation from secondary schools), age of graduation, frequency of dropping out, etc.
  • Differential uses of certified educational assets in professional careers : Jews and non Jews in the free professions, civil service, politics, public industries, private intellectual employment (trade, banking, industries, agriculture, transportation, etc.) and in the artistic professions;
  • Jewish and non Jewish intellectuals in ’reputational elites’ : those cited in national biographies and encyclopaedias, laureates of public distinctions for intellectual accomplishments (prizes, medals, titles, etc.), staff of universities and institutions of higher education, members of national academies, learned societies or/and public scholarly agencies (major libraries, museums, archives, research centers, etc.);
  • Measures and indicators of possibly differential intellectual creativity and its recognition within professional clusters : number and quality of scientific, scholarly or artistic publications and other performances, invitations and careers abroad, participation in the management of professional journals, membership in boards of learned societies and professional agencies;
  • Jews and non Jews as affected by public policies of education and intellectual promotion : numerus clausus, segregation and discrimination in the educational market, differential availability of grants, scholarships or academic positions, etc., variation of tuition fees, schooling facilities or disabilities grounded in religious practice (like the respect of shabbat).
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