Elen in Budapest: the Banality of My Class Schedule

Almost every class I’ve taken in the past two years has had some combination of the words authoritarian+postcommunist+violence+war in the title. Slightly dictatorial, sometimes gory, and always full of the most fantastic readings. The CEU variations on this theme? Weeeeell, they have my heart aflutter.

I asked to enroll in every transitional politics, Soviet studies, and human rights class offered. Request politely denied. But the three that I squeezed in between Beginner’s Hungarian and a mandatory survey of East-Central Europe do not disappoint even a little. The Challenge of Simultaneous Triple Transitions starts the week, with lectures on all of my favorite subjects by Kalman Mizsei, the EU representative for Moldova, Chairman of the Roma Policy Board at the Open Society Institute, former UNDP director, former FIDESZ advisor (hmm)–basically, a man well-versed in transition politics.  I’ve found a bit of less-than-friendly gossip about his work at UNDP, but since I haven’t spotted him abusing funds and lording over administrative corruption yet, I’ll leave the intrigue aside.

After the Mondays that I spend sitting in cafes and being too distracted to do any real work–though really, I’m fantastic at pretending–comes States, Networks, and Power in Post-Soviet Politics. Does the title spell out my happiness or should I elaborate? The professor is a Central Asia specialist, so this is a new view of familiar themes. My experience so far has been with professors that think they’re being unconventional by including any state besides Russia and Ukraine in this subject, so this class is incredibly refreshing. But in case this proves too tame, War, Violence, and the State provides enough havoc for the rest of my week. The readings make this class. As I so subtly hint in the title of this post, Hannah Arendt makes an appearance. (Disagreed with her last week–still recovering from the shock.) Fanon, Tilly, Foucault, Browning, and some colleagues complete the list, and by the time I make peace with their thoughts, the weekend beckons. No classes on Fridays. Hooray!

Only two complaints. First, the library rules–no bags, no coats, no drinks, and the enforced hassle of checking in any printed material you want to bring in. Where am I supposed to snuggle with my million-liter coffee mug and mountain of books? Have I been spoiled by Olin and Mann? (Considering that I’ve thrown midnight dance parties in both, maybe.)  Second, the printers and computers–they are unbearably slow, and I’ve already caused multiple to crash and/or jam. Oops.

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