Interview with Valerie Bunce--February 22, 2013

Interview with Valerie Bunce, the Aaron Binenkorb Professor of International Studies and Professor of Government at Cornell University. Interview conducted in Ithaca, NY on February 22, 2013.

Bunce's work is mainly in comparative politics and international relations, with a geographical emphasis on East-Central Europe, the Balkans and the Soviet successor states. She’s the author of many articles and the book Subversive Institutions: The Design and the Collapse of Socialism and the State (published by Cambridge University Press in 1999), and has written another book together with Sharon Wolchik titled Defeating Authoritarian Leaders in Postcommunist Countries (Cambridge, 2011).

Interview Themes

What brought Bunce to study the region (1:40)
On how a scholar's background relates to his/her disciplinary proclivities (3:50)
Bunce's formative early experiences and travels to Southeastern Europe [Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia] in the early 1970s (5:06)
Events of the past decades that have left a lasting impression on Bunce [Solidarity, collapse of Yugoslavia] (9:58)
The biggest surprises in the trajectory of the region since Bunce started studying it (20:07)
How the upheavals in the region have affected scholarly approaches to it (21:50)
Fallout in the field of Soviet studies of the collapse of the Soviet Union (25:03)
The national question under communism in the USSR and East-Central Europe (30:00)
Will the national question go away in the foreseeable future? (32:57)
Bunce's view on the nature of the interplay between policy/politics and culture (35:15)
Bunce's experiences with the policy world and the language used in academic vs. policy circles (36:57)
On knowledge of the region and democracy promotion (41:28)
Does the knowledge we have about the region give us special insight into what has taken place/is taking place elsewhere [Egypt]? (44:19)
On political scientists' growing lack of knowledge of the region's history (47:55)
Are "one-party" states back? (53:03)
Comparison of the situation in Russia and Hungary--is it remembering or forgetting communist party strategies in the two cases? (56:53)
How important is Southeastern Europe to Russian/Soviet history? (1:00:41)
What are the directions we can go with knowledge of this region in comparative terms? (1:04:10)
How does one know if a revolution/transition to democracy/authoritarianism is decisive or temporary? (1:07:04)
On training the next generation for work in this field (1:09:29)
Bunce mourns the loss of eccentricity in the younger generation of scholars and reflects on its causes (1:13:08)
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