STANLEY Z. PECH PRIZE

At the 1985 annual meeting in Washington, D. C., the CSA adopted a motion by Stanley Winters to create an award to be given every two years for an outstanding article published by a member of the Czechoslovak History Conference, now the Czechoslovak Studies Association. It was later determined to name the award in honor of Stanley Z. Pech.

2014 PECH PRIZE WINNER (Articles published in 2012-2013)

For the 2014 competition, the committee received eleven submissions in four different languages. It was a pleasure to read these universally interesting, and often brilliant pieces of scholarship, and it was very difficult to reach a decision.

The winning article for 2014 is Thomas Ort, “Cubism’s Sex: Masculinity and Czech Modernism,” Austrian History Yearbook 44 (2013): 175-194.

Ort takes as his starting point that in the years immediately preceding the First World War, Prague was in many ways the ‘second city of cubism’ in Europe. This has long been recognized by art historians, he argues, but “[w]hat has not been noted in the literature, however, is that among its Czech practitioners and advocates, the style was conceived in highly gendered terms. To put it simply, cubism had a sex and it was male” (176).

Ort may have put his general thesis simply, but the ensuing argument is far from simplistic. In an account marked by clarity and originality, Ort convincingly genders Czech cubism, revealing the degree to which it represented a creative masculinity without straying into militant nationalism. The latter point is forcefully made in a comparison with the Italian futurists and with a strong contextualization of the particular Czech cultural milieu in its wider framework of Austro-Hungarian cultural and political movements.

For its adherents, the ‘masculine’ turn of cubism represented an active, headlong embrace of modern life, a penetrative will to form and hence a rejection of the ‘feminine,’ inward ‘turn to the self’ characterizing the Viennese aestheticism of the Secession (Ort creatively engages with Schorske’s argument here), and also the Czech decadence of the previous generation. This critique of inward or backward looking norms and attitudes was directed at literature, architecture, arts and painting, as Czech cubists held that “real national art was modern art, and to be Czech was to embrace the present” (187).

Ort’s argument is comprehensive and empirically rich, and the ways in which he situates Czech modernism in a broader pre-war cultural ethos is smart and informative. Beyond its art historical merits the article is therefore indispensable reading for anyone interested in early 20th century Czech and central European identities.

Prize committee:
Caitlin Murdock, California State University Long Beach
Mark Cornwall, University of Southampton
Peter Bugge, Aarhus University (chair)

2012 PECH PRIZE WINNER (Articles published in 2010-2011)

The Pech Prize is awarded every two years for the best article or essay published by a member of the Czechoslovak Studies Association concerning the history of Czechoslovakia, its successor states, or its predecessor provinces. In 2012, the committee was staffed by Stepanka Korytova, Benjamin Frommer, and Jeremy King (chair). Ten scholars, five female and five male, submitted eleven essays. Topics ranged from the Velvet Revolution to the Black Death, from mass protest after the deaths of Stalin and Gottwald to Jewish citizenship in the First Czechoslovak Republic. They included cultural diplomacy, gendered social science, the Czechoslovak "New Woman" after 1918, national indifference, and socialist and post-socialist urban planning. The committee regretted that only one essay centered on things Slovak, but was deeply impressed by the high quality of the submission pool.

The winning article is by Tara Zahra, Professor of History at the University of Chicago. Slavic Review published her "Imagined Noncommunities: National Indifference as a Category of Analysis," in its spring issue of 2010.

National indifference, Zahra concedes, is no new topic. Historians of Europe have discussed local patriotism, bilingualism, "side-switching," and the like for decades. Yet the discussion has suffered from contradictions. Scholars have arrived at a consensus that nationalism is modern and socially constructed. At the same time, they have tended to treat national indifference as a pre-modern relic whose deconstruction or disappearance is somehow a natural consequence of the mere passage of time. Zahra argues for understanding national indifference not as romantic relic or as pathological exception, but as part and parcel of modern politics.

National indifference, Zahra points out, comprises a wide range of behavior with only one common denominator: not being national. It is "a negative and nationalist category. Indifference only existed as such in the eyes of the nationalist beholder" (p. 105). To bend Benedict Anderson's term, it is a set of "imagined noncommunities." Before historians adopted national indifference as a category of analysis, nationalists invented it as one of practice. This genealogy, Zahra suggests, explains why many scholars' attempts at understanding national indifference have reproduced long familiar national perspectives on it instead. Substituting national practice for historical analysis could be avoided, by dropping the topic of national indifference altogether. More subtle solutions, though, can keep the political effects of national combat against national indifference open to inquiry, and those effects are important.

Historians of East Central Europe, Zahra shows, have been pioneers in developing new perspectives on national indifference. Citing her own book, Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948, as well as multiple other recent studies, she contends that certain characteristics of East Central Europe – above all, a century-long competition among nationalist movements that spawned a "flourishing culture of national ambiguity" (p. 100) – underpin this pattern. Those same characteristics, of course, confined the region until recently within a "totalitarian framework" (p. 112), apart from much of Europe. No summary can do justice to the reach and grace of Zahra's article. Placing the Bohemian lands and the whole of East Central Europe within the context of sweeping historiographical and methodological developments over the past several decades, it draws a compelling and encouraging balance, as well as points productive paths forward. We congratulate Tara Zahra, and are delighted to award her "Imagined Noncommunities" this year's Pech Prize.

Stepanka Korytova
Benjamin Frommer
Jeremy King

THE NEXT PECH PRIZE COMPETITION

The next Pech Prize competition will be held in 2016, accepting articles published in 2014 and 2015. The committee will be announced in 2016.

The rules for the award are:

1. The amount of the prize shall be determined by the President of the Czechoslovak Studies Association with the concurrence of the Executive Committee within three months after the biennial election of officers.

2. Essays submitted shall have been published or accepted for publication in a professional journal or a volume of essays and shall deal with topics of the peoples of Czechoslovakia within and without its historical boundaries.

3. Other things being equal, the prize judges shall give preference to essays by recent Ph.D.s over others.

4. Candidates for the prize may be identified by author self nomination, submission by a Czechoslovak Studies Association member, or by members of the Stanley Z. Pech Prize Committee, with the criterion for eligibility being the author's membership in the Czechoslovak Studies Association.

5. The President of the Czechoslovak Studies Association shall, within three months of his/her election, appoint a Prize Committee of three members, including one member that he/she shall designate as chairperson, which Committee shall evaluate the submitted essays and transmit their decision to the President for announcement and presentation of the Prize at the next annual meeting of the Czechoslovak Studies Association.

6. One prize only shall be awarded and the name of the recipient shall be the only one to be made public, subject to the decision of the Committee.

PAST PECH PRIZE WINNERS

2008-2009
Paulina Bren, "Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall...Is the West the Fairest of Them All?: Czechoslovak Normalization and Its (Dis)contents," Kritika 9, no. 4 (2008): 831-854.

2006-2007
Sheilagh Ogilvie, "'So that Every Subject Knows How to Behave': Social Disciplining in Early Modern Bohemia," Comparative Studies in Society & History, vol. 48, no. 1 (January 2006): 38-78.

2004-2005
Peter Bugge, "The Making of a Slovak City The Czechoslovak Renaming of Pressburg/Pozsony/Presporok, 1918-1919," Austrian History Yearbook 35 (2004): 205-227.

2002-2003
Bruce R. Berglund, "Building a Church for a New Age: The Search for a Modern Catholic Art in Turn-of-the-century Central Europe," Centropa, vol. 3 no. 3 (September 2003): 225-240.

2000-2001
Katherine David-Fox, "Prague-Vienna, Prague-Berlin: The Hidden Geography of Czech Modernism" in Slavic Review, 59, no. 4 (Winter 2000) 735-760.

1998-1999
Karl F. Bahm, "Beyond the Bourgeoisie: Rethinking Nation, Culture and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Central Europe," in Austrian History Yearbook, 29, part 1 (1998) 19-35.
and Igor Lukes, "The Slansky Affair: New Evidence," in Slavic Review, 58, no. 1 (Spring 1999) 160-187.

1996-1997
Anna Drabek, "Die Frage der Unterrichtssprache im Königreich Böhmen im Zeitalter der Aufklärung,” in Österreichische Osthefte 38 (1996) 329-355.

1993-1994
Claire Nolte, "Our Brothers Across the Ocean: The Czech Sokol in America to 1914," in Czechoslovak and Central European Journal 2, no. 2 (Winter 1993) 15-37.

1991-1992
Hillel Kieval, "The Social Vision of Bohemian Jews: Intellectuals and Community in the 1840s" in Jonathan Frankel and Steven J. Zipperstein , eds., Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe, Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

1987-1988
Owen V. Johnson, "Newspapers and Nation-building: The Slovak Press in Pre-1918 Slovakia," in Hans Lemberg et al, eds., Bildungsgeschichte, Bevalkerungsgeschichte: Gesellschaftsgeschichte in den Bohmischen Landern und Europa, Vienna: Verlag für Geschichte und Politik, 1988, pp. 160-78.

1985-1986
Kevin F. McDermott, "Dependence or Independence? Relations between the Red Unions and the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia, 1922-1929," in Stanislav J. Kirschbaum, ed., East European History: Selected Papers of the Third World Congress for Soviet and East European Studies, Columbus, OH: Slavica Publishers, 1988, pp. 157-83.