The University of Graz, which was founded in 1585, is Austria’s second oldest university and one of the largest in the country. The “Department for Southeast European History and Anthropology” is Austria’s only scientific institution with a teaching and research focus on the history and anthropology of Southeast Europe. This specialization is significant for two reasons: Firstly, due to its geographic position the University of Graz has not only been important for Southeast Europe in the past but continues to play a crucial role in the region. This was one of the motives that led to the establishment of a chair for Southeast European History in 1970 next to the Graz Institute of Slavic Studies, which has a strong tradition in Balkan studies. The University’s special emphasis means that it is also concerned with tasks beyond pure scientific work: making contacts, building networks, organizing grants for students from Southeast Europe, designing and supporting research projects. Secondly, the Southeast is central to the identity of the city of Graz. Graz likes to be known as a business hub linking Austria and Southeast Europe, and the city is also the site of an international fair oriented towards the region.
The project coordinator Prof. Dr. Karl Kaser is chair of the Department for Southeast European History at University of Graz. His research activities cover a wide field, which is reflected in his publications, ranging from pre-history to contemporary history and comprising historical anthropology, social and cultural history, economy history, political history, the history of gender relations, family and kinship as well as visual cultures. His monograph “History Of The Balkans And The Near East: Introduction To A Joint History” (2011) constitutes a programmatic statement about the urgency of seeing the former regions of the Ottoman Empire together. His most recent monograph deals with religion and visual cultures in the Balkans and the Near East (“Andere Blicke. Religion und visuelle Kulturen auf dem Balkan und im Nahen Osten”, Böhlau 2013).
The project manager MMag. Dr. Dominik Gutmeyr is historian at the Department for Southeast European History at University of Graz. He is working on cultural representations and their visualizations in both South-Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region, having a focus on the creation of images in the imperial era and their implementation in Russian popular culture. His recent monograph is titled “Borderlands Orientalism or How the Savage Lost his Nobility. The Russian Perception of the Caucasus between 1817 and 1878” (LIT, 2017).