“I Focus on Algerian Students Who Studied in the Eastern Bloc” – Interview with Konstantin Katsakioris
We regularly introduce scholars that work in the project by letting them answer three short questions. Today, we talk to Konstantin Katsakioris, who is a historian of the relations between the Soviet Union, Africa, and the Middle East. He earned his PhD in history (2015) at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. After that, he was postdoctoral researcher at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies and research associate in the project “African Elites Educated in Countries of the Former Soviet-bloc” at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris.
He is currently completing his first monograph entitled “Soviet Lessons: The Education of African and Arab Students in the Soviet Union in the Cold War.” Parts of his research have appeared in a number of peer-reviewed journals, among which are the Journal of Global History, the Journal of Contemporary History, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History, the Journal of Modern European History, the Cahiers d’Études africaines and the Cahiers du Monde russe.
What will you be working on while being involved with the “Knowledge Unbound” project and what did you work on before?
Before I joined the “Knowledge Unbound” project, I was working on the cultural, educational, and scientific relations between the European socialist countries and the Global South during the Cold War. At the same time, I was pursuing research on the relations between Algerian and the Eastern Bloc. For “Knowledge Unbound”, I focus on Algerian students who studied in the Eastern Bloc. In particular, I look at the work and retrace the trajectories of those who attended schools of social sciences, humanities, and art.
What role does the concept of “knowledge” play in your own research?
It is the organizing concept of my research. I study the training of people, from students to artists to junior researchers, situations in which knowledge was created, as well as its circulation, use, and effects in different contexts. I also explore the creation of knowledge outside of university classes and the common relations between faculty members and their students. Students themselves also had their study circles and unions creating knowledge. Families were equally important in the production of knowledge in that several partners in mixed families co-authored books or produced artwork.
Have there been any surprising moments in your research recently?
There are surprising moments all the time. I meet fantastic people who crossed borders, experienced hardships, but worked hard, and produced amazing things in terms of knowledge and art. It is exciting to discuss with them and listen to their experiences. Archival research is also very rewarding. The last surprise I experienced was when I discovered the name of one of my informants in the documents of a very important international student congress that took place in East Berlin in the late 1960s. I immediately emailed him attaching the document and asking him to shed some light on the congress. He happily did it and helped me a lot to understand what the confrontation was about. I think that he was also surprised with my finding.