Table Topic: Uses and Abuses of Expertise

From Teutonic Order’s medieval marches to the Habsburg occupation of Bosnia, East Central Europe was an integral part of the European colonial encounter.  Despite its subordination, or even neglect, by early postcolonial theorists like Edward Said vis-a-vis more infamous maritime powers, East Central Europe formed a crucial ground for training, educating and employing expertise in the service of colonial governance.  Uniquely, East Central Europe experienced the entire spectrum of the colonial order = from colonizer to colonized – and the region became the primary colonial laboratory for Europeans colonizing other Europeans. In doing so, power relations between colonizer and colonized were often more blurred, more nuanced, and more filled with the discourse of the mission civilisatrice than those found between Europeans and non-European Others.  This unique experience produced an equally unique amalgamation of expertise and colonial governmentality – making East Central Europe a center for the production and dissemination of colonial experts and colonial expertise.  What was the role of East Central European scholars and experts in the broader narrative of European colonialism? How was this expertise employed to support or undermine colonial objectives in the periphery and metropole. And, ultimately, can we truly segregate “uses” from “abuses” of expertise in this power-knowledge system given that, as Foucault famously found, “there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.”[1]


Viktor M. Stoll is a doctoral candidate at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Prof. Sir Chris Clark. His dissertation is a trans-imperial examination of the influence of German ethnology on colonial governance in non-German states. He has held research positions at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (2018), the Academic Foundation of the Berlin House of Representatives (2016-2017) and Yale University (2014-2015).


[1]     Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, (trans.) Alan Sheridan, New York, 1977, p. 27.


Max Weber Stiftung

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