Mary Seeger O'Boyle Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2017-2018
A transnational historian of nineteenth-century Europe, Alex Tipei is interested in interactions among intellectual and political elites in the early Greek state, the Danubian Principalities, and France. She received her Ph.D. from Indiana University and also trained at the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales , the École Normale Supérieur , the Institut d’Études Politiques , and the University of Illinois. Her article, “How to Make Friends and Influence People: Elementary Education, French ‘Influence’ and the Balkans 1815-1830s” is forthcoming at Modern Intellectual History.Her research has benefited from the support of a number of fellowships and grants, including a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, a Doris J. Quinn Dissertation Fellowship, two awards form the American Council of Learned Societies, and a Fulbright Fellowship. She has previously taught at Indiana University, the University of Bucharest, and the University of Illinois as well as in the graduate-level program at the Indiana Women’s Prison. Her editorial piece on the latter experience appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2016.
A transnational study, Influence, Development, Civilization: French Soft Power in Early Nineteenth-Century Eastern Europe and the World, rethinks the center-periphery model in international history, takes apart the notion of French “influence,” and questions assumptions about the inevitable rise of nationalism in peripheral regions. To do this, it explores how public figures in France and the Balkans mobilized a concept of “civilization.” Following Napoleon’s defeat, French liberals employed “civilization-speak” to reassert France’s position as a cultural center, while Southeast European elites used this discursive strategy to elicit support for a variety of endeavors. The manuscript examines how Balkan and French notables worked to bring French models for schools, hospitals, and prisons to Southeastern Europe in an effort to “civilize” the region. By analyzing these mechanisms of French “influence,” it demonstrates how Franco-Balkan relationships were reciprocal rather than unilaterally driven by the French. Finally, the study explores how reform projects intended to foster a universal civilization incidentally created tools of nationalism. For example, the establishment of accessible working-class education required the codification of languages and elaboration of historical narratives that fostered a novel sense of national difference among Southeast Europeans.