Deepening knowledge of community economies in Central and Eastern Europe

RSA, CEE Conference

The contribution of community economies scholars to enriching understandings of diverse economic practices in Central and Eastern Europe was acknowledged during the closing plenary of the recent Regional Studies Association 2022 Central and Eastern Europe Conference in Leipzig, Germany.

In her closing comments, Petya Slavova, Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow at Sofia University, Bulgaria, highlighted the importance of conference presentations “based on PhD research projects and locally developed projects that explore processes, including cultural processes, that lead to non-capitalist and diverse economies.”

“These presentations contribute a deeper understanding of the ongoing practices in Central and Eastern Europe and allow us to go beyond so-called best practices.”

Members of the Community Economies Research Network (CERN) organised three sessions in which these presentations featured.

Lucie Sovová and Nadia Johanisova chaired two sessions on Community Economies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which included presentations on diverse enterprises in the Czech Republic, and Armenia and Georgia, with a focus on non-capitalist enterprises that take a ‘more-than-profit’ approach to innovation (Assistant Professor Nadia Johanisova, Masaryk University, Czech Republic; Markus Sattler, PhD student, Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography, Germany; Thomas Smith, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany).

A highlight of these two sessions was the presentation by postdoctoral researchers Ottavia Cima (University of Bern, Switzerland) and Lucie Sovová (Wageningen University, The Netherlands) of their paper which was recently published online by Progress in Human Geography, one of the top-ranked journals in geography, planning and development.

This paper shows how economic practices such as self-provisioning, sharing and informal cooperation are used by groups as diverse as farmers in Kyrgyzstan and householders in the Czech Republic as they forge livelihoods and nurture social networks.

This research is an important addition to studies by community economies scholars that have documented the diversity of economic practices that can be found in the so-called postsocialist context of Central and Eastern Europe, including studies by Nadia Johanisova (in Czech Republic), Peter North (in Poland), Marianna Pavlovskaya (in Russia) and Thomas Smith (in Czech Republic).

The three sessions organised by members of the Community Economies Research Network is an important step in bringing together researchers at various stages in their academic career and helping to build a body of work that demonstrates the liveliness and diversity of economic practices in a region that is all-too-often represented as undergoing a linear postsocialist transition.

In reflecting on the conference, Lilian Pungas, PhD scholar at the Institute for Sociology at the Friedrich Schiller University, Germany said “Our community economies panels were all full of inspiring and curious case studies and ways of thinking, and the rooms were pretty packed,” while Markus Sattler, PhD scholar from Leibniz-Institute for Regional Geography said “Intense discussions opened up quite new questions around informality/innovation/methodologies and, perhaps more importantly, also kept me pondering … I hope we can use the momentum to continue thinking along the lines, or beyond, what we discussed during the conference.”

For organiser Lucie Sovová, “meeting so many inspiring scholars engaging with community economies particularly in the postsocialist region has been such a gift, and the way our sessions were received at the conference (including a mention during the closing keynote) was beyond my expectations.”

Jenny Cameron and Thomas Smith


Image: CERN Organisers of Community Economies sessions,

Lucie Sovová, Markus Sattler, Ottavia Cima, Nadia Johanisova, Pete North, Lilian Pungas, Thomas Smith