Peter Vermeersch

Professor of politics and Central and Eastern European Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium

Peter Vermeersch by Michiel Hendryckx

Photo by Michiel Hendryckx, February 2019

KU LEUVEN, Faculty of Social Sciences, Parkstraat 45 box 3602, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

© 2024 Peter Vermeersch

I'm a scholar working on nationalism and minority politics in Central and Eastern Europe, questions of democratisation, and restorative justice. I've written about conflict and reconciliation, the politics of memory in Southeastern Europe, and the plight of the Roma in Central Europe.My PhD in Political Science (2002) is from KU Leuven, and I have MA degrees in Slavic Languages, Eastern European Studies and Cultural Studies. I studied in various places across Europe, including Kraków, Warsaw and Prague. In 2007 and 2008, I was a visiting fellow at Harvard University. In addition to my academic writing, I occasionally publish essays, poetry, and books of narrative non-fiction.I'm based at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium, where I'm a senior faculty member of the research unit LINES. I'm a co-founder of the KU Leuven's Forum on Central and Eastern Europe.

Recent articles and essays

  • Léon's feet. A story of remembering. New Writing: The International Journal for the Practice and Theory of Creative Writing, 2024. Full text
    This essay is partly memoir and partly a story about war memories in the context of the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine.

  • Horizontal redistribution and Roma inclusion in the Western Balkans: the 'exclusion amid inclusion' dilemma. Social Inclusion, 2024 (with Aleksandra Zdęb). Full text
    In this article, Aleksandra Zdęb and I analyze the situation of Roma in three Western Balkan countries and the policies developed to support them.

  • Explaining Central Europe's illiberal revolt. Patterns of Prejudice, 2024. Full text
    Book review of Ivan Kalmar's White But Not Quite: Central Europe’s Illiberal Revolt (Bristol University Press 2022).

  • Populist memory politics and the performance of victimhood: analyzing the political exploitation of historical injustice in Central Europe. Government and Opposition, 2023, 1-19 (with Jens Meijen). Full text
    In this article, Jens Meijen and I examine how populists in Poland and Hungary rely on memory politics to maintain their underdog rhetoric.

  • More light. The Sociological Review Magazine, 2023. Full text
    This story is a piece of fiction based on several conversations with people in prison. You can read a version in Dutch here: Meer licht

  • Artefacts of national subversion: the flag as a critical presence – or a disturbing absence – in contemporary visual art. Ethnologie française, Vol. 53, 2023, 239-253 (with Ana Dević).
    In this essay, Ana Dević and I discuss various contemporary artists in Southeastern Europe and beyond who incorporate the national flag in their anti-nationalist art.

  • Narratives of change and repair: how the study of storytelling in the social sciences can inspire peacebuilding research. Peacebuilding, Vol. 11(1), 2023, 104-109. Full text

  • Sexual violence against men in conflict situations: between taboo and reality. Leuven Transitional Justice Blog (2022) (with Heleen Touquet and Stephan Parmentier). Full text

Featured peer reviewed work

From the archives


Aantekeningen bij een moord (De Bezige Bij, 2019)

Hoe voelt het slachtoffer te zijn, of nabestaande? Wat doe je iemand aan als je hem straft? Helpt het? Aantekeningen bij een moord geeft aan de hand van een concrete moord en een rechtszaak een indringende blik op geweld en rechtspraak.* * *"Een doortastend, wetenschappelijk onderbouwd en toch emotioneel, zelfs intiem non-fictiewerk." — Annelies Verbeke, De Lage Landen"[Dit boek toont] hoe isolerend het kan zijn om alleen je eigen blik te hebben, maar ook hoe verbindend het kan zijn om ergens met andere ogen naar te kijken." — Nina Polak

Ex. Over een land dat zoek is
(De Bezige bij, 2014)

Een uniek beeld van twee decennia recente geschiedenis op de Balkan, verteld met bijzondere aandacht voor het onverwachte detail. De helden zijn gewone mensen met ongewone verhalen. In dit prachtige, maar versplinterde gebied groeit het verlangen naar een prille, nieuwe liefde.* * *"wervelende, melancholische, dan weer hoopvol stemmende tocht door een even aangetast, verwond als vitaal deel van Europa." — Manon Uphoff, NRC"Een hoogstpersoonlijk geschiedenisboek. Een subtiele mix van reisimpressies, gloedvolle essayistiek en poëtische mijmeringen over de Balkan" — Juryverslag Provinciale Prijs Letterkunde voor Proza 2016

The Romani Movement (Berghahn Books, 2007)

In this study, Peter Vermeersch examines the recent attempts of the Roma in Central Europe and their supporters to form a political movement and to influence domestic and international politics. On the basis of first-hand observation and interviews with activists and politicians in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, he analyzes connections between the evolving state policies towards the Roma and the recent history of Romani mobilization.* * *"This book is invaluable for the analytical insights it brings to bear and as a rich source of empirical information on recent Romani mobilisation in Central Europe. This comprehensive, thoroughly researched and enlightening study, assisting better understanding and effectiveness of this process, is to be warmly welcomed." — Romani Studies

Edited books and collaborative book projects

Selected courses

Supervised PhD dissertations

  • Terry Savage (2020), Recovering truth and transforming conflict: an exploration of ways in which truth recovery can contribute to conflict transformation in conditions where the prospect for justice for grave violations is problematical.

  • Niels Smeets (2019), The Green Challenge: Exploring Explanations of Russia's Renewable Energy Policies.

  • Ana Milosevic (2019), Signaling values: Europeanisation and Memory Politics in Croatia and Serbia.

  • Ivan Grubanov (2016), Unnation.

  • Zeynep Yanasmayan (2013), Turkey entangled with Europe? A qualitative exploration of mobility and citizenship accounts of highly educated migrants from Turkey.

  • Heleen Touquet (2012), Escaping ethnopolis: postethnic mobilization in Bosnia-Herzegovina.