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In November 2018, the Arbeitskreis Geschichte + Theorie in cooperation with the Centre for Contemporary History held a conference under the title “Times of the Event: A New Survey of a Historical Category”. Building on its papers and discussions, my colleague Anna Karla (Cologne) and I have been taking the topic further, lead to the publication of a forum in History & Theory.

The forum consists of an introduction and four contributions.

Abstracts can be found below. Most texts are available free of charge under a Creative Commons licence.

At this time, I would like to take the opportunity to thank my co-editor, Dr. Anna Karla, the contributors, Dr. Fernando Esposito and Dr. Britta Hochkirchen, as well as Dr. Jörn Eiben, who played a vital part in the early conceptualization of this project as well as in the organization of the original conference.

Theo Jung / Anna Karla: Times of the Event: An Introduction

This introduction sets the stage for the following contributions by outlining the current state of research on the two fundamental categories that this forum brings together: the event and time. In a brief survey, we discuss the ways in which the temporality of events has been theorized across disciplines. We also present our core argument for understanding the event as a temporal focal point. In dialogue with existing approaches, we seek to develop a theoretically enriched and empirically fruitful conceptualization of the event, thus offering new perspectives to the academic historiography of events as well as to historical culture at large.

Fernando Esposito: Despite Singularity: The Event and Its Manifold Structures of Repetition

This article’s principle interest is in the “structures of repetition” that characterize supposedly singular events. The starting point for the analysis is Reinhart Koselleck’s discussion of the event in “Structures of Repetition in Language and History.” Koselleck perceived events as arising from metahistorical structures that characterize all human histories regardless of the eras in which they took place and are narrated. This article scrutinizes Koselleck’s understanding of the event as well as the underlying “structures of repetition” shaping it. In considering the question of the temporality of the event, this article distinguishes three strata of repetitive structures. First, it examines a seemingly trivial historiographical structure of repetition of the event, which is the iterative proclamation of the return of the event. It then analyzes Koselleck’s foundational, yet rarely truly appreciated, “Structures of Repetition in Language and History” and maps out the fundamental structures of repetition, which are the conditions of possibility of events. Finally, it hints at a further linguistic stratum of repetitive structures. In light of growing interest in Koselleck’s work in both German and Anglophone historiography, this article systematizes the manifold structures of repetition against the backdrop of current explorations of the event’s temporality, thus surveying a facet of Koselleck’s pioneering work that is too often forgotten.

Britta Hochkirchen: Beyond Representation: Pictorial Temporality and the Relational Time of the Event

Pictures are often connected with the mediation of the event but, paradoxically, not with temporality as such. Although there are several existing approaches that focus on the interplay between the event and its literary representation, the relation between pictorial time and the temporal constitution of the event remains unexplored. The field of image theory has offered insights into the multiple dimensions of the picture’s temporality. It has shown that the picture’s temporality concerns not only the depicted event but also the picture’s immanent modes of producing different temporalities within one pictorial plane. The picture thus not only makes visible but also generates multilayered times of the event. This article brings together insights from image theory and from theories of historical times to demonstrate the relationship between the times of the event and the inner logic of the picture. In order to identify the various qualities of the picture that structure the times of the event, this article uses the case study of Reinhart Koselleck’s practical and theoretical work with pictures. This article reads Koselleck’s approaches to pictures alongside new insights concerning the relationality of time to the event and the picture. By exploring the picture’s agency with regards to the politics of time, this article lays bare the picture’s potential to structure the times of the event.

Theo Jung: Events Getting Ahead of Themselves: Rethinking the Temporality of Expectations

Whereas most theoretical and historiographical accounts of the event have focused on its present and past dimensions, this article addresses the relatively underexplored phenomenon of the future event. As temporal junctures, events often already elicit effects before they come to pass, and even if they never do. Building on foundational work on the relation between experience and expectation by Hans-Georg Gadamer and Reinhart Koselleck as well as on current historiographical debates on “past futures,” I develop a threefold typology of the future event, distinguishing between the assumption of the routine event, the expectation of the relative event, and the adumbration of the radical event. Engaging with case studies like the year 2000, the ambivalent character of socalled media events, and ongoing debates about a possible climate collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic, I show how reconsidering the complex temporalities of the future event can shed new light on the ways in which past societies made their futures present.

Anna Karla: Controversial Chronologies: The Temporal Demarcation of Historic Events

In everyday language and in historiography, influential events are commonly described as “historic” but are rarely defined from a theoretical standpoint. Discussing temporal demarcations of events by scholars—in particular William H. Sewell Jr.’s foundational study of the Storming of the Bastille—this article considers the contemporary urge to define the event’s temporal boundaries to better evaluate the alleged importance of certain events in history. Rather than perpetuating the constructivist idea that any event possesses a fundamentally interpretable character, it crafts a theoretical definition of the historic event that distinguishes between its flexible fringes and its rather stable core. Fixing an event as an anchor point on the timeline of history is thus presented as a process that provokes political, social, and—last but not least—financial controversies. As this article shows with examples from the history of revolutions reaching from the late eighteenth century to the early twenty‐first century, such epoch‐making events are essentially shaped by their flexible beginning and ending points. Although the cores of these events remain strikingly stable, their temporal fringes become objects of highly controversial discussions.

On January 13 and 14, I am attending the conference

Languages, Discourses and Practices beyond the Vote: New Perspectives on Politicization in the Nineteenth Century

which was originally planned in Madrid, but is now held online. The organizers, Oriol Luján and Diego Palacios Cerezales (Madrid), seek to build on recent debates on nineteenth-century processes of politicization, collective mobilization, citizenship-buidling, electoral practices and petitioning.

In my own contribution, titled

Plebiscites on the Streets: The Politics of Public Acclamation in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe

I will discuss the politics of applause, cheering and other modes of vocal support and disapprobation.

For more information, please click here.

Program

Wednesday 13 January 2021

9.30 Inauguration

9.40 First Session – Public spaces

Theo Jung (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg), Plebiscites on the Streets: The Politics of Public Acclamation in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe

Emmanuel Fureix (Université Paris-Est Créteil), Visual History and Popular Politicization in the 19th Century: Approaches and Proposals (France, 1814-1871)

11.00 Coffee break

11.15 Second Session – Mass Politics? Associations and campaigns

Maartje Janse (Leiden University), Voluntary associations and political participation

Diego Palacios Cerezales (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Comparative cultures of mobilisation. Transnational Catholic campaigns in the 19th century

12.35 Lunch break

15.00 Third Session – Representation and citizenship

Henry Miller (Durham University), Petitioning and representation

Florencia Peyrou (Universidad Autónoma de Madrid), Women, politics and politicization in Spain (1808-1874)

Volker Köhler (TU Darmstadt), A Republican Intermezzo? Changing Perceptions of State and Citizenship in the city of Mainz, 1793-1814

17.00 End of the day

Thursday 14 January 2021

9.30 Fourth Session – Popular mobilisation

Álvaro París Martín (Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès), Popular Royalism in the Marketplace: Women, Work and Everyday Politics in Marseille and Madrid (1814-1830)

Jordi Roca Vernet (Universitat de Barcelona), Popular mobilization through the National Militia. Cities and liberal revolution

10.50 Coffee break

11.00 Fifth Session – Participation in elections beyond vote

Malcolm Crook (Keele University), Hoarse throats and sore heads: popular participation in elections before democracy

Oriol Luján (Universidad Complutense de Madrid), Political citizens, thanks to or despite the law? The empowered voice of subjects in electoral claims

12.20 Conclusions

To mark the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the German Empire, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Orte der Demokratiegeschichte and the Otto-von-Bismarck foundation recently held a workshop on the Empire’s political culture. Its contributions have now been published online and will soon also be made available in print.

My own contribution, titled

Cultures of Dispute in Imperial Germany

adresses the changing practices and organizational forms of political meetings. It shows how these slowly transformed from an arena of controversial debate to a more monologous form, focused mainly on the demonstration of the strength and energy of different political parties. Sketching the changing dynamics between speakers, audience, and outsiders, I argue that a more detailed analysis of the varying modes of (not just verbal) participation and interaction such venues encompassed can shed new light on the ways the society of the Kaiserreich dealt with political plurality.

It can be accessed here.

A PDF-Version of all contributions is available here. A more extensive publication of the contributions is planned for later this year.

Many thanks to the organizers, and especially to the editor, Markus Lang.


In January, it will be a stunning 7 years since the founding of the ‘Reading Workshop History and Theory’ (Lektürewerkstatt Geschichte und Theorie) at Freiburg University’s history department and although we have been forced to go online, we are still going strong.

The group’s starting point was the observation that although the necessity to intertwine theoretical reflection and empirical research is often stressed, in practice the links between the two aspects are too often neglected. The reading workshop confronts this weakness by providing an informal forum for rigorous discussion of the theoretical foundations of the humanities.

Together with students, PhD-candidates and colleagues, we have discussed a multitude of of classical texts from authors like Gadamer, Luhmann, Wittgenstein, Agamben, Hegel, Foucault, Schmitt, Benjamin, Weber, Ricœur, and Spivak, as well as diverse topics such as historical comparisons, postcolonial theory, actor-network-theory, causality, the history of emotions, temporal practices, national identity, and many more.

Anyone interested in joining is very welcome. Just drop me a line.

A few months ago, I discussed my ongoing book project on the politics of silence in nineteenth century Europe with Philipp Janssen, the host of the wonderful Anno … podcast. The result has just been published and can be downloaded on the website (here) or through any major podcast provider.

We discussed various case studies as well as the project’s general structure.

If you are looking for a (German language) history podcast that adresses a wide range of topics and builds bridges between academic research and a wider audience interested in history, this is the place to start.

To get into it, I can recommend the episodes with my colleagues Sonja Levsen (on postwar education in France and Germany) and Claudia Gatzka (on postwar democratic cultur in Germany and Italy), or perhaps my former Bielefeld colleagues Silke Schwandt (on legal practices in Medieval Britain), Daniel Siemens (on the SA), Axel Hüntelmann (on medical scientist Paul Ehrlich), Levke Harders (on migration in nineteenth century Germany) or Hedwig Richter (on voting cultures in nineteenth century Prussia and the US). In all, there are now over 60 episodes of about one hour each.

Many thanks to Philipp Janssen for his interest in my research and for a very pleasant and lively discussion.

This semester, I’m not only teaching at Freiburg University’s History Department, but also – for the first time – at Freiburg’s University of Education.

Assasinations Make History: the Birth of Modern Terrorism in Europe (ca. 1789-1925)

Futures Past: the History of Expectations in the 19th and 20th Centuries

As usual, I’ve started collecting online resources on these topics on the Pearltrees website. These collections can be found here:

Next friday, I’m presenting some of my research at a workshop to be held in Berlin (and online) from 29 to 31 October under the title ‘Unity, Right, – but Freedom?’. It is organised by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Orte der Demokratiegeschichte in cooperation with the Forschungsstelle Weimarer Republik and the Otto-von-Bismarck Foundation.

The program includes papers on various institutional, intellectual, cultural and political aspects of the German Empire’s governments, parliaments, parties, social movements, military, and citizens.

Otto-von-Bismarck-Stiftung

My own paper, titled

Cultures of Dispute in Imperial Germany

adresses the changing practices and organizational forms of political meetings. It shows how these slowly transformed from an arena of controversial debate to a more monologous form, focused mainly on the demonstration of the strength and energy of different political parties. Sketching the changing dynamics between speakers, audience, and outsiders, I argue that a more detailed analysis of the varying modes of (not just verbal) participation and interaction such venues encompassed can shed new light on the ways the society of the Kaiserreich dealt with political plurality.

The workshop’s (NB updated on Oct 26, 2020!) program can be found here:

Next week, on October 1 and 2, Mahshid Mayar and Marion Schulte of Bielefeld University organize an interdisciplinary online-workshop titled

The Anechoic Chamber: Construction and Reception of Silence in Language, Literature, and History

I’m very excited to ‘attend’ the presentations. For more information on the workshop’s approach and attendance, please refer to here (English) or here (German).

After an extended editing process, the proceedings of a workshop held Marburg in 2015 under the title Aristocratism. Historical and Literary Semantics of ‘Aristocracy’ between Cultural Criticism of the Turn of the Century and National Socialism (1890-1945) have now been published by Waxmann Verlag.

4214gross

Its table of contents can be found here.

My contribution, titled

Adel und Epoche. Kulturkritik und Aristokratismus im deutschen Raum um 1800 und um 1900 im Vergleich

[Aristocracy and Epoch: Cultural Critique and Aristocratism in the German Lands around 1800 and around 1900 in Comparison]

discusses the role of the semantics of aristocracy in discourses of cultural critique. In a diachronic comparison, I show how the position of the concept of aristocracy fundamentally changed position between, from a designation of one of the central problems of current culture around 1800 to one of their solution around 1900. This semantic shift is explained against the background of the social transformations of the nineteenth century. The changing composition of elites and the concurrent ‘desubstantialization’ of the concept of aristocracy fundamentally changed the way in which diagnoses about the purported decadence of current times referred to social groups.

The workshop and volume were organized by a DFG funded research group with the same title as the resulting volume.

After my edited volume Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln. Unterlassungspraktiken in der europäischen Moderne had already been discussed in two radio shows (Lesart / das politische Buch and Andruck – das Magazin für politische Literatur, both on Deutschlandfunk), as well as in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, three academic reviews have now been published in:

Many thanks to the reviewers for their thoughtful remarks.