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2023/24 will mark the 175-year anniversary of the revolutions of 1848/49. As a first step toward the planning for the commemoration of these events, a workshop in Rastatt brings together participants from many of the major German museums, memorials, and scholarly networks focusing on the history of the revolutions.

  • Gedenkort Friedhof der Märzgefallenen
  • Erinnerungsstätte für die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte, Rastatt
  • Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie e.V.
  • House of European History
  • Stiftung Bundespräsident Theodor-Heuss-Haus
  • Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand
  • Förderverein Erinnerungsstätte für die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte e.V.
  • Historisches Museum Frankfurt
  • Offenburger Salmen
  • Bundesarchiv

Together with my colleague Dr. Heléna Toth (Bamberg University), I’ve been asked to present an overview over recent developments in historiographical research on the topic. Building on my own research, I will sketch some of the ways in which the revolutions of 1848/49 have been linked to the “Age of Revolutions”, placing them in wider transnational, European, and global contexts. In addition, we will discuss the place of the revolutions within the framework of the long-term history of “democracy” and “democratization” in Germany, Europe, and beyond.

The workshop will take place in Rastatt on November 4 and 5 of this year. More information about the program and registration (all are welcome) may be found here.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the German Empire, the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Orte der Demokratiegeschichte and the Otto-von-Bismarck foundation last year held a workshop on the Empire’s political culture. Its contributions, which were made available in a preliminary version online earlier this year (here), have now been published in extended form in the Weimarer Schriften zur Republik series at Franz Steiner Verlag.

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.

Many thanks to the editors.

The latest issue of the Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft includes a review I wrote about Lucian Hölscher’s book

Zeitgärten. Zeitfiguren in der Geschichte der Neuzeit (Göttingen 2020)

Zeitgärten - Lucian Hölscher | Wallstein Verlag

Its broad ranging insights into the theory of history build on a close re-reading of 25 classics of historical writing from the 18th to the 21st century, from Ranke and Droysen up to Eric Hobsbawm, Mark Mazower, Ulrich Herbert and even my own PhD supervisor, Willibald Steinmetz. The book comes highly recommended to all interested in the theory of historiographical writing and its conteptualizations of historical temporality.

After a long gestation period, I’ve finally published my very first article in my native tongue, Dutch. Many thanks for Floris Meens for his thorough editing. After 15 years abroad, I needed some help getting my grammar back up to par.

My contribution

Een tweestrijd om de tijd? Cultuurkritiek en beschavingsapologie in dialoog

(A Conflict over the Times? Cultural Critique and the Apology of Civilization in Dialogue)

considers the interaction between the discourses of decadence and progress. Building on French debates of the late eighteenth century as a case study, I argue for a new, dialogical understanding of discursive change. Focusing on the question of how positions crystallize and develop in interaction with each other opens new perspectives on polemics as a dynamics of discursive development.

The essay is published in the volume Ten strijde tegen het verval. Cultuurkritiek in diachroon en internationaal perspectief, which is available from Amsterdam University Press.

On October 5, between 2:15 and 4 pm, I am participating in a panel titled

Deutungskämpfe um die Gegenwart: Zeitgenossenschaft und Zeitdiagnostik um 1800 in der Kontroverse [Controversies over the Present: Debates about Contemporaneity and Temporal Diagnosis around 1800]

at the German Historikertag. The panel is structured as follows:

  • Sebastian Schütte / Susan Richter: Einleitung
  • Theo Jung (Freiburg): Augenblick und Durchblick: Zeitgeistdiagnosen und ihre Kritik um 1800
  • Susan Richter (Kiel): Von der Seife und dem Besteck des Zeitgenossen. Formen und Analyseinstrumente der Zeitdiagnostik im Deutungskampf
  • Sebastian Schütte (Heidelberg): Von Nachtwandlern und Traumfängern im utopischen Dämmerschein. Geschichtsdeutung und Zeitkritik im (vor)revolutionären Paris
  • Uwe Justus Wenzel (Zürich): Auf der Höhe der Zeit und in ihren Niederungen. Einige Probleme philosophischer Zeitgenossenschaft
  • Helge Jordheim (Oslo): Kommentar

Next semester, I’m offering two courses at Freiburg University (one online, one in person).

The Age of Revolutions: Transatlantic Political Upheaval (1776-1848)

This in-person seminar considers current debates on the entanglements between the era’s political revolutions and asks if it makes sense to speak of a ‘Revolutionary Era’.

Laughing Matters: Spotlights on the Cultural History of Humor since the Early Modern Age

This online reading course presents an introduction to the history of humor. Focusing on the political significance of joking and laughing as a mode of interaction, it asks how historians can integrate this aspect of social life into broader narratives on the character of specific constellations and eras.

I’m looking forward to returning to the class room. As usual, I’ve started collecting online resources on these topics on the Pearltrees website. These collections can be found here:

All too often, depoliticization is reduced to a very recent phenomenon, an effect of ‘Neoliberalism’. In a workshop to be held in Nijmegen on April 1-2, 2022, we aim to place the concept in a wider historical perspective. On the basis of a broad spectrum of European cases from the late eighteenth century until today, depoliticization no longer appears as a monolithic and autonomous process, but rather as a complex bundle of practices and discourses contesting the boundaries of the political sphere.

As organizers, my colleague Adriejan van Veen (Nijmegen) and I are pleased to invite paper proposals from all fields of modern European history and its neighbouring disciplines.

Call for Papers

Depoliticization before Neoliberalism: Contesting the Limits of the Political in Modern Europe

In recent decades, public commentators and political scientists alike have observed a widespread delegation of tasks from democratic to technocratic, international and market bodies. This ‘neoliberal’ displacement has often been pinpointed as the cause of dissolving ideological cleavages and of growing public disenchantment with politics. Yet while the shift of responsibilities from political to allegedly non-political spheres was long thought to have led to widespread political disengagement, recent upsurges in populism and identity politics have called this view into question. Are such recent developments to be understood as a repoliticization, in reaction to previous depoliticization? Or was the political never quite as deflated as we thought? Against this background, questions about the boundaries of the political sphere have again reached the top of both public and scholarly agendas.

Missing from such debates, however, is an expanded historical perspective on the complex entanglements of depoliticization and politicization processes. Research on political history often focuses on the many manifestations of politicization: the rise of political parties, mass movements, and popular leaders. Yet phenomena of depoliticization – the removal of particular issues from political agendas, the manufacturing of tacit political and ideological consent, and citizens’ non-participation – are often less visible and therefore far less studied. In recent years, historians of neoliberalism have started to explore this terrain, demonstrating how the institutional dismantling of the Keynesian welfare state involved the re-framing of contentious issues in terms of ‘natural’ globalization and economic ‘necessity’, placing them beyond the realm of collective deliberation. This workshop’s goal is to expand such insights beyond the narrow margins of the late 20th and 21st centuries: to study depoliticization processes and their interdependencies with politicization as an integral facet of European modernity since about 1750.

The workshop’s aims are threefold. The first is to improve our understanding of the contemporary dynamics of depoliticization and politicization by studying earlier iterations of their entanglements. Which discursive strategies and performative practices did historical actors from the late 18th to the 20th centuries employ to depoliticize certain issues? Is it true that depoliticization, as one prominent account puts it, ‘has to happen in a slow and unobtrusive way and that it is most effective when contemporaries do not even realize that it is taking place’ (Steinmetz/Haupt eds. 2013), or can it also be a publicly expressed strategy, as recent studies on neoliberalism have indicated? Under which conditions were past attempts at depoliticization successful? And when were non-contentious issues or processes eventually (re)politicized?

Secondly, the workshop aims to rethink the strong normative bent of current debates. Neoliberal delegation, citizens’ political abstention, and populism and identity politics are often approached as problems – aberrations of a mass democracy of engaged individuals respecting the boundaries of liberal debate. But this ideal is not only historically contingent; it is highly questionable if it has ever been fully realized. This workshop focuses on the plurality of historical contexts in which depoliticization and politicization processes took place, and on the diversity of actors, ideas and practices that drove them. How can these be compared between democratic and non-democratic regimes, and between various historical timeframes and geographical regions? To which spheres (economic, bureaucratic, legal, religious, scientific, private, etc.) did historical actors aim to displace contentious political issues and tasks, and how were such attempts contested and countered?

Thirdly, by analyzing the complex entanglements between depoliticization and politicization, this workshop seeks to enhance our understanding of ‘the political’ as a facet of historical modernity. The idea of the political as a specific sphere of social interactions has been contested since its emergence in the late 18th century. Depoliticization and politicization processes can therefore not simply be understood as a ‘decrease’ or ‘increase’ of activities aimed at this fixed realm. Instead, attempts at depoliticization or politicization should be seen as struggles between historical actors with very different conceptions of which institutions, actors, and practices count as ‘political’ and which do not. This leads to the questions how historical actors waged these struggles, which discourses and practices they implemented to achieve their respective aims, and which institutional or other changes resulted from such contestation of the limits of the political.

Submission guidelines

The workshop welcomes papers conducting (comparative) case studies on depoliticization in relation to its counterpart politicization. Cases can be drawn from any area in Europe and timeframe between the mid-18th and late-20th century. We also welcome papers on cases of global interactions with European areas, for example in transatlantic and (post)colonial settings. Paper proposals should include a preliminary title, an abstract of 250-300 words, and affiliation and contact details.

Abstracts can be submitted to adriejan.vanveen@ru.nl by October 1, 2021. Successful applicants will be notified before November 1.

The workshop will feature pre-circulation of first draft papers and oral presentations with subsequent discussion. It will take place at Radboud University, Nijmegen, on April 1–2, 2022, and/or partly or fully online, depending on the COVID-19 situation. Travel and accommodation expenses will be covered. The workshop is funded by the Thorbecke Fund of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW). A publication is intended.

Contact

For futher details, please contact the workshop organizers.

Dr. Adriejan van Veen (Radboud University Nijmegen), adriejan.vanveen@ru.nl
Dr. Theo Jung (Albert Ludwig University Freiburg), theo.jung@geschichte.uni-freiburg.de

Between 14 and 25 June, the Association for Political History organizes its postponed international conference under the title “Layers and Connections of the Political”, regrettably online instead of in Rome.

Participation is free of charge after registration with the organizers (here).

On June 21, at 9.00 – 10.30 CET, I am part of the panel “‘Political Participation’ in Democracy History: A Contested and Ever-Changing Concept and Practice?”, organized by Anne Heyer (Leiden) and Zoé Kergomard (Paris).


Chair:
Ido de Haan (Utrecht)
Discussant:
Harm Kaal (Nijmegen)

Participants:

  • Anne Heyer (Leiden): When did the Masses become Political?
  • Theo Jung (Freiburg): Battling with Words or Fists? Changing Modes of Participation in Political Meetings in Britain and Germany (1867-1914)
  • Carlos Domper Lasús (Zaragoza): The University Work Service. A politicizing experience under Francoism, 1950-1970
  • Zoé Kergomard (Paris): Is electoral abstention also a form of democratic participation? Rethinking the value of voting in the young Vth Republic (1960s-1980s)

The whole program can be downloaded here.

On the initiative of Ejvind Hansen, on April 22nd a first constituent meeting of the newly founded Network of Silence Studies took place online. The group joins researchers from many different disciplines who study the significance of silence. Since I’ve been interested in this topic from a historical perspective for some years, I’m very glad to be a member.

The new website provides a short description of the group and its activities as well as a list of the scholars that have joined. New members are very welcome.

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.