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On December 8 and 9, I will attend the conference titled “Unrelating: Infrastructures, Imaginaries and Politics of Disconnection” organized by Timon Beyes, Urs Stäheli, Clara Wieghorst and Lea Zierott of the research project “Disconnectivity: Imaginaries, Media Technologies, Politics”.

Originally, the conference had been planned to take place in Hamburg, but due to current circumstances, it is now going to be held online. While this is sad for all of us who were looking forward to attending in person, it does make it a lot easier for anyone interested in the topic to join. If this includes you, please register at cdcforum@leuphana.de.

In my contribution, titled “Varieties of Negativity: Historical Perspectives on Passivity and Disengagement”, I will present a survey of current historiographical research on inaction, disconnection and related topics, hoping to enrich the theoretical discussion ongoing in other fields of scholarship.

Because of the change of venue, the program is not yet set in stone. The organizers are working on it. Roughly, we can expect the following:

December 8

  • Timon Beyes, Urs Stähel, Clara Wieghorst, Lea Zierott: Welcome and Introduction
  • Theodora Sutton: Disconnect/Reconnect: Imaginaries and Politics of Digital Detoxing
  • Ana Jorge: Pilgrimage and Dis/Connection
  • Steffen Krämer: Unplugging Audiences: Non-Attention as a Third Mode Between Attention and Distractioon
  • Milan Stürmer: Disconnection by Decree: From Bronze Age Debt Cancellations to Digital Objects
  • Theo Jung: Varieties of Negativity: Historical Perspectives on Passivity and Disengagement
  • Alice Lagaay: DIS*CONNECTION: Responding With Paradox to the Paradoxes of a Network Society
  • Marilyn Strathern: Productive Breaks and Energising Gaps in the Worlds of Anthropology (Keynote)

December 9

  • Martina Leeker: Accept the Gap! Mediocrity for Digital Cultures
  • Nine Yamamoto-Masson: tba
  • Nicole Scheller: Being Invisible: Countersurveillance Strategies in Art and Design
  • Melissa Gregg: tba
  • Nishant Shah: tba
  • Sebastian Gießmann: A Very Short History of Credit Card Fraud

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.