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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.

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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, two academic reviews have now been published in:

Many thanks to the reviewers for their thoughtful remarks.

An article I wrote for Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy has been published online. In it, I survey the state of current scholarship on political silences and propose a way forward for future research by means of a re-engagement with Niklas Luhmann’s systems theory and its concept of expectations.

Mind the Gaps: Silences, Political Communication, and the Role of Expectations

https://doi.org/10.1080/13698230.2020.1796329

Through this link, the first fifty readers can access the article online for free. After that, please contact me by email.

Abstract

Predicated on a one-sided focus on political “voice”, analyses of political silences traditionally focused almost exclusively on their negative role as the harmful absence of participation or responsibility. More recently, a new appreciation for the wide spectrum of political functions of silence has gained ground, including forms of willful renitence and even active resistance. Yet this thematic expansion has also resulted in a loss of focus. Lacking a common analytical framework, research on political silences risks limiting itself to the purely additive: finding and filling in ever more minute ‘blank spots’ on the periphery of the map of political research. Building on the work of the German sociologist Niklas Luhmann, this paper proposes a solution to this dilemma by means of a reconsideration of the political role of expectations. In political discourse, the expected distribution of moments of silence and articulation expresses established power structures, while unexpected silences and the breaking of expected silences conversely present a powerful means of calling these into question. Focusing on this ambivalence paves the way to a new systematic typology of political silences as a distinct mode of political communication. But above all, it points to the value of silence as an analytical probe, an instrument to fathom the expectations and constraints structuring political discourse in various contexts and spaces. Besides providing the study of silence with an overarching research focus, such an approach would thus build a bridge between the issue of political silence and wider debates on the structures of the political field as a whole.

The article is part of a special issue titled Silence in Political Theory and Practice, edited by Mónica Brito Vieira.  Its contributions include

  • Mónica Brito Vieira (York), Introduction
  • Theo Jung (Freiburg), Mind the Gaps: Silences, Political Communication, and the Role of Expectations
  • Toby Rollo (Lakehead University), Democratic Silence: Two Forms of Domination in the Social Contract Tradition
  • Sean Gray (Harvard), Silence and Democratic Institutional Design
  • Mihaela Mihai (Edinburgh), The Hero’s Silences: Vulnerability, Complicity, Ambivalence
  • Mónica Brito Vieira (York), The Great Wall of Silence: Voice-Silence Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes

The print version will be published next year in vol. 24, issue 3 of the journal.

In the summer semester of 2020, I will be teaching a course titled

Surviving – Experiencing – Writing: Diaries from National Socialist Concentration Camps

[Überleben – Erleben – Schreiben: Tagebücher aus nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslagern]

These diaries provide a unique insight into the prisoners’ experiences in the camps as well as in the way they tried to cope with them through the medium of diary writing.

Building on research by Renata Laqueur, Alexandra Garbarini, Amos Goldberg, and especially Dominique Schröder – whose book on the topic has been announced for publication in June of this year – the primary goal of this course will be to give the students the opportunity to work directly with the sources.

In the current circumstances, this course will be the first one I will teach fully online, using a number of different tools. I’ve also started a collection of websites on the course topic available online.

Today, I had a chat about my ongoing research project on political silences in 19th-century Europe with Philipp Janssen for his marvellous podcast Anno PunktPunktPunkt. It will probably take a while until our discussion is published in its feed (available on all the major podcast providers), but until then, I can highly recommend listening to the 50+ episodes currently online.

Some information on the podcast project itself can be found here.

Anno

On March 6, I’m participating in a workshop organized by Ludovic Marionneau of Helsinki University within the framework of the ERC Research Group ‘CALLIOPE, Vocal Articulations of Parliamentary Identity and Empire

under the title

Oratory and Represenation: Parliamentary Discourses and Practics in the Nineteenth Century

Venue: University of Helsinki – Topelia D112

The call for papers can be found here.

[EDIT April 16, 2020: A detailed report on the workshop, written by Josephine Hoegaerts, has now been published on H-Soz-u-Kult.]

Program

9:00 – 11:00 – First Session

  • Theo Jung (University of Freiburg): Performing Silence in the House of Speech: Benjamin Disraeli and the Parliamentary Sphinx.
  • Clarice Bland (University of Helsinki): Emotion, Not Eloquence: Bulwer-Lytton in the House of Commons.
  • Tamás Nyirkos (Pázmány Péter Catholic University): Conservative Orators in Restoration France: Bonald vs. Chateaubriand.
  • Ludovic Marionneau (University of Helsinki): “The president shakes the bell to no avail”: performance in the French parliamentary debates leading to Jacques-Antoine Manuel’s exclusion, 1823.

11.00 – Coffee break

11.20 – 12:50 – Second Session

  • Carlo Bovolo (University of Eastern Piedmont): Images from the Parlamento Subalpino: political and cultural representations of the Parliament in the Kingdome of Sardinia (1848-1861).
  • Daniel Morat (Free University of Berlin): Parliamentary Speech and Stenographic Practice in the German Reichstag, 1871-1914.
  • Oriol Luján (Complutense University of Madrid): Political Representation in 19th century Spain: a conceptual perspective.

12.50 – Lunch

14.00 – 15:50 – Third Session

  • Anna Rajavuori (University of Helsinki): Performing socialist in the Parliament: class and authority in the early 20th century Finland’s representative politics.#
  • Ivan Sablin (University of Heidelberg): When Subalterns Speak: Performing Class and Ethnicity in the Russian State Duma, 1906–1917.#
  • Karen Lauwers (University of Helsinki): The relevance of histories of extra-parliamentary representation and informal political communication (France, 19th-20th centuries).

15.50 – Coffee break

16:00 – 17:00 – Keynote Speech

  • Henk Te Velde – University of Leiden

17:00 – 17:30 – Concluding remarks

  • Josephine Hoegaerts – University of Helsinki

4250I’m glad to announce that my article

Die Stimme des Volkes und sein Schweigen: die Kommunikationsrevolution von 1848/49 zwischen Erwartung und Erfahrung

[The People’s Voice and Its Silence: The Communications Revolution of 1848 between Expectation and Experience]

has been published in the 59th volume of the Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, a special issue under the title “Changing the World Revolutions in History”.

Preliminary drafts of the contributions were discussed at a workshop held in Berlin in October 2018 (call for papers), before they were prepared for the publication now available from J. W. Dietz Verlag.


My contribution discusses the 1848 German revolution as a ‘communications revolution’. Whereas earlier research had understood this concept mainly in terms of the infrastructural contexts of revolutionary developments, I argue that it can be fruitfully applied to the specific contemporary understanding of what the revolution was and what it aimed to achieve.

Building on a widespread understanding of politics as an articulation of the people’s voice, contemporaries conceived of the revolution first and foremost as a breaking of its silence. The article sketches how this understanding of the political meaning of the revolution impacted revolutionaries’ language use.

Focusing on the first national parliament in Frankfurt, it delineates the negotiation of speech and silence in this decisive political arena as well as the reactions this elicited from outside. Thus, it offers a new interpretation of the 1848 revolution in terms of the changing expectations put on politician’s communicative action and of their impact on political practice.


The volume’s introduction, written by Kerstin Heinsohn and Dietmar Süß can be read online here. The other contributions (summaries) are available in print.

On February 7 and 8, I’m taking part in a workshop on current research on nineteenth century political and social history organized by the DFG funded Project Political Participation in the Provinces located at Saarland University.

I’m commenting on a panel on ‘Politics and Publicity’, encompassing papers by Angela Heinemann (Duisburg-Essen) on the emotional history of student associations and gymnastics in early nineteenth century Germany and by Christian Maiwald (Cologne) on the contestation of press censorship in Vienna in the same period.

Other panels address themes like ‘Participation in the Periphery’, ‘Elites’, ‘Politics and Religion’ (commented on by my colleague Christina Schröer), ‘Politics and Infrastructure’ (including a paper by my other colleague Konrad Hauber). The workshop is concluded by a general discussion moderated by Professor Armin Owzar (Paris).

Many thanks to the organizers, especially to Professor Gabriele Clemens and Amerigo Caruso for getting together what looks like a very interesting workshop.

The complete program can be found here.

9780367427733An article I wrote on the efforts to reform the German language during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries has been published in a volume edited by Susan Richter, Thomas Maissen and Manuela Albertone. Languages of Reform in the Eighteenth Century: When Europe Lost Its Fear of Change, published by Routledge, is based on a series of conferences held in Paris (2014), at the Villa Vigoni (2015) and in Heidelberg (2016). It’s scope is defined thus by the editors:

Societies perceive “Reform” or “Reforms” as substantial changes and significant breaks which must be well-justified. The Enlightenment brought forth the idea that the future was uncertain and could be shaped by human beings. This gave the concept of reform a new character and new fields of application. Those who sought support for their plans and actions needed to reflect, develop new arguments, and offer new reasons to address an anonymous public. This book aims to compile these changes under the heuristic term of “languages of reform.” It analyzes the structures of communication regarding reforms in the 18th century through a wide variety of topics.

My own contribution, titled

Mending the Boat While Sailing:
Languages of Linguistic Reform in the German Territories, c. 1750–1815

traces the ways in which projects of language reform in the German territories were framed. It identifies two different ‘languages’ of linguistic reform dominating debates on the topic from the second half of the eighteenth century to the early decades of the nineteenth: a language of linguistic enlightenment and one of linguistic identity. Despite their common subject matter , their perspectives were fundamentally different. Thus, two competing approaches of speaking about language emerged, presenting contrasting vistas on the German language’s current state, the possibilities of its future reform, and their political and social implications.

My thanks go out to the editors as well as to the co-contributors for their efforts in getting together this wide-ranging volume.

The volume’s introduction, written by Pascal Firges, Johan Lange, Thomas Maissen, Sebastian Meurer, Susan Richter, Gregor Stiebert, Lina Weber, Urte Weeber, and Christine Zabel, can be read online here.

Together with Mónica Brito Vieira (York), Sean W. D. Gray (Harvard), and Toby Rollo (Lakehead, Canada), I published a Critical Exchange in the journal Contemporary Political Theory titled

The Nature of Silence and Its Democratic Possibilities

It consists of four contributions and an introduction.

  • Silence as a Mode of Political Communication: Negotiating Expectations – Theo Jung.
  • Interpreting Silence: A Note of Caution – Sean W.D. Gray.
  • Two Political Ontologies and Three Models of Silence: Voice, Signal, and Action – Toby Rollo.
  • Silent Agency – Mónica Brito Vieira.

A pre-publication online version of the text can be read here, the published version here.

The Critical Exchange proposes a reconsideration of the multifarious forms and functions of silence in the political field, which cannot be reduced to the effects of silencing or of secrecy alone, but also encompass silent resistance, denial and a multitude of performative practices constitutive of individual or group identities.

My own contribution concerns the current state of research into political silences and some of its weaknesses. It proposes a re-orientation focused on the role of expectations, starting from the premise that communicative silence functions as the expressive omission of an expected signal.

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Julian Scott: Empire of Silence, Swiss Expo 2002.

Many thanks to my co-contributors, but especially to Mónica for inviting us to York and for organizing this publication.

As a group, we are working on another special issue on this topic, currently under review at the Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy.