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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

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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.

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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

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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:

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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).

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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

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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.

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The program of the UK-German Frontiers of Humanities Symposium 2019, held in Lübeck on 2 to 5 May, has been published on the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s website.

Together with seven colleagues from four different disciplines (history, literature, geography, anthropology), I’m part of the organizing committee. The conference’s overall design as well as the session abstracts can be found here.

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Under the title

Times of the Event: A New Survey of a Historical Category

(Die Zeiten des Ereignisses: Neuvermessung einer historischen Kategorie)

the organizers (Anna Karla (Köln), Jörn Eiben (Hamburg) and myself) are proud to announce the 40th workshop by the Arbeitskreis Geschichte + Theorie, this time in cooperation with the Centre for Contemporary History, to be held in Potsdam on November 9 – 10.

Focusing on its specific temporality, the workshop aims to develop a new theoretical understanding of the event as a fundamental historical category.

Participants include: Frank Bösch (Potsdam), Albert Schirrmeister (Paris), Tobias Hasenberg (Cologne), Thomas Mergel (Berlin), Britta Hochkirchen (Bielefeld), Ramon Voges (Leipzig), Caroline Rothauge (Eichstätt-Ingolstadt), Silvan Niedermeier (Erfurt), Achim Landwehr (Düsseldorf), Uwe Lübken (Munich), Christian Holtorf (Coburg), Alexander Gall (Munich), Iris Schröder (Erfurt), Tobias Becker (London) (more on his contribution here), Fernando Esposito (Tübingen), Ulrike Jureit (Hamburg) and Aleida Assmann (Constance).

The workshop program, including details on the venue, may be found here and here. The working language is German. All are welcome, but registration by email is appreciated.

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Together with Daniel L. Lee (Sheffield), I’ve been invited to organize a historical panel at the first UK-German Frontiers of Humanities Symposium to be held in May 2019.

This new symposium format is co-funded by the British Academy and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation as part of the Frontiers of Research program of interdisciplinary, bi-national symposia. Alongside the history panel, there will be contributions from the fields of geography, anthropology and literature.

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