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The new issue of Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung contains a book review I wrote on “Diesseits der Geschichte: Für eine andere Historiographie” (Beyond History: For a Different Historiography), written by Achim Landwehr, the most important and prolific current German theorist of history. In my review, I consider the strenghts and challenges of some of the concepts Landwehr has introduced during the last decade-or-so, like “pluritemporality”, “temporal whirl” (Zeitwirbel), and especially “chronoference”. The book comes highly recommended to all interested in the history of temporality or in the temporal dimension of historiography in a general sense.

The review can be found here.

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For an interdisciplinary volume on silence edited by Mahshid Mayar (Cologne) and Marion Schulte (Bielefeld), I wrote a chapter on the way Europeans have historically framed the question ‘talkative’ and ‘taciturn’ nations.

Even today, we often think of authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in terms of ‘silence’, while parliamentary and democratic politics are linked to the category of ‘voice’. Retracing the historical emergence of such conceptualizations during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, my chapter aims at a reconsideration of these familiar, but reductive binaries.

Exploring French, German, and British discourses on the question why some nations are more talkative than others brings to light a fundamental shift in the understanding of communication around the turn of the nineteenth century, when explanations in terms of national character were gradually superseded by a point of view linking taciturnity and talkativeness to specific political regimes.

This gradual reorientation from a spatio-cultural to a temporal framing coincided with a distinct politicization of the question of communication (and its absence) which still resonates today. Placing our current understanding of the significance of voice and silence into a wider historical perspective thus contributes to a reconsideration of the meanings of communication in the modern world.

  • Talkative and Taciturn Nations. Ethnographic and Political Perspectives in European Discourses on Communicative Cultures (c. 1750–1850), in: Mahshid Mayar und Marion Schulte (eds): Silence and its Derivatives. Conversations Across Disciplines. London 2022, 87–108.

The chapter can be dowloaded here. The whole volume is to be found here.

Many thanks to the editors for their meticulous organization of the publishing process.

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Building on my research on passivity and omission, I’ve written a short contribution on Herman Melville’s famous story Bartleby, the Scrivener for WISO, a magazine published by the Tirol Chamber of Labor.

My essay links the narrative about the enigmatic employee of a nineteenth century law firm with a consideration of the conditions of our modern office world.

To go to my essay, click here.

To read Melville’s story (in a wonderful annotated edition), click here.

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In a volume edited by Susanne Kitschun of the Berlin Cemetry of the March Fallen and Elisabeth Thalhofer of the Rastatt Memorial to the Freedom Movements in German History, I’ve published a short contribution on current perspectives in the historical scholarship regarding the revolutions of 1848/49. In it, I point to ongoing debates about the revolutions’ ‘democratic’ character on the one hand and about their transnational entanglements on the other as two areas in which much progress has been made in recent years. Both debates also offer new bridges between historical understanding and ongoing public debates about the current shape and development of European politics.

Die Aktualität einer umkämpften Vergangenheit. Neuere Forschungsperspektiven auf die Revolutionen von 1848/49

[The Topicality of a Contested Past. New Approaches to the Revolutions of 1848/49]

The volume builds on the founding conference of the network 175-year-anniversary network for the revolutions of 1848/49 held in Rastatt last year (a report in German here). It includes contributions by Peter Steinbach, Michael Parak, Constanz Itzel, Felix Fuhg, Dorothee Linnemann, Susanne Kitchun, Andrej Bartuschka, Elisabeth Thalhofer, Katerina Ankerhold and Lea Braun.

The whole publication is available online here.

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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.

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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 builds 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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, 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.

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