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I’m very happy to announce that from July 1, 2022, I will be heading the Chair of Modern History (Professur für Neuere und Neueste Geschichte) at Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg. I had already been active in this position since April 1 in the capacity of a ‘substitute professor’, but I’m glad that everything is official now.

I’m immensely grateful to the MLU and to my new colleagues at the History Department for giving me the opportunity to further develop my research and teaching in this exciting new role.

A short introduction about me in the university magazine can be found here.

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.

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.

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

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, organized by Adriejan van Veen (Nijmegen) and myself, 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.

For further information on the themes and questions we will be addressing, please refer to our call for papers here.

[Edit April 28, 2022: Oliver Weber wrote a detailed report on our workshop for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung titled “Entpolitisierung. Hinter unserem Deich sind wir keineswegs sicher”. It is available online here.]

Guests are more than welcome to attend, either off- or online (via zoom). Please contact the organizers for registration and further details.

Venue: Vergader- en Conferentiecentrum Soeterbeeck Elleboogstraat 2 5352 LP Deursen-Dennenburg

Workshop Program

Friday April 1

Introduction (9:30 – 9:55) Theo Jung and Adriejan van Veen

Keynote (9:55 – 10:40) Ido de Haan

Panel 1: Timeless Realms: Art and Religion beyond Politics (10:45 – 12:30)
● Tamar Kojman: Constructing an Apolitical Realm after the 1848/9 German Revolutions
● Jan-Markus Vömel: Unpolitical Islam? Stategies of De-Politicization Surrounding Islam in Turkey
● Klara Kemp-Welch: Antipolitics and Art in Late-Socialist East-Central Europe

Lunch (12:30 – 14:00)

Panel 2: Perspectives on Political Abstention (14:00 – 15:45)
● Oriol Luján: Articulating Political Unease in 19th Century Europe: Abstention and Blank Vote as Forms of (De)Politicization
● Adriejan van Veen: Passive Citizenship? Civil Society and Political Abstention in the Netherlands, 1780–1840
● Zoé Kergomard: Depoliticizing “Apathy”? Institutional Reactions to Non-Voting in France under De Gaulle (1958–1969)

Coffee (15:45 – 16:15)

Panel 3: Discourses of Competence and Functionalism (16:15 – 18:00)
● Ruben Ros: Technocratic Anti-Politics in Dutch Interwar Political Culture (1917–1939)
● Koen van Zon: Depoliticisation through Participation? Consultation and Consensus Formation in European Community Policy-Making, 1960s–1980s
● Wim de Jong: Politicizing the Police? The Problem of Depoliticization in the Public History of Democratic Municipal Policing in the Netherlands, 1945–2019


Saturday April 2

Panel 4: Protecting the System from Politics (9:00 – 10:45)
● Mart Rutjes: Depoliticizing the Will of the People: Limiting the Franchise for Political Opponents in the Netherlands 1780–1800
● Stefan Scholl: Doubly Politicized? Semantical Struggles around the Relation between Economics and Politics in the Weimar Republic and National Socialism
● Anna Catharina Hofmann: An Administered Society? Planning and (De-) Politicization in the Late Franco Dictatorship, 1964–1973

Coffee (10:45 – 11:05)

Panel 5: Ruling by Ideas and Dreaming of Rational Government (11:05 – 12:50)
● Matthijs Lok: Moderation and Depoliticization after the Revolution: the Case of the Idéologues
● Eva Visser: Planning the Technate. The Apolitical Politics of the 1930s’ Technocratic Movement
● Jussi Kurunmaki and Jani Marjanen: Ideology, Politicization and Depoliticization in Parliamentary Rhetoric

Lunch (12:50 – 14:00)

Final discussion (14:00 – 15:00)

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 Stäheli, 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 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.

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

[EDIT: a review of the panel written by Kai Gräf has now been published on H-Soz-u-Kult and can be read here.]