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Posts Tagged ‘Conference’

Last week (May 7-8), I participated in an international conference titled “Parlamentarismuskritik und Antiparlamentarismus in Europa” [Criticism of Parliamentarism and Anti-Parliamentarism], organized by the German Kommission für Geschichte des Parlamentarismus and EuParl.net, a European research network on the history of parliaments.

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Besides a keynote speech by Dr. Norbert Lammert, speaker of the German Bundestag, I had the opportunity to discuss the varieties and modes of criticism of parliament and parliamentarism with a number of renowned experts in the field. My own presentation focussed on the question to what extent antiparliamentary sentiments and discourses current in the German Empire found their way into the ‘lion’s den’, the Reichstag itself. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis, I attempted to shed some new light on a few famous cases of antiparliamentary discourse in the imperial parliament as well as on their wider relevance for its political culture and modes of communication.

The conference’s program may be found here. A publication of the proceedings is planned.

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Greuze_Portrait_of_Diderot

On October 5th, it will be 300 years ago that the French philosopher, writer, encyclopedia editor and brilliant conversationalist Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was born in a small town in north-eastern France. To commemorate this, Dr. Isabelle Deflers of Freiburg University and the Center of French Studies have organised a public symposium which will take place on October 28th. It’s title is:

Diderot und die Macht / Diderot et le pouvoir

Focussing on Diderot’s thought on power (and his quarrels with it), an interdisciplinary group of specialists will present various aspects of his work and influence. I have been asked to address Diderot’s intellectual confrontation with Tahiti, which he famously discussed in his Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville, a text written in the early 1770s but unpublished until well after his death. The focus of my presentation will be on Diderot’s views on sexual morals and their relevance to his political thought. The title of my presentation is:

Diderot und Tahiti: Europa im Spiegel einer außereuropäischen Gesellschaft

(Diderot and Tahiti: Europe Mirrored in a Non-European Society)

Admission to the symposium, which will take place in the historical Haus zur lieben Hand in Freiburg from 10:00 to 18:15, is free and open to all.

For the program, click here.

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At a workshop at the ZiF in Bielefeld, I will be presenting a paper on the use of the concept of zeitgeist in early nineteenth century political discourse, titled:

The Politics of Time: Zeitgeist in Early Nineteenth-Century Political Discourse.

The workshop, titled “Zeitgeist: an Inquiry into the Media of Time-Specific Cultural Patterns”, takes place from 19 to 21 September, 2013. For the programm, click here. For the workshop’s concept, click here.

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On May 15th to 17th of next year, I will be attending a conference titled “Declines and Falls: Perspectives in European History and Historiography” organized at the Central European University in Budapest.

My presentation – which draws upon my dissertation research – will address the complex interrelations between the concepts of progress and decadence in the long eighteenth century. Often, these two concepts are understood as mutually exclusive counter-concepts, epitomizing a forward-looking ‘Enlightenment theory of progress’ on the one hand and the backward and ultimately futile ‘complaints’ of conservatives and reactionaries on the other.

A closer look at the semantic structure of debates about the development of civilization in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries reveals, however, that to contemporaries, these concepts were not usually counter-concepts at all. Rather, they were regularly understood as linked, or even interdependent. To understand this paradox, my paper addresses the various ways in which ‘the culture/civilization as a whole’ was conceptualized in these discourses.

Joining the analysis of the semantic structure of contemporary narratives of cultural decline with their pragmatic interpretation as speech acts in public interaction, I identify three different types of interpretation of the ‘whole’ in which ostensibly monistic claims about civilization in toto were linked to a differentiated understanding of its plural nature. In this way, the common view of narratives of progress and decadence as mutually exclusive discourses – at worst resulting in a general narrative of modern intellectual history as an eternal struggle between Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment – may make way for a more detailed understanding of the complexities of the debates about the character and development of civilization that have been so very important to public discourses of self-reflection in the modern age.

Update: a conference report has been published on the CEU website.

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An article I wrote on the concept of Counter-Enlightenment has been published in the proceedings of a conference I attended last year in Bern, Switzerland.

My contribution takes its starting point from the observation that a large part of the debate about the meaning(s) of Enlightenment in the present is structured around a pair of mutually exclusive counter-concepts: Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment. Tracing this opposition back to its most influential proponent, Isaiah Berlin, and ultimately to its emergence in the Eighteenth Century itself, I argue for a less schematic approach taking into account recent historical research especially in the field of historical semantics. Thus, a better understanding of the different meanings and uses of the concepts of Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment in the past may also shed light on our current debates about the relevance of the Enlightenment tradition to our own culture today.

The volume also includes interesting contributions by (among others) Claudia Honegger, Urs Stäheli, Hartmut Rosa and Andreas Langenohl. For more information, please click here and here.

Theo Jung, Gegenaufklärung. Ein Begriff zwischen Aufklärung und Gegenwart, in: Dietmar J. Wetzel (Hg.), Perspektiven der Aufklärung. Zwischen Mythos und Realität (= Laboratorium Aufklärung, Bd. 12), München 2012, S. 87–100.

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Next March, I will be attending the 33rd annual conference of the Ninteenth Century Studies Association in Asheville, North Carolina. The title of the paper I will present is ‘Spiritual Power in a Secular Age: The ‘Spirit of the Age’ in Early 19th Century Politics’.

For more information, see here.

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Some weeks ago, together with Franz Leander Fillafer, a colleague from Konstanz, I submitted a session proposal for the the 13th International Congress for Eighteenth Century Studies to be held in Graz (Austria) between July 25 and 29, 2011. Now, the text has been published on the website and the session is open for paper proposals (also through the website). For junior scholars, there are travel grants.

Session CS011:

Enlightenment from beginning to end

The question “What is Enlightenment”, still a bone of contention, is inseparably linked to two other issues unsatisfactorily neglected: When and how did it start, and why and when did it end?

As for the former question there seems to have been a robust, tacit consensus, tying Enlightenment’s rise to the critical exploration of nature in the seventeenth century, a phenomenon once described as the ‘scientific revolution’. Upon closer inspection, this account, which stressed secular and cognitive dimensions above all others, bears the clear the imprint of specific nineteenth-century preoccupations and attitudes. For this reason it has, in recent years, been progressively scrutinised. But this scrutiny will also have to engage with eighteenth-century perceptions of Enlightenment’s advent, ways of self-authentication both nuanced and scarcely inclined to follow retrospectively interpolated patterns.

What happened to the Enlightenment after its ostensible demise around 1800 is notoriously difficult to gauge. The problem is often bypassed by relying on the gridlocked epochal caesuras (1789/1800), by retrospectively describing specific eighteenth-century phenomena as premonitions (pre-Romanticism) or by declaring Enlightenment a transhistorical “project”, one still worth fighting for or still pernicious enough to be combated. Clearly, rewarding avenues of research may open up here.

As intimated, the location of Enlightenment’s beginnings and ends has not only been a problem bedevilling historical scholarship. In fact, it has been a point of departure for disputes over the character and development of the modern age, ranging from eighteenth-century controversies about the interpretation and value of Lumières/Aufklärung to debates about “postmodernism” and the “end of history”.

This panel invites proposals which, along this grid of questions, integrate the following  issues in creative ways, providing context-attuned studies throwing light on the question of how the beginnings of Enlightenment were mirrored by its ends, and vice-versa:

  • Eighteenth-century ‘genealogies’ of the enlightenment, both in self-descriptions of ‘enlightened’ authors and (negative) characterizations by others.
  • Forms and functions of narrating Enlightenment’s beginnings and ends in debates about the ‘modern age’ and ,modernity’ from the eighteenth-century to the present.
  • The heuristic value of specific analytic concepts (e.g. enlightened absolutism, Catholic Enlightenment, radical Enlightenment etc.) with respect to the question of periodization and the vicissitudes and fortunes of their application in distinct scholarly cultures under varying political auspices (liberal vs. conservative historiography etc.).
  • The specific temporal and intellectual contours of Enlightenment in aesthetic debates or circles, or in the construction of national canons of literature and art.

We will divide our section into sub-units with invited respondents/commentators after each.

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