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Posts Tagged ‘History’

In January, it will be a stunning 7 years since the founding of the ‘Reading Workshop History and Theory’ (Lektürewerkstatt Geschichte und Theorie) at Freiburg University’s history department and although we have been forced to go online, we are still going strong.

The group’s starting point was the observation that although the necessity to intertwine theoretical reflection and empirical research is often stressed, in practice the links between the two aspects are too often neglected. The reading workshop confronts this weakness by providing an informal forum for rigorous discussion of the theoretical foundations of the humanities.

Together with students, PhD-candidates and colleagues, we have discussed a multitude of of classical texts from authors like Gadamer, Luhmann, Wittgenstein, Agamben, Hegel, Foucault, Schmitt, Benjamin, Weber, Ricœur, and Spivak, as well as diverse topics such as historical comparisons, postcolonial theory, actor-network-theory, causality, the history of emotions, temporal practices, national identity, and many more.

Anyone interested in joining is very welcome. Just drop me a line.

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A few months ago, I discussed my ongoing book project on the politics of silence in nineteenth century Europe with Philipp Janssen, the host of the wonderful Anno … podcast. The result has just been published and can be downloaded on the website (here) or through any major podcast provider.

We discussed various case studies as well as the project’s general structure.

If you are looking for a (German language) history podcast that adresses a wide range of topics and builds bridges between academic research and a wider audience interested in history, this is the place to start.

To get into it, I can recommend the episodes with my colleagues Sonja Levsen (on postwar education in France and Germany) and Claudia Gatzka (on postwar democratic cultur in Germany and Italy), or perhaps my former Bielefeld colleagues Silke Schwandt (on legal practices in Medieval Britain), Daniel Siemens (on the SA), Axel Hüntelmann (on medical scientist Paul Ehrlich), Levke Harders (on migration in nineteenth century Germany) or Hedwig Richter (on voting cultures in nineteenth century Prussia and the US). In all, there are now over 60 episodes of about one hour each.

Many thanks to Philipp Janssen for his interest in my research and for a very pleasant and lively discussion.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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.

Pavilion-exterior-1024x576

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.

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The radio show Lesart / das politische Buch on Deutschlandfunk Kultur broadcast a short interview with me on the edited volume “Zwischen Handeln und Nichthandeln. Unterlassungspraktiken in der europäischen Moderne”.

It can be heard here.

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Many thanks to host Florian-Felix Weyh for his invitation to talk about the volume’s approach and case studies.

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