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Calls for Papers

Contested Borders? Practising Empire, Nation and Region in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Conveners: Dr. Levke Harders (Bielefeld University), Dr. Falko Schnicke (German Historical Institute London)

Venue: German Historical Institute London
Date: 26-28 April 2018

Closing date: 16 October 2017

Brexit, the Basque country, Kashmir - the drawing of social and spatial boundaries, the question of belonging, and the creation of identity are at the heart of many current debates. They are based on general political, social, and economic developments and the historical experience of individuals. This is why the drawing and negotiating of borders is a relevant topic for historical research. Although borders (are intended to) define geographical and cultural spaces and possibly also political communities, there is nothing 'natural' about them. Rather, they are the outcomes of specific historical conditions. Thus the emergence of the European nation-states and empires was accompanied not only by the drawing of borders, but also by the establishment of political and social borders, and boundaries relating to identity politics. Nation-states and empires, therefore, are seen as the central categories of European modernity and beyond. We argue, however, that processes that occurred before and beyond the creation of nation-states equally influenced inclusion and exclusion. The categories of belonging and non-belonging were created at (post)-imperial, national, regional, and local levels, and involved various actors. For some years, the social sciences have used 'belonging' as a productive concept in researching these processes of negotiation. At a theoretical level and as a methodological instrument, however, 'belonging' has not been clearly defined.

This conference intends systematically (1) to contribute to the definition of 'belonging' as a research concept, (2) to explore the region as a category of historical research, and (3) to combine regional analyses consistently with perspectives drawn from the nation-state and (post)imperialism, as has been repeatedly demanded in recent literature, (4) to contribute to overcoming a widely criticized 'methodological nationalism' via transregional and transnational approaches. We will examine how belonging is created, as well as instances of suppressed or prevented belonging, and the political, social, and personal hierarchies associated with them. How were inclusion and exclusion created? What role did the different forms of boundaries between empires, states, nations, and regions play? What actors were involved in the creation of belonging, in the drawing of borders, and in crossing them? Fractures, resistance, and interrogations can be used to reveal lines of conflict and demonstrate the elementary functioning of the politics of belonging, and the logic behind them. We are interested both in specific local/regional and state practices of belonging, and in the concepts inherent in them.

In the nineteenth century continental Europe was characterized by dynastic developments, a number of wars, and shifting boundaries that thus became, in part, ambiguous. Both the Franco-German border and the borders of (and within) the Habsburg monarchy and the Russian empire can be described as 'entangled borderlands' during this period. Their ambiguities had a considerable impact on the economy, politics, and social structure, and they were changed, among other things, by cross-border migrations. After the First World War the right of popular self-determination placed the drawing of borders on to a new legal footing. In its specific application as a legal principle, this new instrument had varying and sometimes paradoxical effects on the negotiation of borders and nationality. This can be traced, for example, by looking at the British Empire, which from the outset was a complex system of hybrid affiliations. With the transition to the Commonwealth, the question of belonging was complicated in a new way, for example, when India had to position itself between 'Western values' and non-aligned status, or when newly created republics in Africa were represented by the Queen along with the monarchies of the Commonwealth. Moreover, (sociological and ethnographic) research on migration and citizenship is increasingly examining these everyday processes of negotiation and focusing on its actors (migrants, marginalized groups, civil society, authorities etc.).

On the basis of (comparative) case studies of border regions and the processes of drawing and crossing borders in Europe, in the British Empire/Commonwealth and beyond, during the conference the concept of belonging is applied to historical research, theoretically and methodologically, at micro-level, meso-level, and macro-level, while existing research on nationalism is expanded by transregional and post-imperial perspectives. In order to pursue the questions outlined above, we would like contributions from the following subject areas and or related topics:

  • central terms and concepts: (1) transnational, transregional, and translocal approaches in historical research; (2) belonging and the politics of belonging in historical research;
  • (non-)belonging, exclusion, and inclusion in colonial and de-colonialized contexts;
  • contemporary descriptions, treatment, and practices of regions, nation-states, and em-pires in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and their different functions;
  • the representation, emotionalization, and politicization of empire, nation-state, and region;
  • the creation of spatial, social, and political borders and border-crossings;
  • social inequalities and belonging (migration, marginalized groups);
  • agency and actors in these processes.

Confirmed keynote speakers are Floya Anthias (London) and Philip Murphy (London). We are planning to have sections on, among other things, transnational and transregional case studies, constructions of difference, representations, and (post)colonial history.

The conference 'Contested Borders? Practising Empire, Nation and Region in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries' is intended to discuss current research questions with the help of case studies and theoretical-methodological works, and to explore the overarching themes, narratives, and perspectives of research as a whole. In order to make the discussions more intense, participants will be asked to submit their papers (maximum 3,000 words) before the conference, by 2 April 2018. Each paper will then be sent to a commentator. All participants are asked to take on the role of a commentator and chair a panel.

Please email suggestions for papers not to exceed 25 minutes in length along with an abstract (maximum 500 words) and a brief biography including main publications (maximum 1 page) to reach Levke Harders (levke.harders(ghi) and Falko Schnicke (schnicke(ghi) by 16 October 2017. The German Historical Institute London will reimburse travel and accommodation costs for speakers.

A reviewed English-language publication of selected papers is envisaged, so we ask for original contributions only.

Splendid Isolation? Insularity in British History

Arbeitskreis Großbritannien-Forschung / German Association for British Studies in cooperation with the German Historical Institute London

Conference, Berlin, 4-5 May 2018

Convenors: Wencke Meteling (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Andrea Wiegeshoff (Philipps-Universität Marburg) and Hannes Ziegler (German Historical Institute London)

Closing date: 3 November 2017

“Our story centres in an island, not widely sundered from the Continent, and so tilted that its mountains lie all to the west and north, while south and east is a gently undulating landscape of wooded valleys, open downs, and slow rivers. It is very accessible to the invader, whether he comes in peace or war, as pirate or merchant, conqueror or missionary. Those who dwell there are not insensitive to any shift of power, any change of faith, or even fashion, on the mainland, but they give to every practice, every doctrine that comes to it from abroad, its own peculiar turn and imprint.”
(Winston Churchill, History of the English-Speaking Peoples)

In these few lines, Churchill refers to one of the most notable features of British history: its “islandness” - a close connection between geographical facts and attached metaphorical (i.e. cultural and political) meanings. As Churchill reminds his readers, a specific dialectic of separateness and connectivity is characteristic of an island.

The conference “Splendid Isolation? Insularity in British History” will explore the interrelationship between isolation and connection of the British Isles in an epoch-spanning and interdisciplinary approach. Focussing on politics and cultures of “islandness”, it will discuss the place and the specific meaning of the island situation from early modern times to the looming Brexit of today. The conference seeks to investigate contexts in which “islandness” was referred to, explore shifting meanings attached to this notion, and examine the actors who made use of the “island argument”, their specific interests and practices.

We invite proposals for papers from all relevant disciplines such as history, political sciences, cultural studies, literature, sociology or geography. We are particularly interested in contributions that address the inherent tensions and contradictions of the island idea. This includes, first of all and on a general level, tensions between connectivity and isolation in the British context. Moreover, we would like to chart the powerful but often consciously misleading claim of unity attached to the island idea. Either strategically employed or unconsciously adopted, the island notion is prone to obscuring both the internal tensions of the British Isles and the actual dominance of England with regard to questions of national identity as well as external tensions regarding geopolitical expansion and colonisation in the context of the British Empire. A critical reading of the island idea in these contexts and in relation to specific projects, policies and practices might provide new insights into the processes of nation-building and Empire. Contributions that deal with discursive or ideal figurations and ask about the immediate implications of the island idea, and contributions that seek to explore its appropriation for and translation into tangible practices and policies are equally welcome.

The following topics and questions may provide a guide:

National identity and “islands within”

In the context of politics of (national) identity, the construction of the nation as a distinct island, the emergence and historical development of concepts such as the “island nation” and “island race” have been addressed from various angles. New perspectives might be gained by investigating the circumstances of the (re-)emergence and disappearance of such discourses and the appropriation of the island idea by specific groups for specific aims – not least in current debates about Brexit and Britain’s place in the world. Ideas of the British Isles as a distinct yet united entity suggest homogeneity while remaining silent about regions or groups that were perceived as different, backward and not an integral part of the “island nation”. A closer look at these “islands within” - or in the case of Ireland the “island nearby” - the political struggles and the underlying policies might reveal important components and contradictions of constructing insularity in British (and Irish) history. Further questions might address the relationship between the island notion and perceived problems of national security, and the dynamics of islanding or unislanding certain regions within Great Britain, e.g. Scotland or Wales in relation to England.

British Isles, Island Colonies and the British Empire

Beyond the focus on Britain as an island, the imperial and global history of the British Isles reveals yet another layer of tensions. From the beginning of the process of European expansion (distant) islands were seen as natural colonies and important outposts of maritime expansion. In this constellation, the British Isles adopted the status of “mainland” in relation to the colonies. What did the double status of Britain as an island and at the same time a mainland mean? The British Empire was primarily a maritime empire. Therefore its island colonies were of strategic and symbolic relevance, for example for the development of (imperial) sciences and not least national identities. How was the understanding of Britain’s island situation shaped and influenced by maritime power, colonial expansion and, ultimately, decolonisation? How was insularity on the one hand and colonial expansion on the other mediated? What tensions arose from policies of insularity and of empire? The Navy and the merchant marine, trading companies and port cities certainly played an important role as mediators between the mainland and island colonies. Did travellers of the oceans shape ideas of insularity and of a maritime British Empire in different ways from non-travellers? Did the idea of insularity engender specific practices or policies similar to or different from other (maritime) colonial empires? How did different social and ethnic groups experience ’their’ island situation in a global empire?

All speakers are expected to deliver their papers in English.

The conference will be held 4-5 May 2018 at the Centre for British Studies (Großbritannienzentrum) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In the interest of fostering stronger links between scholars in Germany and the United Kingdom and Ireland, the German Historical Institute London will cover travel expenses for accepted speakers travelling in from the British Isles. Accepted speakers from Germany may qualify for bursaries to cover travel expenses, depending on funding.

Proposals in English should include a brief one-page C.V. and a 250-word abstract of the proposed paper, and are due by 3 November 2017. Submissions and general inquiries should be directed to Wencke Meteling (meteling(ghi) or Andrea Wiegeshoff (andrea.wiegeshoff(ghi), and questions regarding travel expenses/bursaries to Hannes Ziegler (ziegler(ghi)

Call for Papers (PDF file)

Fourteenth Workshop on Early Modern German History

Organised by the German Historical Institute London in co-operation with the German Historical Institute Washington and the German History Society.

Date: Friday, 11 May 2018
Deadline: 1 February 2018

Venue: German Historical Institute London

Conveners: Bridget Heal (University of St. Andrews), Katherine Hill (Birkbeck, University of London), David Lederer (NUI Maynooth), Alison Rowlands (University of Essex) and Hannes Ziegler (GHI London)

Our first workshop ran in 2002 and has established itself as the principal annual forum in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland for new research on early modern German-speaking Central Europe. It fosters exchange on work-in-progress between post-graduates and experienced scholars in a relaxed atmosphere. Previous transdisciplinary themes include artistic and literary representations, medicine, science and musicology, as well as political, social, economic, military and religious history. Contributions are also welcome from those wishing to range outside the period generally considered as ‘early modern’ and those engaged in comparative research on other parts of early modern Europe.

The day will be organized as a series of themed workshops, each introduced by a panel chair and consisting of two to three short papers followed by discussion. The papers present key findings in summary format for discussion and/or suggestions. Each participant has 15 minutes to highlight their work-in-progress and indicate how work might develop in the future.

The workshop is sponsored by the German History Society and the German Historical Institute London in cooperation with the GHI Washington. Participation is free, including lunch. However, participants will have to bear costs for travel and accommodation themselves.

Doctoral students from North America (USA and Canada) who wish to present at the workshop can apply for two travel funding grants provided by the GHI Washington. Please indicate your interest in this grant in your application.

Support for postgraduate and early career researchers from the United Kingdom and The Republic of Ireland is available on a competitive basis, subject to eligibility requirements. Postgraduate members of the German Historical Society currently registered for a higher degree at a university in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland, and those who have completed a PhD within two years of the deadline for application but who have no other institutional sources of funding may apply for up to £150 for travel and accommodation expenses. Please see the GHS website for further information and application deadlines.

If you are interested in presenting a paper, please send a short synopsis (max. 300 words) and a CV by 1 February 2018 to Hannes Ziegler, German Historical Institute, email: ziegler(ghi)

All students and academic researchers interested in Early Modern German History are very welcome to attend. There is no charge for attendance but due to limited space booking is essential. Please RSVP to Carole Sterckx: sterckx(ghi)

Download Call for Papers (PDF file)

Movable Goods and Immovable Property. Gender, Law and Material Culture in Early Modern Europe (1450‒1850)

9th Conference of the European network “Gender Differences in the History of European Legal Cultures”

Conveners: Annette Cremer (Gießen), Hannes Ziegler (London)

Venue: German Historical Institute London
Date: 19-21 July 2018

Closing date: 15 October 2017

The history of material cultures offers important new ways of studying the significance of gender differences in the history of legal cultures by exploring new relationships between gender, law and material culture. Material and immaterial possession informs the self-image of individuals and societies, dynasties and families. A threefold scheme of legal distinction differentiates between usufruct (1), possession (2), and property (3). Yet these relationships between individuals and objects are not only relevant to civil law, but correspond to political regimes. While usufruct, possession and property thus correspond to different forms of authority and society, they also have a bearing on gender relations on different levels of society. Usually, these gendered aspects of material culture are the products of traditional proximities between certain areas of activity and related groups of objects. Communities in early modern Europe can thus be said to have a gendered and often legally sanctioned relationship to the material world and the world of objects.

Our assumption is that this situation led to social rivalries and gender-informed conflicts between individual members of societies regarding usufruct, possession, and property. The action of taking possession of something is thus more than just a way of achieving material security, but a form of social practice and a way of self-assertion: in order to gain social status, as a way of accumulating social capital or broadening one’s personal or dynastic room for manoeuvre. In this respect, the single most important event is the distribution of goods in generational succession. Despite their chronologically wide applicability, we would like to explore these questions with respect to early modern history.

The starting point for our conference is objects and groups of objects, that is to say, mobile and immobile resources, and their relationships with gender, structures of power, estate orders, customs and legal norms. Perspectives from social and legal sciences will thus be combined with approaches from material culture studies. Our basic assumption is that ways and forms of usufruct, possession and property regarding certain objects inform the self-image and the prospects of individuals and families. What changes and dynamics can be observed in relation to the correlations between gender and objects? What differences occur between different forms of societies?

The network „Gender Differences in the History of European Legal Cultures“ operates in a diachronic and comparative way. We are therefore looking for papers engaging with the relationships between objects, gendered self-images and rights of ownership on the basis of textual, pictorial and material sources in Europe between 1450 and 1850. Despite this emphasis on early modern history, we also encourage proposals that highlight transitions from the Middle Ages. Papers should engage with one or more of the following themes and questions:

  1. How can the distinction between movables and immovables be explained? On what experiences and everyday considerations is it based?
  2. When does the category of movables become relevant? Is the understanding of the house as immovable based on its material aspects, e.g. fabrics?
  3. Does the gendered coding of movables and immovables exist in different legal areas? How is the attribution of gendered codes argued for?
  4. What are the consequences of gendered attributions of objects and resources? Does the distribution of resources lead to specific hazards or profits?
  5. What objects are especially disputed? We are looking for examples of individuals trying to take possession of mobile and immobile, material and immaterial resources.
  6. Can tensions be discerned between the aims and interests of households and family units and the superior interests of the manorial system, the economies of cities and states, or the public weal?
  7. Does the distinction between mobiles and immobiles extend beyond legal norms? How is it handled in Common or Roman Law?
  8. What are the strategies of testators for distributing their property? How binding were marriage contracts and last wills in the case of succession?
  9. What institutions are resorted to in case of conflicts?
  10. How is the value of mobiles and immobiles assessed? How relevant are market values, auctions and valuers?
  11. What is the role of gender, marital status, age, social standing, and religious confession for pursuing one’s interest and the chances of success in the case of judicial conflicts?
  12. What is the influence of the distribution of wealth on power relations within the family?
  13. And finally: what is the shape of households that have been reorganised by gavelkind, single heir rule and other mechanisms of distribution? In other words: how is the redistribution of goods handled within households?

Keynotes will be presented by:

Amy Erickson (Cambridge) and Margareth Lanzinger (Wien)

Please send your proposals for papers (appr. 1 page/300 words) together with a short academic CV by 15 October 2017 to: annette.cremer(ghi) and ziegler(ghi) Standard travel and accommodation expenses will be reimbursed.

Call for Papers (PDF file)

Living the German Revolution 1918-19: Expectations, Experiences, Responses

International Conference London, 18-20 October 2018

Closing date: 1 November 2017

Venue: German Historical Institute London

Conveners: Christopher Dillon, King’s College London; Christina von Hodenberg, QMUL; Steven Schouten, European University Institute/University of Amsterdam; Kim Wünschmann, LMU München

The German Revolution of 1918-19 marks a historical turning point at which, following the catastrophe of the Great War, soldiers and civilians rose up to overthrow the German Empire’s political and military leadership. The approaching centenary offers a timely occasion to re-evaluate its contested history and memory by focussing on the socio-cultural realm of expectations, experiences and responses. The German Revolution was a key event in the era of seismic transnational upheaval which shook Europe between 1916 and 1923. An advanced industrial economy with the most powerful organised labour movement in the world, Germany was practically, strategically and symbolically critical to competing visions of the future in this new age of revolution. ‘The absolute truth’, wrote Lenin, ‘is that without revolution in Germany we shall perish’.

The conference proposes to re-evaluate the history of the German Revolution by shifting attention to the practices and agency of protagonists and stakeholders beyond the political elites. It seeks to explore the subjective dimension of the events and to investigate the diverse expectations, experiences and responses of Germans old and young, female and male, rural and urban, Catholic, Protestant and Jewish. For despite its evident significance as a historical watershed, the German Revolution remains poorly understood. Scholarship has made faltering progress since the historiography of the 1960s and 1970s, which concentrated on the constitutional and high political course of the revolution. While the notion that historians have ‘forgotten’ the German Revolution is no longer entirely accurate, it remains one of the least-studied transitions in European history.

The conference’s new perspective will register, among other topics, the revolution’s popular mobilisation and societal penetration, its impact on everyday life, its destruction of inherited patterns of authority, its generation of new affiliations, boundaries and cultural expressions, and its complex and contested legacy for the Weimar Republican project. It will establish an intellectual toolkit to analyse the creation, performance and experience of revolution and democratic citizenship, focusing on the dynamics of language, symbolism, practices, gender, emotions and mentalities.

While the focus of the conference rests on events between November 1918 and May 1919, we welcome contributions that critique this timeframe and situate the German Revolution within longer-term developments. By the same token, a comparative approach that combines different regional case studies, investigates the dynamics between centres and peripheries, and explores the impact of events in other countries, such as Russia, Hungary and Italy, on the German Revolution (and vice versa) will help to situate the events of 1918-19 within a broader European culture of protest, political upheaval and social change. We welcome interdisciplinary approaches.

Themes might include:

  • The creation and performance of revolutionary politics
  • Patterns of political and cultural demobilization and remobilization in wake of the Great War
  • Individual expectations and experiences in cultural settings such as the metropolis, small towns or countryside as well as in the virtual realm of media and the arts
  • Revolutionary economics
  • Gender and the German Revolution
  • Paramilitarism and violence
  • Protestants, Catholics, Jews and the German Revolution
  • Different ideas of politics and social participation developed during these months in different contexts and by different groups of actors (including an analysis of their particular semantics)
  • The impact of these ideas of politics and social participation on the longue durée history of democracy in Germany from the Weimar Republic to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Benjamin Ziemann (Sheffield) will deliver the conference’s keynote lecture.

The organisers aim to secure funding to defray the travel and accommodation expenses of participants. Conversations are underway for the publication of contributors’ papers within an edited volume to be published as close as possible to the centenary.

The language of the conference is English.

Contact Info: GR2018(ghi)

Please send proposals of up to 350 words and a brief biographical note by 1st November 2017.