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German Images of ‘the West’ in the ‘long 19th century’

2-4 July 2009

Venue: German Historical Institute London

Convenors: Riccardo Bavaj and Bernhard Struck (St Andrews), and Andreas Gestrich and Martina Steber (GHIL)

Images of ‘the West’ have played a decisive role in modern German history. Until the middle of the twentieth century a sharp divide between ‘Western civilization’ and ‘German culture’ dominated the political discourse, but after 1949 German politicians ensured that the Federal Republic was anchored in ‘the West’ and German intellectuals alluded to the ‘Western’ role model. Models of the ‘West’ were adopted by historiography. They included the concept of ‘Westernization’ (Anselm Doering-Manteuffel), accentuated by consensus liberalism, and the normative model of ‘the long road West’ (Heinrich August Winkler), used to characterize a specific German path to modernity. However, in the process of analytic modelling almost inevitably unambiguous images of ‘the West’ are constructed. With a shift of focus to actual historical perceptions of ‘the West’ the unambiguousness starts to dissolve. What emerges instead is a plurality of conflicting notions.

Focusing mainly on the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the conference intends to historicize the concept. Examining elements of appropriation and rejection, taking seriously the spatial dimension, and grasping the concept’s inherent dynamism, the conference seeks to scrutinize the function of images of ‘the West’ within political discourse.

Call for papers (deadline 1 October 2008)
Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference Report, published in: GHIL Bulletin 32 (2010), Vol 1

Related publication:
Germany and 'The West'. The History of a Modern Concept
Ed. by Riccardo Bavaj and Martina Steber
New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2015. - 328 p.
ISBN 978-1-78238-597-4
read more about this title (this link will take you to Berghahn Books)