A wide range of recent developments in the study of politics – e.g., institutionalism, transfer, political culture, performativity and governance – is subsumed under the label of “New Political History.” Whereas the share of these innovative approaches and themes is on the rise in political history at large, many historians of European integration seems to remain aloof from new political history. In view of the very complexity of its multi-layered architecture and governance, however, the European Union’s past ought to be a prime object of research from the perspectives offered by New Political History, such as the study of established political cultures interacting in new contexts; the transfer of ideas and institutions across national boundaries; or performativity in transnational politics and policy-making.
Thus far, three crucial aspects of European integration are beginning to claim academic attention:
1) Political culture and language: The EU as an emerging locus for the interaction of political cultures and language conventions with diverging traditions and institutions. The ever-increasing density of networks and interdependencies has intensified the transfer of political practices, discourses and institutions – from Brussels to the national capitals and vice versa as well as among and within the member-states. Other international organisations and NGOs are also enmeshed in interactions.
2) Democracy and governance: Whereas political science literature tends to work with a normative or model-based concept of democracy, historians focus on past practices and dynamic relations between political representatives and the citizens over time to show lineages of transnational democratic representation that are longer and more complex than is generally assumed.
3) New spatialities: Transnational approaches has been one of the most important trends in European integration historiography in recent years, yet conceptualising new spatialities in European integration history is only in its infancy, and is likely to place historians in contact with peers in social and cultural history, as well as with scholars in sociology, anthropology and human geography.
Under the title “New Political History and European integration”, this panel aims to explore in-depth the promises, possibilities and pitfalls of innovative approaches to historical EU studies. The history of European integration has too long been confined to the boundaries of traditional political history, and privileging “European saints” of integration. Analysing themes like transnationalism and new spatialities, governance and political representation, and using new approaches like network analysis, discourse analysis and political transfer, historians have in recent years started opening up the field of European integration history for exciting new approaches.
New Political History considers historicisation, contextualisation, and conceptual and methodological innovation its core business. In contrast to political-science studies of the European Union and its predecessors, the defining characteristics of New Political History are not classical political history’s aversion to theorising. New Political History rather explores the limits of integration theories and interdisciplinary interaction. Multi-case comparative studies based on present-day understandings of key concepts inherently marginalise three aspects dear to historians: the distance between our analytical concepts and those of historical actors and timeframes; the discursive contestation of these concepts within each historical constellation; and differences in political culture and traditions among the EU member states (complicated further by transfer and emulation).
Please send an abstract of no more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org before 15 April 2014. Meals and conference fee are covered for speakers; speakers will have to pay for their own travel and accommodation costs.
The 2014 conference is organised and sponsored by the Research School Political History in the Netherlands and Flanders (www.researchschoolpoliticalhistory.eu). This is a research network of political historians, working to promote high-quality research and (inter)national cooperation. In addition, the Research School provides outstanding training for PhD students and Research Masters in political history. Through our contacts we are currently designing a programme for a number of conferences. The first conference will be in Lucca (March 2014), the 2015 conference will be in Bielefeld. We envisage holding future conferences in Belgium, UK, Hungary and Finland, thus laying the groundwork for a European network of researchers.
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