New Histories of Politics. Topics, Theories, and Methods in the History of Politics beyond Great Events and Great Men (First GRACEH Conference). Budapest: Graduate Conferences in European History (GRACEH); European University Institute (Florence); Berliner Kolleg für Vergleichende Geschichte Europas (BKVGE); Central European University (CEU), 18.05.2007-20.05.2007.
Reviewed by Benno Gammerl
Published on H-Soz-u-Kult (July, 2007)
New Histories of Politics. Topics, Theories, and Methods in the History of Politics beyond Great Events and Great Men (First GRACEH Conference)
The Graduate Conferences in European History (GRACEH) are intended to generate collaborative initiatives and to deal with European history beyond national divides. In cooperation with the European University Institute (Florence) and the Berliner Kolleg für Vergleichende Geschichte Europas, Central European University (CEU) held a conference on these issues in Budapest from 18 to 20 May 2007. Specifically addressed to doctoral candidates, GRACEH creates a forum for young researchers of the three European doctoral programs in History to communicate across borders, explore the impact of other disciplines and the effects of the new ambitions for interdisciplinary European scholarship. Beyond the walls of the three initiating institutions, the organizers aimed to involve in this communication an emerging critical mass of young European scholars with the shared interest in developing dialogue within European History. One of the innovative features of the GRACEH is its ‘bottom-up’ scheme (encouraged and receiving support from established senior researchers), which involves different generations of PhD. students working together and transmitting their organizing experience to their peers. The 2007 conference included 65 presenters from all over Europe. Apart from the multi-national student body of the three institutions, the presenters of the conference came from a wide range of European universities from Paris, London to Istanbul and Moscow. As the call for papers had also reached transatlantic universities, two presenters from Columbia University in New York gave papers on European issues of political history.
Contrary to a static understanding of European History, the 2007 GRACEH conference was aimed to connect panels on the relations between politics and culture. For a number of decades in the mid-twentieth-century, political history was pushed into the background by the new trends in historiography when schools of social history identified themselves in contrast to traditional political history. However, already in the 1970s some prominent scholars called for a renewal of interest in the history of politics, with the emphasis shifted from the focus on “great men” and the reconstruction of “great events” to interdisciplinary interpretations. Since then new histories of politics have emerged and have treated politics from multiple perspectives that promoted a new perception and acknowledged the politicization of the concept ‘culture’ in the social sciences and the humanities. The CEU-based organizers, Gábor Kármán, Maria Falina, Ferenc Laczó and Emese Bálint, identified six major themes (‘New, integrated histories of politics and culture’; ‘New histories of politics and intellectuals’; ‘Politics and religion’; ‘Historical anthropology of politics’; ‘New histories of the politics of kingship; and ‘Masses, popular revolts and representatives of marginality in politics’) and arranged the 18 panels of the conference around these comprehensive topics.
The conference was opened by three members of the advisory board of GRACEH: in the name of the host institution László Kontler, head of the Department of History at CEU; Arnd Bauerkämper, Managing Director of BKVGE, and Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, head of the Department of History and Civilization at EUI. The first keynote speech was given by Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, who spoke about the question of whether there is a new political history in Europe? In the following, presentations of participants were structured in three parallel panels that continued with the same title after the lunch break.
Intellectuals and politics 1 and 2 (chaired by Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Balázs Trencsényi) included altogether eight presentations on intellectuals’ activities throughout Europe from the seventeenth century up to the recent past. Sophie Masse illustrated the prevailing political and intellectual influence on French historians writing and making history in De Gaulle’s Republic; Camelia Crăciun’s presentation dealt with the socialist and Zionist intellectuals in Romania of the 1920s and 1930s; Bernhard Dietz spoke on British anti-liberal intellectuals of the interwar period and the phenomenon of ‘New Conservatives’, and Niall Whelehan’s analysis looked at conceptions of political violence in Irish radical organisations in multiple centers: at home and in exile in the United States. The second part of the panel continued with Antonio Momoc’s talk on the specific nature of the Romanian sociological concepts of the Sociological School of Bucharest in the 1980s. Moreover, Márkus Keller compared the identity and self-image of teachers in Hungarian and Prussian higher education in the nineteenth century; and finally Lidia Jurek explained the new role of the Polish intelligentsia at the turn of the nineteenth century.
The second large panel of the day, Discourses and political power: Construction of knowledge 1 and 2 (chairs: Arnd Bauerkämper and Bertrand Taithe) started with Norman Domeier’s presentation on the biggest domestic scandal in Germany before the First World War that introduced the term ‘homosexual’ into public discourse. Silviu Hariton studied the role of the Orthodox Church in the processes of modernization and state-/nation-building in Romania after 1850. Celia Donert argued that the “Gypsy Question” was less a test of ideology than of the legitimacy of communist regimes, particularly in the post-68 period. Ceren Gülser İlikan focused on health policies in Turkey in the 1930s especially concerning tuberculosis, and in the last presentation of the panel Teodora Daniela Sechel spoke about the Transylvanian epidemics and social disciplining in the eighteenth century. The afternoon session started with Arthur Weststeijn who focused on the rhetoric of two Dutch merchants theorizing about the ideal republican state and virtuous human behavior. Marian Zăloagă revised stereotypes of the normative discursive groups of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and the sub-typing mechanisms in Gypsy studies. Italo Marconi presented the abdication of Charles V in the frame of a complex strategy, and the comprehension processes adopted by contemporaries. Sebastian Kühn gave the last paper in the panel and analyzed the entangled economies, honor and loyalty in the early modern sciences.
The third parallel panel was History and memory 1 and 2 (chairs: Gábor Gyáni and Alexandra Kowalski). In the opening presentation, Uta Protz showed how the monuments to Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg are dedicated to the reconciliation of the communist-oriented Left and the Social Democratic Left in post-reunification Berlin. Petru Weber presented a paper on the public memory of Jewish communities in Romania. The third speaker, Sebastian Ullrich gave a presentation on the Weimar Republic and the political culture of the Federal Republic of Germany 1945-1959. The afternoon session opened with Eduardo Romanos who presented the main sources of legitimation for the postwar institutions and politics in Franco’s Spain. Cosmina Paul reconstructed the memories of the borderland violence which took place in the County of Maramures between 1944 and 1946, and the last presentation given by Carolina Blutrach Jelin presented the “weapons” of Count Fernán Núñez in the competition for the political space leaving a double memory of his family.
Bertrand Taithe’s keynote lecture opened the second day of the conference. In his talk (“Humanitarianism: The Last Language of Compassion Politics?”), Taithe described the technologies and representation of humanitarianism in a historical perspective. On the basis of French and British examples, the speaker illustrated the language of the compassion as developed in the 1860s, compassion fatigue in the recent past, and the revival of this language in the present.
Sessions on the second day of the conference featured two double panels. Religion and Politics 1 and 2 (chairs: Matthias Riedl and Nadia Al-Bagdadi) featured eight presentations. Stephanie Schlesier’s paper dealt with the Jewish emancipation and the position of Jews in the Prussian and the French state; Valentina Afanasyeva analyzed the religious factors in Ukrainian electoral campaigns as reflected in the periodical press; Irina Roldugina talked about the Kalininskaya Comission, and Maria Falina presented a case study that analyzed church-produced responses to the ideological and political challenges of Yugoslavia in the mid-1930s. In the afternoon, Gábor Kármán elaborated on the seventeenth-century confessionalisation in Transylvania with particular regard to the Thirty Years War. By dealing with Transylvanian Saxons, Sever Cristian Oancea presented his findings on Counter-Reformation, social discipline and modernization in the Habsburg Monarchy. Moreover, Márton Zászkaliczky dealt with the political intentions behind two reformed confessions in mid-sixteenth century Hungary, and Miles Alexander Pattenden presented his research on the impact of Paul IV in the religion and politics of the Counter-Reformation.
The second double panel of the day entitled Art and Politics (chairs: Gerhard Jaritz and Markian Prokopovych) were dedicated to the political context of art. Éva Deák presented the visualization of princely power in the seventeenth century; Péter Bokody gave a pictorial and iconographic description of tolerance and hostility analyzing the representations of the “other” and of the “ruler”. Mehmet Fatih Uslu described the Kemalist reforms of the modernization of Turkey and illustrated his argumentation with the example of a magazine, Resimli Ay. In the first presentation of the afternoon session Irina Cărăbaş raised the question of whether aesthetics can overcome politics. In her presentation, she dealt with the ethical quest of avant-garde artists. Irina Kotkina and Ádám Mestyán described the role of the opera in totalitarian systems and its means of Westernisation in a colonial context in the nineteenth century. Jeff Taylor presented discourses between the digital, industrial and agrarian worlds of Budapest’s Millenáris Park.
The panel on Cultural and Social History of Foreign Relations (chair: Tamás Meszerics) started with Verena Steller’s paper on the symbolic actions of diplomacy in Franco-German relations between 1871 and 1933. Megan K. Williams presented the familial context of early modern diplomatic recruitment or praxis, and the topic of European ambassadorial system was dealt with by Jan Hennings in his presentation on the relations between the Russian Tsar and other European princes. Concluding the session, Domagoj Madunić turned to customs, rituals and ceremonies in the siege operations in Dalmatia during the War for Crete (1645-1669).
The section on Law Making and Practice of Law - interferences with politics (chair: Alfred Rieber) included papers that primarily aimed at the construction of citizenship in different circumstances and diverse historical periods. Benno Gammerl elaborated on the internal political logic and the ethnicizing in the British and Habsburg Empires around 1900. Rudolf Kučera introduced the symbolic capital of the nobility and ennoblements as a significant political tool in the Habsburg monarchy and Prussia. Amit Prakash interrogated the notion of citizenship in the French context during the mid-twentieth century, and presented the case of North Africans in Paris. Bibia Pavard gave a new reading of the 1967 legislation on contraception, and explored the family planning movement in France with particular regard to its capacity to relate civil society to political actors.
The last day of the conference started with the third keynote address. István Rév gave a methodologically oriented speech on “Ethics and the Limits of History Writing”. He referred to the terms ‘thick’ and ‘thin’ as informed by anthropology and philosophy, and proposed a novel approach to the writing of history. The presentations were organized in three panels that again had double sessions. In Politics and symbolic geography (chairs: Constantin Iordachi and Maciej Janowski), Mateusz Hartwich reconstructed the national appropriation of the Karkonosze region in Poland via tourism between the world wars and after 1945 as well as the re-interpretation of the representation of the region. Florian Keisinger presented Irish journalistic discourses concerning South-Eastern Europe during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In his paper, Zdeněk Nebřenský traced the Cold War confrontation and the case of foreign students in Czechoslovakia of the 1960s. Sarah McArthur analyzed the shift in images and representations of the Orthodox Slavic populations of the Ottoman Empire, with particular attention to Serbia and the Serbs, in Russian travel writingin the first part of the nineteenth century. Lovro Kunčević showed the representations of Venice in Ragusan political culture in the sixteenth century, and Victor Taki illustrated constructions of the “Turk” as the “Other” by the westernizing Russian elite.
The second parallel panel Power and/of Identity: Mass Events, Public Performance (chairs: István Rév and Gábor Klaniczay) started with Meral Salman’s presentation on the ceremonies of Haci Bektas Veli as a political field of constructing the Alevi-Bektashi identity. Kateřina Horníčková showed how Utraquism – the most popular religion in Bohemia until its suppression after the Battle on the White Mountain – became a key issue in the construction of public identity and representation of Bohemian towns. Ana Hofman presented her paper describing public manifestations in Southeastern Serbia. Delal Aydin dealt with the traditional Kurdish New Year festival Newroz and its role in the process of mobilization of the Kurds with the claim of separate identity in Turkey. Josep Vicent Penadés Aliaga introduced the Vatican Exhibition of 1888 as an attempt to modernize values and change the image of the Church at the end of the nineteenth century. Joachim Häberlen offered insights into the dynamics of political violence in Leipzig 1929–1933 and argued that political violence can be understood as a battle for controlling urban territory.
The last section dealt with Histories of Politics after the Linguistic Turn: The Language of Politics, the Politics of Language (chaired by László Kontler and Péter Apor). Silke Schwandt talked on the history of word “use” and traced the historical roots of virtus, our understanding of morals and moral limitations of the political sphere to the Middle Ages. Eszter Tarsoly explored the relationship between intellectuals and the sphere of politics and showed how intellectuals gained access to authority and power in Central and Eastern Europe by promoting a particular set of attitudes towards language in the wake of nationalism and modernity. Cesare Cuttica presented the category of “political patriarchalism” in early seventeenth-century England during the reign of King James I and the initial phases of the rule of his son and successor Charles I. The next presentation of Orsolya Vincze on early modern Hungarian translation of Basilikon Doron interpreted translation as a two-directional process of communication between cultures, involving attempts at “talking back”. Luis Fernández Torres presented stages of conceptual development regarding the concept ‘party’ in nineteenth-century Spain. Vladimir Petrović presented an inquiry into the genesis of the term and the practice of “ethnic cleansing” and applied the term to the Yugoslav conflict. In the last paper of the section, Irial Glynn outlined official images of asylum seekers in the West during the second half of the twentieth century.
In his final remarks Arnd Bauerkämper described the conference as rich and informative and reminded participants that the next GRACEH conference will address Ruptures and Continuities in European History. Periodisations in History, Historiography and the History of Historiography. It will be organized by the Berliner Kolleg für Vergleichende Geschichte Europas and take place in Berlin from 24 to 27 April 2008.
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