Agency of Concepts in Interface Regions: Asymmetries, Asynchronities, and Discontinuations
Warsaw, 28–30 September 2023
The full conference call available here.
The 24rd International Conference on the History of Concepts, organized by Bartłomiej Błesznowski, Piotr Kuligowski and Wiktor Marzec on behalf of the History of Concepts Group (HCG), brings together scholars from all disciplines interested in conceptual history. It offers a platform for interdisciplinary exchange on the problems and practice of the history of concepts and fosters the international network of conceptual historians.
Although the conference gathers a broad community of conceptual historians regardless of their topic and region of interest, this year we would like to encourage reflecting on concepts in a localized and/or spatialized manner. The point of departure is for us the very locality where the conference takes place, Eastern Europe. However, its spatialized condition has a much broader, global, and perhaps universal reach, characterizing various tensions and differentials of the global space of conceptual transfers and their impact on historical processes.
In colonial and post-colonial settings, in dependent regions of continental empires, in the multicultural metropoles and especially in the shatter zones and interfaces of larger political and cultural entities, concepts are forged, uttered and used in context of ethnic diversity and language plurality. These contexts are marked by patterned inequality, where certain language resources maintain privileges, draw on extensive global networks and enjoy access to economic resources or political power. Many of these contexts are also characterized by shifting geopolitical frameworks and multiple gravities of political and cultural influence; for instance, when particular places change state affiliations or competing ideologies orient themselves at various political centers (imperial capital, national homeland abroad or contested benchmarks of progress).
Discontinuous history of empires (broadly understood) epitomizes such a situation exceptionally well. Social and political languages were created in such a multi-scalar network of tensions and adapted to geopolitical shifts. For instance, “Western” or “Eastern” orientation continue to shape the map of ideological divisions in Eastern Europe, and the competition between “domestic” and “global” elite hierarchies tend to split the local public spheres. At the same time, discontinuous history of the state resulted in a weak institutionalization of social conflict. Historical shifts were often dependent on larger political frameworks, when, for instance, clashes of empires opened opportunity windows for nationalist groups on their borderlands, which caused unprecedented reversals in political possibilities and ethnic hierarchies. In such situations, regimes of agency often mutated and unexpected opportunities emerged. Concepts, themselves carrying multiple legacies and differentials of power with them, gained uneven, situated impact on the historical process.
We invite participants to address this nexus of historical situatedness, geopolitical inequality and agency of concepts. This condition emerges as a global average rather than a local particularity. After all, what had been regionalized as a burden before was later turned into the problematic privilege of the margins and now appears to be a global typicality. Meanwhile, the apparent fit between concepts and things, and their language-based relative stability in the “standard” Western statehood, has been decentered and rendered as an exception at best, if not just an ideological illusion possible in centers of power.
The organizers welcome proposals for papers or panels focusing on the conference theme, not excluding proposals on any other aspect of conceptual history. Proposals can address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Historical agency of concepts and conceptual change
- Imperial and state-related Eastern European legacies of concepts
- Rethinking concepts and conceptual history from the global South and global East
- The spatialized legacy of concepts and geopolitical aspects of their history
- Multiple temporalities of concepts and their embeddedness in social realities
- Concepts of modernity and their various benchmarks and reference points in time and space
Proposals for panels (preferably 3 speakers and 1 commentator; in justified cases, 4 speakers) should not exceed 800 words; proposals for individual papers should not be longer than 250 words. The speaker’s name, institutional affiliation, major publications (no more than 5) should be added. Panels will last two hours. The language of the conference is English.
Please send your proposals to email@example.com as a Word Document. The deadline for sending in proposals is March 30. 2023. Accepted participants will be notified by the end of April.
The conference is free of charge. However, participation requires an active membership in the History of Concepts Group. The membership fee includes a one-year subscription to our journal, Contributions to the History of Concepts. There will be also a limited possibility to use free accommodation for PhD students and people without institutional support. If you want to use this option, please add this information along with a short justification to your submission.
Institute of Applied Social Sciences, University of Warsaw
Robert B. Zajonc Institute for Social Studies, University of Warsaw
Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History of the Polish Academy of Sciences
German Historical Institute, Warsaw