Annual Conference: Chronologics – Periodisation in a Global Context
Invitation to the Annual Conference 2017 “Chronologics: Periodisation in a Global Context” of the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung, Berlin, 7-9 December 2017.
The conference will be convened by Thomas Maissen (Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris), Barbara Mittler (Heidelberger Centrum für Transkulturelle Studien, Forum Transregionale Studien), and Pierre Monnet (Institut franco-allemand de sciences historiques et sociales).
The event will be opened on 7 December 2017 at 5 pm with a roundtable featured by a group of researchers of the HERA project, “East Asian Uses of the European Past”. Several topical panels and roundtable sessions will follow on 8 and 9 December. On the second day, 8 December 2017 at 6 pm, Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA) will give a keynote lecture on “Region, Nation, World: Scale and the Problem of Periodisation”.
Epochal divisions and terminologies such as “antiquity”, “baroque,” the “classical age,” “renaissance,” or “postmodernity,” the “long 19th” or “short 20th” centuries are more than mere tools used pragmatically to arrange school curricula or museum collections. In most disciplines based on historical methods the use of these terminologies carries particular imaginations and meanings for the discursive construction of nations and communities. Many contemporary categories and periodisations have their roots in European teleologies, religious or historical traditions and thus are closely linked to particular power relations. As part of the colonial encounter they have been translated into new “temporal authenticities” in Africa, Asia and the Americas, as well as in Europe.
German historians in particular, in C.H. Williams’ ironic description, “have an industry they call ‘Periodisierung’ and they take it very seriously. (…) Periodisation, this splitting up of time into neatly balanced divisions is, after all, a very arbitrary proceeding and should not be looked upon as permanent.” In producing and reproducing periodisations, historians structure possible narratives of temporality, they somehow “take up ownership of the past,” (Janet L. Nelson) imposing particular “regimes of historicity” (François Hartog). Accordingly, periodisations are never inert or innocent, indeed, they have been interpreted as a “theft of History” (Jack Goody).
The aim of this conference is to uncover some of the dynamics behind particular cultural and historical uses of periodisation schemes, as concepts for ordering the past, and thus to reconsider these terminologies “devised to think the world” (Sebastian Conrad). Periodisations are culturally determined. They beg for systematic comparison in order to identify the contextual specificity and contingency of particular understandings of particular historical epochs. An interdisciplinary and transregional perspective allows for a reconsideration of the (non-)transferability of historical periodisations and the possibility to work out categories of historical analysis that go beyond nation-bound interpretative patterns.
The conference aims to show where and how periodisation reveals clear cultural, social, and national leanings and predispositions. We will discuss the making of these chronologics, the variable systems and morphologies it takes, e.g. religious, spatial and other models (e.g. linear, spiral, circular). We will focus on different agents and modes involved in the making of periodisation schemes (institutions ranging from the university to the school or the museum but also genres such as the documentary, the historical novel or local communities). We will discuss how European attempts at structuring the History, and along with them, particular chronotypes have been translated worldwide into universal and/or national, and communitarian models. At the same time, we will also focus on alternative, complementary and or silenced models of periodisation and epoch-making. By bringing together scholars with an expertise in different regions of the world, we hope to better understand the importance of temporality in the making of global history. Over thirty international researchers in history and related disciplines will approach these topics from different academic and regional angles during the conference.
The conference is part of the strategic cooperation between the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland. It is arranged in cooperation with the Einstein Center Chronoi and the Graduate School Global Intellectual History at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF).
Citation: Annual Conference: Chronologics: Periodisation in a Global Context, in: TRAFO – Blog for Transregional Research, 10.10.2017, https://trafo.hypotheses.org/7928