CFP: In-Between Empires: Trans-Imperial History in a Global Age

Original announcement is here.

Venue: Freie Universität Berlin, September 15-16, 2017

Organizers: Daniel Hedinger (LMU Munich), Nadin Heé (FU Berlin and Max Planck Institute for the History of Science) and Satoshi Mizutani (Doshisha University)

By focusing on spaces “in-between” empires – their connectivity, cooperation, and competition – this workshop aims at establishing a trans-imperial approach to the history of empires.

Imperial history has been booming for quite a while. Along the way, innovative approaches such as post-colonial history, global history, or new imperial history have provided us with thrilling insights into the omnipresence and the everydayness of the human experience of empires. Amidst all this diversity, many studies have focussed on entanglements between colonies and metropoles, but much less is known about trans-imperial dimensions of the game. On an empirical basis, inter-imperial perspectives, which compare several empires or consider competition between them, have become more important lately. Yet, such studies are scattered and this kind of research remains in its infancy. We still lack an overarching theoretical-methodological framework with which to address the spaces in-between empires. In other words: whereas national history has been transnationalized in the past decades, the same does not hold true for the history of empires. Thus, we would like to address the current state of research and at the same time ask how a future trans-imperial history could look.

In this sense, we seek to decentralize the history of empires both on the level of empirical research and historiographical narratives. Our questions are as follows: do narratives for each empire change with such an approach? Do they appear less unique? To illustrate this: does the thesis about continuity in German colonialism from the late 19th century to the Nazi regime appear in another light if we discuss German expansion in trans-imperial contexts? Does the notion of the uniqueness of Japanese imperialism, which is often seen as a reaction to or even a mimicry of Western imperialism, still hold true? And, to add a final question: was the British empire the all-defining model for all the others or are the imperial processes of the various nations examples of mutual learning?

By discussing such concrete questions we also seek to address more overarching questions. How can we systemize such an approach in methodological and theoretical terms? Are recent concepts dealing with dissemination and practices of knowledge helpful? How can we integrate studies on anti-imperial agency or violence into the approach? And who were the brokers of trans-imperial interactions?

Research has shown that transnational approaches do not make the nation disappear. We would like to take the same stance in relation to empire. Therefore, in this workshop we will focus on specific cases. The workshop, to be held in Berlin in September 2017, will bring together an international group of scholars who have focused on one or more imperial dimensions of one of the following empires: British, French, Russian, Austria-Hungary, Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish, Ottoman, Chinese, as well as the US-American empire. Their contributions should discuss how transcending perspectives can change the perception of the empires they are specialized in, but also discuss possibilities and limits of a trans-imperial approach for the historiography per se. The focus will be on the years between 1850 and 1945. Possible topics include:

  • Trans-imperial learning, including different actors, such as intellectual or political elites and marginalized groups
  • Trans-imperial competition or the deliberate non-transfer of knowledge
  • Anti-imperial actors and their trans-imperial networks, actions, or conflicts
  • Empires at war and mutual learning in the context of colonial violence
  • Imperial interactions and the politics of comparison involved therein

Please note that we conceive of the Berlin workshop in September to be a ‘publication workshop’ – a workshop with relatively few but high-profile experts that enables not only in-depth discussion, but that will also result in a publication. More precisely, we intend to publish contributions based on papers (6000-7000 words) presented at the workshop in an edited volume in near future.

Travel and accommodation expenses of all participants will be paid by the organizers.

Please submit abstracts (250-300 words) by March 15 by emailing the organizers.


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