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Trafo Annual Conference in Collaboration with HCTS

Dec 07, 2017

From December 7-9, the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin held its 2017 Annual Conference “Chronologics: Periodisation in a Global Context". It was organized in cooperation with the Max Weber Foundation and several Members and Associate Members of the Cluster and HCTS participated.

The conference took a look at epochal divisions and terminologies such as “antiquity”, “baroque,” the “classical age,” the “renaissance,” or “postmodernity,” the “long 19th” or “short 20th” centuries. These divisions and terminologies 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. The conference thus addressed questions about the cultural conditionality of historical divisions and ideas, analysed their comparability and translations, and discussed options of national and cross-regional periodisations.

Over thirty international researchers in history and related disciplines approached these topics from different academic and regional angles during the conference. The conference was convened by the Cluster’s Acting Director Prof. Barbara Mittler, who is also a Board Member at the Forum Transregionale Studie, by former Cluster Co-Director Prof. Thomas Maissen from the German Historical Institute in Paris, and Pierre Monnet from the Institut Franco-Allemand de Sciences Historiques et Sociales in Frankfurt.

Among the panelists and participants were several Cluster and HCTS Members and Associate Members. During the opening roundtable “Tracing Chronotypes in East Asian Perceptions of the Past”, Prof. Joachim Kurtz talked about “When Were the Chinese ‘Middle Ages’? East Asian Travails of a Colligatory Concept”. Dr. David Mervart presented his research on “The Four Monarchies and the Three Dynasties: Translating European Past in Japan” and Dr. Martin Dusinberre shared his thoughts on “Maritime: The ‘Pacific Age’ and the Japanese Chronotype of Expansion”. Also, Dr. Pablo Blitstein talked about “An East Asian History of the ‘Multiple Renaissances’ Thesis”.

On the panel “The Making of Periodisation Schemes“, Dr. Milinda Banerjee presented on “Mastery, Servitude, and the Dialectics of Conquering Time: Periodization and Counter-Periodization in South Asian and Global Intellectual Histories”. Prof. Gerit Jasper Schenk gave a talk about “Ende der Unschuld? Periodisierungsversuche des sozioökologischen Weltsystems für die ‘Vor-Moderne’ in der Anthropozän-Debatte“ on the panel „Axial Times and Epochal Breaks“.


The conference was organized by the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Max Weber Stiftung – Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Institute im Ausland and convened together with the Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies, the German Historical Institute in Paris and the Institut Franco-Allemand de Sciences Historiques et Sociales. For more information, please visit the blog of the Forum Transregionale Studien here.



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  • © Huang Yongping: La Carte du Monde

  • Opening Roundtable

  • Prof. Barbara Mittler

  • Dr. Pablo Blitstein

  • Dr. Milinda Banerjee