Historians as Engaged Intellectuals: historical writing and social criticism
The first open conference of the ICTCH (International Commission on the History and Theory of Historiography) will be held at the Institute for the History of Social Movements, Ruhr-University Bochum, 19 – 21 September 2013.
In the twentieth century Marxist historiography went furthest in demanding from scholars partisanship for the poor and the oppressed in society. Historians were neither to be antiquarians nor chase the illusions of objectivity postulated by European historism. Whilst in Communist countries, the ruling Communist Parties disallowed any deviations from the historical interpretations it prescribed, in non-Communist countries Marxist scholars belonged to the most engaged intellectuals writing history as an intervention into social and political debates. The influence of 1968 and the anti-colonial struggle on historiography ensured that the idea of the historian as an engaged intellectual became widespread across the globe. However, by the 1980s, this idea had run into difficulties, as the Marxist project seemed to run out of steam. Nevertheless, social protest has not gone away. After all, the 1980s witnessed massive peace and ecological movements as well as the social protest against Communist dictatorships, which all found considerable interest among historians, and more recently we have seen, with movements such as Attac or Occupy, that some scholars are involved in transmitting concepts and categories from the realm of their studies to the movements themselves, whilst, at the same time, making the movements case studies in their disciplines. Today, with Communism gone and Western liberalism far from triumphant, it may be time to revisit the relationship between historical scholarship and societal engagement. Should historians intervene in the social and political debates of contemporary societies? How have they done so in the past? For what causes did historians write and with which effects? Did they participate in social movements and, at the same time, make social movements the objects of their studies? Feminism, poststructuralism and postcolonialism all deeply influenced historical writing after the 1970s – to what extent did they promote the emergence of engaged intellectuals among historians?
Latin American historians dealing with traumatic memories by the dictatorships and tortures, the experience and the thinking of historians on the Commissions of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa and other countries, the experience of engaged historians in the Muslim countries under the threat of Islamic Law and of course the anti- and post-colonial experience
We invite submissions of papers which reflect on past and present attempts to write history from the perspective of societal interventions, including papers which do so with reference to
the theory of history
the history of historical studies
history and memory
Please send an abstract of no more than 150 words to Stefan Berger by 30 December 2012. All those who have proposed papers will be notified by email as to whether their paper has been accepted by 27 February 2013.
The Berendel Foundation has kindly provided limited financial assistance to junior scholars without institutional affiliation, and scholars from poorer countries. If your participation is contingent upon receipt of financial support, please include details of why such support is needed along with your abstract.