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Call for Sessions

The 52nd Biennial Meeting of German Historians at the WWU Münster ‘Divided Societies’

25–28 September 2018
Call for Sessions
Submission deadline: 31 October 2017

In the wake of countless political and social ordeals, the world today faces a significant new predicament. Many societies find themselves torn apart by inequality, religious conflicts, and new forms of nationalism which have arisen in reaction to increasing globalisation. The effects that such tensions have in a globalised world are manifestly international, which changes the possibilities for resolving them and for even having a voice. Many people are finding that the long-established consensus in their own societies is crumbling. The essential foundations of modern society and peaceful coexistence have thus been put to the test. In particular, divisions between rich and poor or between the ‘foreign’ and the ‘home-grown’ bolster feelings of disenfranchisement and injustice, so that groups which propagate simple solutions are becoming more powerful and increasingly persuasive.

This quandary is no specialty of our time, of course. The division of society along social, cultural, economic, as well as religious, ethnic, and legal lines is endemic in all historical periods and regions of the globe. Every century has seen struggles over consensus within a given society as well as between neighbouring societies. Deep-seated friction in the city-states of ancient Greece manifested itself in permanent civil wars (staseis); and the High Middle Ages saw the bitter quarrels of the Investiture Controversy over the positions and rights of the clergy and laity. The confessional ruptures of the early modern period left behind deep fault lines in individual communities which in the twentieth century were only superficially covered over, often with considerable bloodshed, by the forced unity effected by dictatorships and wars. Colonialism led to massive social upheavals not only in the world outside Europe, but in Europe as well, which the process of decolonisation has hardly settled. For the current dispensation, historical scholarship can help us to identify and analyze the processes of social division and how they are perceived, and thus to contribute to greater understanding.     

‘Divided Societies’ is the theme of the 52nd Biennial Meeting of German Historians, which will take place 25–28 September 2018 at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster. Amongst the lines of inquiry to be pursued at next year’s meeting are the competing narratives and utopias now emerging within societies as well as the observed ways they are negotiated. What happens when a society becomes closed, especially by means of an autocratic or dictatorial system, in order to put on a strong and unified face for the outside world? Or, to put the question differently: To what extent are forms of divisiveness part and parcel of an open society, and can they instigate productive processes? Interpretations of history and world views typically serve to legitimise one’s own position and can thus be instrumentalised politically. This dynamic, inasmuch as it cultivates forces that can create reality, has bearing not least on the many-layered and much-discussed tension between historical fact and fiction. The problem of ‘divided societies’ may thus be understood as central to historical science and its methodologies as well as to how the field conceives itself. It is, after all, worth asking the question as to which (normative) ideas of order underpin the diagnoses of ‘division’ and ‘unity’. Methodological discussions that engage ‘divided societies’ from an historical perspective are especially welcome.

As in previous years, not all sessions of the Biennial Meeting will reflect the conference theme. Much of the program will be devoted to other issues in order to reflect the range of current research.  

The committee asks that session proposals for the 52nd Biennial Meeting of German Historians be submitted by 31 October 2017 in the form of a PDF uploaded to our Online Form: The proposal should include:
• Name(s) of the proposal submitter(s)
• Session title  
• Period (Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern, Modern, Contemporary, Trans-epochal
• Area focus (e.g. non-European history, digital history, history pedagogy)
• Intended duration: two, three, or four hours (if four hours, then please explain why)
• Session format (papers followed by discussion, roundtable, etc.)
• Session abstract (max. 7500 characters including spaces). The abstract should indicate the line of inquiry to be addressed, the content to be covered, and the objectives, as well as how the session will be conducted)
• Names of participants (preferably finalised) and titles of individual presentations
• Address(es), telephone number(s), and Email address(es) of the proposal submitter(s)

The mornings will feature two consecutive two-hour sessions. These typically involve around 4 presenters, including the respondent and chair (the latter two are not necessarily required). Three-hour sessions (around 5 presenters including respondent and chair) may be scheduled during the afternoons. There are, however, fewer available three-hour sessions this year due to the new scheduling format of the morning sessions.

Session proposals may only be submitted by members of the German Historical Association. If you are not currently a member, you may join when you submit your session proposal. The membership application form may be found here: Foreign scholars and researchers may propose a session as long as they are collaborating with at least one member of the German Historical Association. Presentations may be held in German or English; it must, however, be possible to hold a given discussion in German.

The sessions of the Biennial Meeting should stimulate argument and provoke debate. It makes little sense for a session to reproduce established configurations, by including only members of the same research team, for example. Submitters are encouraged to aim for a well-balanced diversity of themes and presenters when composing their proposals.

If you have any questions, please feel free to address them to the Managing Director, Dr. Nora Hilgert, at the Email address below.  

Verband der Historiker und Historikerinnen Deutschlands e.V.
Dr. Nora Hilgert, Managing Director
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
Senckenberganlage 31-33
60325 Frankfurt