Dealing with an Ocean of Meaninglessness

Reinhart Koselleck's Lava Memories and Conceptual History

in Contributions to the History of Concepts
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  • 1 Center for the History of Emotions, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany
  • 2 Global Intellectual History, Freie- and Humboldt Universität, Berlin, Germany
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During his prolific career, Reinhart Koselleck left his mark on a myriad of topics beyond the history of concepts: iconology, memory, and temporality. The first part of this piece is a never before published English translation of one of Koselleck's numerous public interventions. Second, taking as a starting point his reflection about the end of the war and the impossibility to collectivize certain memories, this article links his considerations about the unsayable with his work on images and political sensuality. Going beyond a simple analysis of Koselleck's writings, the article opens a dialogue between the history of concepts and affective memories, offering news ways to link experiences, emotions, and practices while underlining the limits of communication and collective memory.

Contributor Notes

Margrit Pernau is Senior Researcher at the Center for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. Email:

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Sébastien Tremblay is research fellow in Global Intellectual History at the Freie- and Humboldt Universität in Berlin. Email:

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