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Conceptual History of the Near East

The Sattelzeit as a Heuristic Tool for Interrogating the Formation of a Multilayered Modernity

Florian Zemmin and Henning Sievert

Abstract

Conceptual history holds tremendous potential to address a central issue in Near Eastern Studies, namely the formation of modernity in the Near East, provisionally located between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. The encounter with European powers, primarily Britain and France, was a decisive historical factor in this formation; and European hegemony is, in fact, inscribed into the very concept of “modernity,” which we take as an historical, rather than analytical, concept. The conceptual formation of modernity in Arabic and Turkish was, however, a multilayered process; involving both ruptures and continuities, intersecting various temporalities, and incorporating concepts from several languages. To interrogate this multilayered process, we suggest the metaphor of the Sattelzeit (Saddle Period) as a heuristic tool, precisely because of its being tied to modernity. Finally, the article will show what conceptual history of the Near East has to offer to conceptual history more broadly.

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Conceptualizing an Outside World

The Case of “Foreign” in Dutch Newspapers 1815–1914

Ruben Ros

Abstract

This article studies the concept of buitenland (the foreign) in a broad sample of Dutch newspapers in the period between 1815 and 1914. Buitenland emerged as a key concept in the nineteenth century. It referred to an “outside word” that was marked by semantic properties such as instability and closeness. As such, this apparently mundane spatial indicator bolstered the emergent “spatial regime” of globality and globalization. The article thus shows how a computational analysis of concepts that could be easily overlooked reveals structural transformations in the way past and present societies conceptualize (global) space.

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The Making of Global Inequality

A Conceptual History, 1945–1980

Christian Olaf Christiansen

Abstract

This article is a history of postwar discourse on an unequal world. This discourse was profoundly shaped by new influences: quantitative data and an expanding inequality research infrastructure, the “birth of development,” decolonization, human rights, the global Cold War, and theories of the world as one integrated global system. Examining academic journal articles written in English, this article traces the emergence of global inequality in the aftermath of the World Food Crisis of 1972–1975. Originally, global inequality was as much about power as about income differentials, mainly referring to multiple inequalities between the so-called Third World and the First. However, even as the late 1960s and the 1970s saw an increased politicization of the discourse on an unequal world, global inequality did not become a key concept in the 1970s.

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Mala consuetudo

Un excursus romain autour d'une expression médiévale

Soazick Kerneis

Résumé/Abstract

Le concept de coutume est une création des juristes occidentaux permettant de convertir les usages autochtones dans les termes de l'ordre juridique dominant. Si la contrainte de l'État est décisive dans la formulation de la coutume, faut-il penser qu'en Europe aussi elle fut une création étatique, les peuples ne participant guère à son épanouissement ? La mala consuetudo médiévale témoigne d'un rapport de force si bien qu'il faut restituer la pratique des usages, l'action du peuple dans la redéfinition des coutumes. L'article considère le contenu de l'expression médiévale comme une catégorie de pensée et la transpose dans l'Antiquité romaine afin de revenir sur le processus de création des consuetudines. Si la consuetudo romaine est bien une création du pouvoir, les communautés auxquelles elle s'applique parviennent aussi à contenir son périmètre. Sa pérennité tient sans doute en partie au fait qu'elle a été perçue ensuite comme un privilège communautaire.

The concept of custom is a creation of Western lawyers allowing for the conversion of indigenous uses into the terms of the dominant legal order. If the State's constraint is ultimately decisive in the formulation of custom, does that mean in Europe too it was essentially a State creation, with the peoples hardly participating in its existence? The mala consuetudo is a matter of power relations, so that it is necessary to emphasize the impact of practices, of popular action on the shaping of customs. This article considers the content of the medieval expression as a category of thought and transposes it to Roman antiquity in order to reconsider the development of consuetudines. If the Roman consuetudo was indeed a creation of power, the communities to which it applied managed to contain its perimeter. Its durability is probably due in part to the fact that it was perceived as a community privilege.

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The Opposite of Custom

Fashion, Sumptuary Law, and Consuetudo in Fifteenth-Century Northern Italy

M. Christina Bruno

Abstract

Fifteenth-century Italian urban and ecclesiastical authorities sought to regulate the laity's conspicuous consumption of dress, sometimes resulting in canon law petitions for exemption on the grounds of custom. By exploiting an ambivalent definition of custom according to status, wealthy men and especially women successfully sidestepped regulation. Critics of luxury such as the Franciscan Observants, who encountered similar arguments in confession, countered this permissive understanding of custom with alternate criteria for determining proper dress tied to the morality of the economic behavior that made luxurious dress possible. Overlapping definitions of custom drawn from canon law and moral theology thus provided both fashionable people and their confessors a way to negotiate and contest their status.

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Part 2: After the Big Bang

The Fusing of New Approaches

Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In part one, I followed the debates and the scholars involved in the big bang of international Begriffsgeschichte. Part 2 takes us from the first encounters between the German and the Anglophone tradition within intellectual history to the more formalized efforts of establishing conceptual history on the international, academic scene. With more scholars joining the debate, the understanding of concepts in language and in context were both broadened and deepened. Case studies from a wider range of European languages added a stronger comparative and transnational perspectives to conceptual history, which would prepare the ground for a conceptual history beyond Europe.

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Review

Conceptual Plasticity in Times of Urgency

Adrián Velázquez Ramírez

J. M. Bernstein, Adi Ophir, and Ann Laura Stoler, eds., Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018), 269 pp.

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Scandal of the Church, Prison of the Soul

The Problem of Bad Custom in Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Canon Law and Practice

Anthony Perron

Abstract

This article explores “bad custom” (prava consuetudo) in Latin-Christian church law of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Drawing chiefly on papal decretal letters and the statutes of local and regional synods, it discusses the theoretical debates over bad custom, how customs came to be regarded as evil, and what prava consuetudo meant in practice. While many usages were labeled “bad,” especially troubling were those that threatened clerical status by implying lay claims to authority in the church, blurring the distinction between laity and clergy, or humiliating the professed religious. The article also asks whether legal concerns over such collective behavior that brought scandal upon the church may have been provoked by a moral discourse over prava consuetudo as sinful conduct endangering the individual soul.

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Something Happened to the Future

Reconstructing Temporalities in Dutch Parliamentary Debate, 1814–2018

Joris van Eijnatten and Pim Huijnen

Abstract

This article stands in Reinhart Koselleck's tradition of investigating the historical experience of time. It focuses on the manner in which the experience and conceptualization of the future changed in Dutch parliamentary speech between 1814 and 2018. Based on a quantitative analysis of a corpus of political texts of more than 800 million tokens spanning more than two centuries, we argue that the future transformed from something unknown but principally predictable into a synonym for change itself during the final quarter of the twentieth century. We contend that this resulted in unpredictability becoming the future's defining trait and the future, consequently, losing its character as a knowledgeable singular in a process of what can be called “de-singularization.”

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The Birth of International Conceptual History

Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In March 2020, Melvin Richter, one of the founders of international, conceptual history passed away. This sad occasion makes it timely in our journal to reflect on the process that turned national projects within conceptual and intellectual history into an international and transnational enterprise. The text that follows—published in two parts, here and in the next issue—takes a closer look at the intellectual processes that led up to the founding meeting of the association behind our journal, the History of Concepts Group. It follows in the footsteps of Melvin Richter to examine the different encounters, debates and protagonists in the story of international, conceptual history. The text traces the different approaches that were brought to the fore and particularly looks at Melvin Richter's efforts to bridge between an Anglophone tradition of intellectual history and a German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte.