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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.

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The Concept of Religion in Meiji Popular Discourse

An Analysis of the Newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun

Makoto Harris Takao

Abstract

This article challenges claims that the Japanese neologism shūkyō (as a translation for “religionȍ) lacked an established nature prior to the twentieth century and had little to do with experiences of the urban masses. It accordingly problematizes the term as a largely legal concept, highlighting historical newspapers as underutilized sources that offer insight into Meiji popular discourse and attendant conceptualizations of “religion.” This article endorses a shift in both our chronological understanding of shūkyō's conceptual history as well as its sociocultural mobility. By expanding the milieu understood as being familiar with debates on a range of “religious” issues, this article thereby offers a counter-narrative in which regular use of shūkyō begins to clearly emerge from the mid-1880s, exponentially increasing with the following decades.

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Conceptual Explorations around “Politics”

Thematizing the Activity of Politics in the Plenary Debates of the German Bundestag

Kari Palonen

Abstract

This article discusses the ways of conceptualizing politics in parliamentary debates. When the politics-vocabulary is ubiquitous in them, which kind of speech act lies in emphasizing the political aspect? Focusing on thematized uses allows us to identify conceptual revisions in the politics-vocabulary in digitalized plenary debates of the German Bundestag from 1949 to 2017. My fourfold scheme for conceptualizing politics (polity, policy, politicization, politicking) provides the analytical apparatus. The units of analysis in this study are compound words around politics written as single words, a German language specialty. Their frequency has remarkably risen in the Bundestag debates, and the search engine can easily find them. This research interest allows me to speculate with changes in the understanding and appreciation of politics in postwar (West)Germany

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From an Economic Term to a Political Concept

The Conceptual Innovation of “Self-Management” in Soviet Estonia

Juhan Saharov

Abstract

The term “economic self-management” (in Estonian, isemajandamine) stood at the center of economic and political debates in Soviet Estonia in 19871988. This article traces its transformation from an economic term to a political concept, reconstructing the intellectual resources that the reformers were drawing on in this process. Navigating the constraints of Soviet discourse, reform-minded academics in Soviet Estonia radically expanded the original meaning of isemajandamine, which ultimately provided an argumentative platform for declaring the republics “sovereignty” within the Soviet Union. The article brings out the linguistic, political, and transnational dimensions of this conceptual innovation, which started in 1987 and was completed when the law on the “economic independence” of the Baltic republics was adopted by the Soviet Union in 1989.

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Review

On Reinhart Koselleck's Intellectual Relations to Carl Schmitt

Niklas Olsen

Jan Eike Dunkhase, ed., Reinhart Koselleck/Carl Schmitt: Der Briefwechsel 1953–1983 [Reinhart Koselleck/Carl Schmitt: The correspondence 1953–1983] (Berlin: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2019), 459 pp.

Sebastian Huhnholz, Von Carl Schmitt zu Hannah Arendt? Heidelberger Entstehungsspuren und bundesrepublikanische Liberalisierungsschichten von Reinhart Kosellecks “Kritik und Krise” [From Carl Schmitt to Hannah Arendt? On the Heidelbergian genesis and the West German liberalization layers of Reinhart Koselleck's “Kritik und Krise”] (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 2019), 172 pp.

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Roberto Breña

Abstract

This article provides an overview of some prominent aspects of intellectual history as practiced today in Latin America, especially regarding conceptual history. It delves into the way this methodology arrived to the region not long ago and discusses the way some of its practitioners combine it with the history of political languages, often ignoring the profound differences between both approaches. Therefore, the text stresses some of the most significant contrasts between them. In its last part, the article is critical of the purported “globality” of global intellectual history, an issue that is inextricably linked with the pervasive use of the English language in the field. Throughout, the text poses several of the challenges that lie ahead for intellectual history in Latin America.

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Arian Hopf

Abstract

Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) was a prominent South Asian reformer of Islam who focused on the reconciliation of science and Islam in his most influential texts. This article aims to analyze the implications of science becoming the dominant discourse in nineteenth-century South Asia for the conception of Islam and religion in general. Sayyid Ahmad is an intriguing example because he actively participated in religious as well as scientific discourses since as early as the 1830s. After a concise outline of his early writings, his stances toward science and reason shall be compared with his later writings, primarily those written after 1870, to uncover the impact of the increasing influence of science in South Asia during the latter half of the nineteenth century. In his later writings, Sayyid Ahmad accomplishes a complex effort of translation, claiming mutual compatibility of science and Islam. The question of how this influences his conception of Islam and religion will be addressed, exploring whether this process should be described as a mere adoption of foreign discourse? Or does it trigger transformative effects?

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Beyond Metaphor

Corporeal Sociability and the Language of Commerce in Eighteenth-Century Britain and France

Joseph D. Bryan

Abstract

Body-politic metaphors served historically as figurative vehicles to transmit assorted socio-political messages. Through an examination of the metaphors la mollesse (softness) and Adam Smith's impartial spectator, this article will show that the language of eighteenth-century French and British writers was not simply heuristic or metaphorical. Contemporaries reacted to the growth of commerce and luxury, and the concomitant creation of new public spaces and forms of social interaction, by arguing that the corporeal mediated the social. I want to introduce the concept of corporeal sociability: cognitive physiology and the network of the senses, contemporaries argued, contained the information necessary to assess novel forms of commerce and revealed that sociability was congenitally embodied.

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Dealing with an Ocean of Meaninglessness

Reinhart Koselleck's Lava Memories and Conceptual History

Margrit Pernau and Sébastien Tremblay

Abstract

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.

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Reinhart Koselleck, Translated By Margrit Pernau, and Sébastien Tremblay

The bells tolling on 9 May 1945 were heralding peace. The question remained: what kind of peace and for whom? Thousands of us marched on a trail for many kilometers, from Mährish-Ostrau eastward, like a silent accordion, sometimes extended, sometimes compressed, chased, not knowing where we were going. The voices of the bells echoed over our column and raised hopes from whose nonfulfillment countless people would perish, not being able to bear the disappointments of the new forthcoming peace. However, it was all unknown to us, we did not even know where we were going. Yet we knew where we were coming from, from the cauldron that had continuously tightened over four weeks, and from which we had definitely failed to escape on 1 May. With a wounded soldier on my back, I laid down my gun. At that point, we didn't know yet that the Americans would hand all the prisoners that had reached the redemptive West from Bohemia and Moravia back to the Russians. So this fight had been futile and every death in vain. The dead were still lying around in countless numbers.