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The Longue Durée of Empire

Toward a Comparative Semantics of a Key Concept in Modern European History

Jörn Leonhard

Against the background of a new interest in empires past and present and an inflation of the concept in modern political language and beyond, the article first looks at the use of the concept as an analytical marker in historical and current interpretations of empires. With a focus on Western European cases, the concrete semantics of empire as a key concept in modern European history is analyzed, combining a reconstruction of some diachronic trends with synchronic differentiations.

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Ottoman Conceptual History

Challenges and Prospects

Alp Eren Topal and Einar Wigen

reasons, doing Ottoman conceptual history, particularly regarding longue durée research, involves a very different research situation than the one in which conceptual history was originally developed. The various projects to study and catalog German

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Gerdien Jonker

In this article, I explore the dominant narratives about Islam in German history textbooks from the eighteenth century until the present day. I thereby deconstruct a longue durée script with a rather curious pattern. Until the 1980s, textbook narratives about Islam were rooted exclusively in people's historical imagination. Only when the children of Turkish workers entered the classroom did textbook authors try to accommodate knowledge based on real encounters. By addressing the di erent stages of this longue durée script, I enquire into the functions of narratives as they underpinned a German and European "we."

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The Last of the Just

An Untimely Novel for Our Times

Lyndsey Stonebridge

André Schwarz-Bart's The Last of the Just has been both loved and vilified for its evocation of the timelessness of Jewish suffering. This article argues that what is timeless about The Last of the Just is not just its commitment to the longue durée of unrelieved sorrow, but something more uncomfortable and disturbing. Running alongside the novel's lachrymal mysticism is a very contemporary story about how modern racist violence produces a particular kind of misery, a uniquely oppressive, implacable, psychical and historical suffering that isolates its victims, whether individually or as a group. In Schwarz-Bart's writing, understanding this suffering means recognizing its difficult and complicated universalism.

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The historical anthropology of thought

Jean-Pierre Vernant and intellectual innovation in ancient Greece

S. C. Humphreys

This article illustrates the need for a historical anthropology of the longue durée, dealing with pre-modern societies, by analyzing the work of Jean-Pierre Vernant on the development of thought in ancient Greece. Vernant's anthropologies began with Marx and the historical psychologist Ignace Meyerson; he was influenced by the Durkheimian Louis Gernet and later by Lévi-Strauss. His early interest in relating Greek rationality to social organization led him increasingly into work on Greek religion and tragedy. This article builds on his work by studying the social contexts of communication that facilitated the proposal and elaboration of unconventional ideas.

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Smith in Beijing, Stalin in Urumchi

Ethnicity, political economy, and violence in Xinjiang, 1759–2009

Chris Hann

The extraordinary growth rates of China’s “reform socialist” economy have helped to finance not only the United States’ debt but also large-scale transfers to the country’s underdeveloped regions. Yet violence in Tibet in 2008 was followed in July 2009 by major rioting in Xinjiang. This article approaches the latter events through the analysis of contemporary labor markets, socialist policies toward ethnic minorities, and the history of Xinjiang’s incorporation into the Manchu empire. Theoretical inspiration for this longue durée analysis is drawn from Adam Smith, via Giovanni Arrighi’s recent reassessment of the Smithian market model; anthropological work points to flaws in this vision.

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“Completely Useless“

Exiling the Disabled to Tsarist Siberia

Andrew A. Gentes

The ostracizing of mentally and physically disabled individuals is a cross-cultural phenomenon that amounts to what Henri-Jacques Stiker calls a “murderous system,“ which does not kill such individuals outright, but instead indirectly. This as well as Foucault's notions about the construction of madness and deviancy serve as a departure point for understanding tsarist Russia's murderous system of deporting the disabled to Siberia. This article charts this system's operation over the longue durée, from the midsixteenth to the late nineteenth century; describes the motivations and factors conditioning those powerbrokers who exiled the disabled; and provides data on the number of disabled exiles and describes conditions they faced. I argue that the state's exploitation of the peasantry, the peasantry's inculcation of commodifying economic imperatives, and the availability of Siberia's expanses combined to make Russia's a uniquely murderous system that lasted for centuries.

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Florence Rochefort

In the French polemics over the Islamic headscarf, the relationship betweensecularism and sexual equality has sometimes been made out to be an artificialone. The articulation between politics, religion, secularism, and women'srights is examined here over the longue durée. Since the beginning of the secularizationprocess during the French Revolution, a minority has championedan egalitarian conception of secularization. Rivalries between or convergencesof political and religious authorities have driven an ambivalent and not veryequal secularization, creating secular pacts that rely on gender pacts to thedetriment of equality. This dynamic reversed itself beginning in the 1960swith the battle for legal contraception and abortion, which shook one of thevery bases of French Catholicism to its foundation. The headscarf affairsrevealed the egalitarian effects of secularism and favored the elaboration ofthought about secularism in conjunction with sexual equality, which, whateverthe various interpretations of that thought may be, could prove to be anon-negligible benefit.

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L'âge du bronze en Asie centrale

La civilisation de l'Oxus

Henri-Paul Francfort

The Bronze Age civilisation of Central Asia developed during the second half of the third millennium BC. Besides elements resembling Middle Eastern contemporary civilisations (e.g. economy, art), it displays also some peculiarities resembling earlier periods (e.g. importance of hunting), as well as specific steppe relations (e.g. pottery, horses) and purely local traits (e.g. animal burials, camel domestication, lapis lazuli, tin trade). This original 'Oxus civilisation' raises a number of issues related to environmental (arid period), ethno-linguistic (Indo-Iranian), historical (chronology, origin, decline) and methodological problems, such as its place in a neo-evolutionist scheme as a manifestation of a proto-urban phenomenon. The longue durée, revisited as a system in the Middle Asian interaction sphere, seems a promising way of understanding this civilisation.

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Valentina Napolitano

This article explores the tension between Pope Francis as a ‘trickster’ and as a much-needed reformer of the Catholic Church at large. He is an exemplar of the longue durée of an embodied ‘Atlantic Return’ from the Americas to the ‘heart’ of Catholicism (Rome and the Vatican), with its ambivalent, racialized history. Through the mobilization of material religion, sensuous mediations, and the case of the Lampedusa crosses in particular, I engage with an anthropological analysis of Francis as a Criollo and the first-ever Jesuit pope. Examining Francis’s papacy overlapping racial and ethico-political dimensions, I identify coordinates around which the rhetorical, affective, and charismatic force of Francis as a Criollo has been actualized—between, most crucially, proximity and distance, as well as pastoral versus theological impulses. This article advances an understanding of Francis that emerges from a study of the conjuncture of affective fields, political theology, racialized aesthetics, and mediatic interface.