U.S. Intellectual History Blog

CFP: “The Enlightenment between Europe and the United States: Twentieth-Century Tensions”

May 26-27, 2011
Center for Advanced Studies
Ludwig Maximilian University
Munich, Germany

The Enlightenment is often presented as the idea that unifies America and Europe. It shaped the eighteenth-century era of democratic revolutions on both sides of the Atlantic; it fostered the growth of industrial capitalism in the nineteenth century, which by 1900 had given imperial powers to the United States and Europe; it was the heart of anti-fascism in the twentieth century and, later, the keystone to Cold War politics, as practiced in Western Europe and the United States. Finally, publication of Salmon Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, in 1989, inaugurated a new geopolitical moment, with the enlightened (pluralist, secular) West contrasted to a religious, reactionary and Eastern opposite. The September 11 attacks reaffirmed such polarities, and such clichés, once again suggesting the Enlightenment as the bridge between Europe and America as well as a barrier between Euro-America and the world around it.

Focusing on the twentieth century, this conference will subject such notions to careful scrutiny. It will investigate narratives that associate the Enlightenment with Europe and America. What plays the central role in these narratives? Is it democracy? Is it a universal norm of human rights? Is it a commitment to science and technology? Or is it political economy – capitalism, social democracy, socialism – that best characterizes the Enlightenment bond between Europe and America? This conference will also pose questions about the Enlightenment as a kind of trans-Atlantic glue. Is it the Enlightenment per se or a debate (dialectic) about the Enlightenment that matters most? Advocates of post-modernism, in America and Europe, are united in their opposition to the Enlightenment. Could this opposition be a bond between Europe and America? And is the Enlightenment itself unitary, in the twentieth century, or does it demand geographical qualification – Scottish Enlightenment, American Enlightenment, German Enlightenment, French, etc., as is often the case in scholarship on the eighteenth-century Enlightenment? If so, might the existence of several Enlightenments be divisive rather than unifying with regard to the European-American relationship?

This conference is part of a larger research project, being conducted at the Ludwig Maximilian University’s Center for Advanced Studies and titled “Transatlantic Cultures: America, Europe and the West.”

Though this conference will be primarily concerned with personalities and texts from within America and Europe, its themes are obviously global in scope. We therefore invite papers from Europeanists, Americanists and from scholars working outside European and American history. Participants will be encouraged to comment creatively on the geography of the Enlightenment in modern history, on its primary locations, on the extent to which it is genuinely or indigenously Euro-American; and the extent to which the Enlightenment implies something less circumscribed than the trans-Atlantic relationship. Historians, scholars working in political theory, post-colonial studies, literary studies and international relations are all encouraged to respond to this call for papers. Seriously researched pre-circulated papers will be a requirement and will be regarded as the foundation for a published volume of conference essay.

Proposals of about one page in length should be sent to Dr. Sonja Asal at the Center for Advanced Studies: [email protected] Proposals are due by December 6, 2010; and completed papers for pre-circulation will be due by May 5, 2011.

Professor Christof Mauch, Ludwig Maximilian University; Professor Michael Kimmage, Catholic University of America

Research Project: “Transatlantic Cultures,” Center for Advanced Studies, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich

Center for Advanced Studies
Seestraße 13
80802 München

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