History and polemics: historiographical debates and the public space (closed)

New date: 31 December 2020

Ever since history became an academic knowledge, historiographical debates have been exceptional moments of construction, condensation and dissensus, often resulting in historiographical turns. Controversies around specific themes have divided entire fields of knowledge production, bringing into light different, often contrasting conceptions, methodologies and practices of historical knowledge. Such debates were, at the same time, moments in which the description and interpretation of the past represented a public intervention in the present, in which the defense of a certain way of making sense of history was also a way of taking of sides in a specific contemporary political discussion. This is true for epistemological debates, such as the one that took place around post-modernism and the historiographical turns associated with it (the linguistic and cultural turns), as well as for public debates associated with specific historical events, such as the Historikerstreit or the discussion over the shadow cast by the colonial past on the present. Historiographical polemics were therefore moments in which historiographical knowledge had to confront in the public space other approaches to the past, thus making visible, and challenging, the paradigms that rule the historical discipline.

We are interested in proposals that focus on those moments where different conceptions of the past, as well as the relationship between the writing of history and the public space, were discussed. We want to engage with, among others, the following themes:

  • History and the public space: the relation between academic knowledge and the public space, understood in a wide sense (squares, streets, social networks, television, cinema, books, etc.);
  • Official history: curricula, school manuals and the construction of national narratives;
  • Major polemics: among others, the Historikerstreit (debate over the Holocaust in the eighties in West Germany); the debate around the French Revolution at the bicentennial’s commemoration (1989);
  • National history, official memory and the politics of commemoration: the celebration of memory and the debates around official practices of memorialization; museums and other forms of monumentalizing history;
  • History and justice: history under the eye of the juridical and the judicialization of history; debates around historical reparations, such as the ones related to the transatlantic slave trade or the restitution of objects to their countries of origin;
  • Polemics on concepts: feudalism and manorialism; slavery and serfdom; fascism, totalitarianism and authoritarianism; colonialism and imperialism;
  • Epistemological disputes: post-modernists vs. Marxists vs. realists and other empiricists;
  • Historiography and methodologies: debates around biography as a genre or around cliometrics and other historiographical methods;
  • Academic historiography and personal memory: the epistemic virtues of testimony;
  • The rhetoric of polemics: satire, insults, parody and other linguistic resources;
  • Forms of argumentation: science, authority, utility and other sources of legitimacy;
  • Polemical subjectivities: the figure of the historian, the intellectual, the politician, the specialist, etc.
  • Modes of constructing historical time and their influence in political debates. 

We welcome proposals within this thematic framework coming from researchers in all the disciplines of the humanities. The proposals for publication should be submitted until November 15. Only the articles and essays submitted according to the journal’s guidelines for submission will be considered.