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Critical Historical Studies

December 2-4, 2011

Franke Institute for the Humanities

This conference, Critical Historical Studies, is an attempt by current and former members of the University of Chicago’s Social Theory Workshop to confront what we see as a looming methodological crisis in the social sciences. We note that the predominantly cultural approaches to social life that have been in vogue in the historical social sciences in recent decades have proven incapable of grasping the large-scale transformations that social life has repeatedly undergone in the modern era—not least the economic and political crisis touched off in 2008. Discussions in the Social Theory Workshop have, over the years, developed the contours of an approach that strives to overcome both the idealistic tendencies of cultural historical studies and the opposite deterministic and reductionist propensities of social historical studies. This general approach carries on the tradition of critical theory and provides a supra-disciplinary perspective that grasps social and cultural questions as historically constituted. By bringing together scholars from a variety of fields, but with a common commitment to combining empirical research and theoretical insight, the conference aims to facilitate a methodologically-oriented exchange with agenda-setting goals.


8:30am — Breakfast

9:00am — Opening Remarks

10:00am — Panel 1: Critical History and Culture

“Horkheimer and Adorno’s Materialist Concept of Culture and its Relevance to Contemporary Debates in Historical Methodology”
John Abromeit, Department of History and Social Studies, SUNY Buffalo State

“Kultur as Refuge, Kulture as Resource: Re-articulating Culture and Politics in Germany after 1945”
Sean Forner, Department of History, Michigan State University

“Translation and Time: A Reminder of the Curvature of the Poststructuralist Plain”
Christian Uhl, Department for South and East Asia Languages and Cultures, Ghent University

12:00pm — Lunch

1:30pm — Panel 2: Law, Politics, and Critical History

“Treaty Port China: Forging a Global Logic of Governance”
Stacie Hanneman, Department of History, University of Chicago

“Sovereign Equality, Commodity Exchange, and the Juridicial Order of the Earth: Towards a New Critical Jurisprudence of Modern International Law”
Robert Stern, Department of History, University of Chicago

“Critical Legal Studies and Critical Historical Studies: Convergences and Divergences”
Devin Pendas, Department of History, Boston College

3:30pm — Break

4:00pm — Panel 3: Historical Configurations and Politics

“Perspectives for a Critical Epistemology of Violence”
Paola Castano, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago

“The Politics of Crisis: Economy, Ethnicity, and Trotskyism in Beloussia”
Andrew Sloin, Department of History, Earlham College

“Global Fordism in 1950s Urban China”
Jake Werner, Department of History, University of Chicago

“The Limits of Equality as Progressive Cause: Political Unionism and Contingent Labor in Durban Harbor, 1977-1987”
Bernard Dubbeld, Department of Sociology and Social Antrhopology, University of Stellenbosch



8:30am — Breakfast

9:00am — Panel 4: Critical Inquiries of Subjectivity

“Negativity, History, and the Organic Composition of Capital: Toward a Principle theory of Transformation of Subjectivity”
Eiichi Nojiri, Waseda University

“Umemoto Katsumi, Subjectivity, and the Global Crisis of Humanism”
Viren Murthy, Department of History, University of Ottawa

“The Mis-education of Arnold Coypel”
Mark James, Horlivka State Pedagogical Institution of Foreign Languages

10:45am — Break

11:00am — Panel 5: The Spatial Dimension

“Berlin and Critical Urban Theory”
Parker Everett, Department of History, University of Chicago

“Towards Greater Bombay: Town Planning and the Politics of Urban Growth, 1915-1964”
Nikhil Rao, Department of History, Wellesley College

“The Long Spatial Turn: Tenant Right, Land Reform, and Food Sovereignty, 1861-2011”
Jo Guldi, Society of Fellows, Harvard University

“Notes Toward an Understanding of Everyday Justice in Urban Communities”
Sudhir Venkatesh, Department of Sociology, Columbia University

1:00pm — Lunch

2:30pm — Panel 6: Critical History and Real Abstraction

“Imagining Finance: The Fetish of Concrete Abstraction”
Istvan Adorjan, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago

“Analysis, Abstraction, and the Opacity of the Observable: On the Anthropology of Finance”
David Bholat, Department of Anthropology, University of Chicago

“Contemporary Possibilities of Social Significance: Anthropology of Credit, Value, and Surplus”
Hadas Weiss, Goethe University

“Value, Intellect, and the obsolescence of Commodity”
Olga Sezneva, Department of Sociology, University of Amsterdam
Sebastian Chauvin, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam

4:30pm — Break

5:00pm — Panel 7: Critical Intellectual History

“Machiavelli: Towards a Social Theoretical Approach to the History of Political Thought”
Fabian Arzuaga, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago

“The Melancholoy Art of Transfiguration: Approaches to a Critical History in Adorno and Benjamin”
Bo-Mi Choi, Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, Harvard University

“Beyond History?: Historical Specificity, the Temporality of Capital, and Nietzsche, Benjamin, and Adorno on the Supra-historical”
Chris Cutrone, Committee on the History of Culture, University of Chicago

“Atmospherics of Imperialism: Benjamin’s Sublime”
G.S. Sahota, Literature Department, UC Santa Cruz



9:00am — Breakfast

9:30am — Panel 8: Political Economy and Its Critique

“Liberalism in Extremis: Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and the Transition to Capital”
Spencer Leonard, Society of Fellows, University of Chicago

“From Locke’s Theory of Property to the Problem of Primitive Accumulation in Marx’s Capital”
Andrew Sartori, Department of History, New York University

“On the Genealogy of Keynesianism”
Mark Loeffler, Society of Fellows, University of Chicago

“The Chicago School: A Critical Historical Retrospective, 1891-Present”
Joseph Lough, International and Area Studies Academic Program, UC Berkeley

11:30am — Break

11:45am — Concluding Remarks and Plenary: Towards Critical Historical Studies

Parker Everett, Department of History, University of Chicago

Thomas Dodman, Department of History and Art History, George Mason University

Moishe Postone, Department of History, University of Chicago

William H. Sewell, Jr., Department of Political Science, University of Chicago


Download this schedule as a PDF.

This event is presented by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory (3CT) and the Social Theory Workshop and is co-sponsored by the Franke Institute for the Humanities, the Department of History, the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Political Science, the Social Sciences Division, the College, the France Chicago Center, and the Center for International Studies Norman Wait Harris Fund.