9th International Summer academy at the ZfL 2019
23 Sep 2019 – 26 Sep 2019

Historicizing. Forms, Practices, Significance

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage
Research project(s): Historicizing today (2019/2020)

Historicizing has long been a central method and claim of the Humanities as they consider and reflect the objects of their research as having come into existence historically. However, since the 1980s, this historical self-understanding has come under scrutiny in several respects (historicization of the Holocaust; the end of ›grand narratives‹). At the same time, new problems have emerged which pose new challenges:

Firstly, with urgent questions (such as climate change and the Anthropocene) something has moved into the foreground which was long regarded the ahistorical outside of history. How is one to historicize life and nature, when writing no longer means to write the history of humans but also the history of the earth and vice versa? How do such new modes of historicizing impact and alter the formerly categorical distinction between the Natural Sciences and the Humanities, also called into question in recent decades by science studies?

Secondly, historicizing faces new challenges in view of progressive globalization. What modes of historicizing are available if formerly unquestioned notions such as ›modernity‹ are subject to pluralization under postcolonial conditions and nationhood is no longer a self-understood historical reference point? Globalization also concerns the rise of Big Data. As Digital Humanities, the Humanities have to find their place between close and distant reading.

Thirdly, predominantly historical-philological disciplines have increasingly grown concerned with a ›wide present‹. In literary studies, interest in contemporary literature is on the rise; historiography accords much attention to contemporary history, offering political and cultural diagnostics with prognostic surplus value. How can one historicize the present without imagining and anticipating it as already past?

The summer school will relate these broader issues to practical methodological questions of how one actually goes about historicizing. In order to strengthen the methodological skills of the participants, different models of historicizing will be introduced and discussed. The summer school will also address and integrate questions regarding interdisciplinarity. What are the specific problems of the different disciplines: literary studies, art history, media studies, musicology and philosophy? Do their disciplinary differences harbor the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration?

Funded by the Volkswagen Foundation (VolkswagenStiftung)


Public keynote lectures:

  • Caroline Arni (University of Basel)
  • Monika Dommann (University of Zurich)




Ill. above: D.M. Nagu