Walter Benjamin Workshop for Younger Scholars
25 Mar 2017 – 26 Mar 2017

Material and Concept. Working Methods and Theoretical Relations of Walter Benjamin

Venue: ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Seminarraum 303
Organized by Konstantin Baehrens, Jan Loheit, Nicos Tzanakis-Papadakis, Frank Voigt
Contact: Participation only with prior registration on

Prize: Walter Benjamin Workshop for Younger Scholars

Funded by International Walter Benjamin Society / Walter Benjamin Archiv / Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung Berlin

Contrary to the rather narrow reception during his lifetime, Walter Benjamin’s work has generated widespread and international interest in the last few decades. Seeing Benjamin as a non-conformist intellectual, however, runs the risk of overlooking one of the essential characteristics of his work: his engagement with political organizations and social movements through a variety of media, such as periodicals and monographs. Interpretations isolating and idealizing “the thinker” do not grasp what renders Benjamin’s work most interesting today, namely his innovative work with concepts as a result of the intensive study of heterogeneous materials, including a vast collection of materials assembled and categorized by Benjamin himself, which provides the necessary foundation of his theorizing and is essential for its understanding. If his writings are only read as cultural, literary, media studies or philosophical investigations, this methodological aspect of his theoretical output remains unexplored.

This workshop is interested in the relation between Benjamin’s work with different kinds of material and its conceptual articulation. The point of departure will be Benjamin’s working notes (Arbeitskonvolute in German, which are elaborate and systematized collections) dealing with sociohistorical and political topics (e.g. the working notes of his Arcades Project E: Haussmannization, Barricade Fighting, U: Saint-Simon, Railroads, V: Conspiracies, Compagnonnage, W: Fourier, X: Marx, a: Social Movement, k: The Commune). These notes should neither be read as mere collections nor as a hodgepodge from which passages can be extracted randomly and integrated into a presumed theory. Rather, Benjamin’s method should be carved out by confronting both reciprocally: the material collections and sources, on the one hand, and the concepts and theory he developed, on the other. Besides the working notes, we will also examine other sources mentioned in Benjamin’s letters.

Furthermore, Benjamin was an avid reader of papers and journals. This aspect of his work merits particular attention because he adopted his style of writing, including the concepts he used, in relation to the specific context in which he published, while simultaneously intervening critically. Therefore, at least a cursory reading of those journals was inevitable for him to position himself with regard to their specific content and orientation.

Call for Papers [PDF]


Fri, 24 Mar 2017
18.00–19.00 Public Keynote lecture

Venue: Trajekte-Tagungsraum
Stephan Pabst (Universität Jena): Der sowjetische Goethe. Walter Benjamins Goethe-Artikel für die Große Sowjetische Enzyklopädie


Workshop (Participation only with prior registration on
Venue: ZfL, Seminarraum

Sat, 25 Mar 2017

Jan Loheit (Universität Jena/Frankfurt/O): Kurze Einführung in den Workshop

9.45–12.15 Panel I

Martin Hammer (Universität Hannover), Johannes Neitzke (HU Berlin): Hermann Cohens Theorie des Urteils des Ursprungs und dessen kritische Bearbeitung durch Walter Benjamin

13.30–16.00 Panel II

Nicos Tzanakis-Papadakis (FU Berlin), Manuel Disegni (FU Berlin/Turin): Vom Recht zur Geschichte. Benjamins Rezeption von Carl Schmitt

16.30–19.00 Panel III

Enrico Rosso (Universität Potsdam), Caroline Adler (HU Berlin): „Das Kreatürliche gerade dadurch sprechen zu lassen“. Benjamins Moskau-Essay im Kontext der Zeitschrift „Die Kreatur“


Sun, 26 Mar 2017
10.00–13.00 Panel IV

Konstantin Baehrens (Universität Potsdam), Sam Stark (University of Pennsylvania), Frank Voigt (Universität Osnabrück): Zu Benjamins und Lukács’ Kritik der II. Internationale

14.30–17.00 Panel V

Lotte List (FU Berlin/Kopenhagen), Anna Migliorini (Paris): Dialektik der Utopie – die ewige
Wiederkunft und der Fall Blanqui

17.30–20.00 Panel VI

Noa Levin (Kingston University/London), Georgios Sagriotis (Universität Osnabrück/Brown University): Montage. Kritik. Ironie. Benjamins Brecht-Rezeption

20.15 Abschlussdiskussion


Frank Voigt, Nicos Tzanakis Papadakis, Jan Loheit, Konstantin Baehrens (ed./eds.)

Material und Begriff
Arbeitsverfahren und theoretische Beziehungen Walter Benjamins

Argument Sonderband Neue Folge AS 322
Argument Verlag, Hamburg 2019, 319 pages
ISBN 978-3-86754-322-4