12th Swiss Gender History Conference 2007
6 – 8 September, Department of History, University of Basel
In recent years static concepts of society, culture, nation and state have been revealed as lacking in explanatory power and have thus started to lose their appeal within historical studies. In order to develop new areas of research as well as to approach established areas with new questions, historians have begun to show an increasing interest in concepts and questions that emphasise movements and interrelations.
Transnational and transcultural research perspectives are perceived as being amongst the most promising approaches for research in the field of historical studies. These approaches are equally concerned with the transfer, appropriation and acquisition of ideas and cultural practices as with the circulation of material objects and capital and the movement of people. They focus on thinking beyond national, cultural, social and political borders and their meaning for the multiple relationships and mutual observations across such borders.
Transnational inquiries have become increasingly relevant due to accelerated processes of globalisation, whilst transcultural research approaches have located the encounter with ‘the Other’ as constitutive for the formation of ‘modern worlds’. Under these conditions the conceptualisation and understanding of individual and collective identities has become increasingly complex.
The turn in historical research to Cultural Studies and World History has been accompanied by strong interdisciplinary tendencies. Fields such as Postcolonial Studies, Migration Studies and Cultural Anthropology are representative of this as is the renewed interest in concepts of space and representation. These approaches have contributed to a revitalisation of social science research methodology. Gender Studies, with its simultaneous emphasis on gender difference and gender relationships, has advanced this change of perspective. As much as gender history has contributed to the development of transnational and transcultural perspectives, it is also necessary to bring into view the possible deficits of these concepts and to open up new research fields. Simultaneously, it is confronted with the task of using gendered perspectives to challenge transnational histories that often present themselves as ‘gender neutral’.
The conference seeks to promote the gendering of transnational and transcultural historical approaches, to recognize the advantages of these methodological approaches for historical analysis and to investigate the challenges transnational and transcultural approaches pose to gender history in particular.
The following themes and conceptual questions will shape the direction of the conference:
1. The construction of gender, identity and community.
How have gender roles and identities changed in response to, or been shaped by, transnational movements? To what extent has the transnational nature of individuals‘ lives led to a reconstruction of concepts of gender and how has individual agency played a roll in this? How have feminist receptions and uses of concepts from postcolonial theory such as ‘orientalism’, ‘hybridity’ and ‘diaspora’ furthered the critique of gendered economies of representation and their powerful effects?
To what extent do concepts of power and privilege change when their focus is broadened to include encounters between gendered subjects from differing cultures and nations in addition to the study of relations between ‘men’ and ‘women’? In what way does a transnational perspective assist in bringing the unequal and differential circulation of cultures, capital, work, information and goods into view? In what way have transnational historical developments such as colonialism influenced specific gendered practices and in that way either strengthened or weakened (a)symmetrical and (un)equal relationships? How can the study of international networks of racist organisations and different forms of slavery, slave trading and human trafficking be improved through the use of transnational methodological approaches?
The ‘spatial turn’ has revealed social relations and narratives to be constitutive for the construction of spaces, and it challenges conceptions that social life and culture are necessarily tied to a specific locality. How can one portray a world ‘from below’? How can one elucidate that global tendencies increasingly become influential and are constantly being adopted and appropriated at a local level? How should processes of denationalisation and nationalisation be investigated? What effect do these processes have on the understandings and meanings of gender?
4. Methodological and theoretical questions.
How should concepts such as citizenship, political and state action be reconceptualised in view of the transnational ways of life of gendered individuals? How can transnational perspectives be integrated into historical approaches and representations in a way that brings horizontal interactions as well as power structures into focus? Why are macro-level analyses of globalisation often gender blind, whilst micro-level analyses have consistently highlighted the participation of women in the global economy? To what extent have transnational and transcultural approaches challenged the often nationally orientated curricula of women’s, men’s and gender history?
5. Politics and Emancipation.
How do differing cultural, political and methodological concepts of nationalism and nation-states influence the political and academic debates concerning globalisation? What is the emancipatory potential of transnational movements and practices and in what way can these developments be analysed?
The following thematic list should act as a guide and stimulus for conference contributions, however, it is by no means comprehensive and submissions dealing with issues lying outside of the topics suggested below will be welcomed:
Concepts of citizenship and gender
Economics and trade
Diaspora (including Jewish diaspora)
International Organisations and NGOs
School and teaching
Slavery and slave trade
Space and networks
Technology and media
Travel and leisure
All interested persons (including graduates) are invited to submit proposals for possible contributions.
Proposal must include: Abstract (max. 1 page), a short CV which includes contact details.
Deadline for submission: 22 January 2007
Languages: German, English, French
Historisches Seminar der Universität Basel
Schweizerische Tagung für Geschlechtergeschichte
A conference publication is being planned.
More information will be available on the homepage from autumn 2006.