Histcon.se Time, Memory and Representation Tid, Minne, Representation

A Multidisciplinary Program on Transformations in Historical Consciousness

Ett mångdisciplinärt forskningsprogram om historiemedvetandets förvandlingar


Breaking up time. Settling the borders between the present, the past and the future

Published on 31 March, 2011

Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies (FRIAS), April 7-9


Change of Location! New: FRIAS-House, Albertstr. 19


Organizers: Chris Lorenz, External Senior Fellow and Berber Bevernage (University of Ghent)


Since the birth of modernity history has presupposed the existence of ‘the past’ as its object, yet the concept of ‘the past’ and the distinction between the categories of ‘the past’, ‘the present’ and ‘the future’ have seldom been reflected upon within the boundaries of the discipline. Indeed the question of time has largely been omitted from the agenda of history. We feel that it is about time for historians and philosophers of history to start to analyze how cultures in general and historians in particular actually distinguish ‘the past’ from ‘the present’ and ‘the future’, and how their interrelationships are constructed: is distinguishing between past, present and future simply a matter of passively ‘recognizing’ or ‘observing’, what is ‘natural’ and ‘undeniable’, or does it involve a more active stance in which social actors create and recreate these divisions? Can we claim to know precisely how ‘present’ social and cultural phenomena turn into (or come to be perceived/recognized as) past phenomena? It seems worthwhile to make a connection between the historical and the philosophical debates about the temporal distinctions between ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’. What have so far been lacking are comparative analyses of the variety of ways in which historians and historical actors have been breaking up time in practice. Both historians and philosophers have emphasized the role played by catastrophic political ruptures, for example revolutions and major wars, in ‘breaking up time’. However, the effects of these ‘transformative events’ on notions of temporality have hardly been studied in a comparative perspective and as ‘performative’ events. ‘Year 1’ in the French Revolution and ‘Stunde Null’ in post-1945 Germany probably are two of the most well known examples of this type of event in ‘the past’, but the end of the Cold War in 1990 may be considered as the most ‘epoch making’ event in ‘the present’.


The workshop solicits papers which focus on (preferably two) ‘transformative events’ and compare the ways in which they have recalibrated thinking about the relationship between the ‘past’, ‘present’ and ‘future’. The temporal framework of the workshop covers classical and high modernity, that is: from 1789 until today. As to the spatial framework the workshop is subdivided in three clusters: 1. Europe; 2. Europe and its colonies; 3. Europe and non-colonial ‘outer-Europe’. > more



contact: Chris Lorenz (chris.lorenz@frias.uni-freiburg.de) and Berber Bevernage (berber.bevernage@ugent.be).


Link to program

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