Empire of Circulation. Habsburg Knowledge in its Global Settings

Empire of Circulation. Habsburg Knowledge in its Global Settings

Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna; Johann Gottfried Herder Research Council; Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
03.10.2022 - 06.10.2022
Lucija Bakšić, Graduate School Global Intellectual History, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin; Franz L. Fillafer, Institute of Culture Studies and Theatre History, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna

Promising fresh insights on minor individuals and major empires alike, global history is an approach that is nowadays fiercely debated within the academic community due to its methodological flexibility and emphasis on inter-regional entanglements that goes beyond comparative and transnational history. The international summer school "Empire of Circulation"1 sought to re-insert Habsburg Central European history into global history by way of interrogating the key premises that inform both research agendas. In what was a very fruitful and stimulating event, junior and senior academics from across Europe and the U.S. gathered under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences at Vienna to discuss the promise and pitfalls of the paradigm of circulation.

Bringing the Habsburg lands to the global history stage is a task that mostly depends on the interdisciplinary study of imperial polities as well as of the modes of knowledge production. Special attention must be devoted to culture, art and modernity. The aim of the event was to develop “research strategies that combine the study of the global ingredient in Habsburg Central Europe with the Central European lineaments of world history in innovative ways”, as announced in the organisers’ call for papers.2 The quest for this “global ingredient” in Habsburg Central Europe immediately sparked debate about what scope, type, and trajectory of “globality” can serve as a productive guiding angle for research on the region. From the outset, the summer school reflected on the payoffs and perils the focus on “circulation” entails: If knowledge is co-produced in processes that span continents, it is impossible to assign the result of these interactions to either of the participating parties, but how to avert the danger of over-emphasizing connections for their own sake? The stress on ostensibly all-encompassing mobility can all too easily gloss over disconnections, neglect (post)colonial power structures and difficulties in defining the triangle between the local, the regional and the global. Moreover, the question that remained present during the whole event was how the study of Central Europe can keep its research integrity and specificity within the global history approach without being provincialized and absorbed into one of the “empire narratives” that revolve around Britain and France. Namely, the latter stereotype may easily emerge from a blurred and reductive vision of “global” as a term that neglects particularities instead of highlighting them. Hence, in order to creatively integrate Habsburg Central Europe in all its distinctiveness into a global framework, as well as to reveal previously unacknowledged contours of the Empire by applying a global history approach, it will be absolutely crucial to abandon these unrightfully pre-defined premises. For that purpose, the organizers circulated an extensive reader3 and organized a string of seminar sessions, e.g. ALICE STAŠKOVÁ’s (IFK Wien) and STEFFEN HÖHNE’s (Weimar) unit on Habsburg literature in the Bukovina and on novel readings of Franz Kafka’s work.

Doctoral researchers from all over Europe and beyond contributed decisively to the conference. They deconstructed narratives about the Habsburg Empire and opened new paths for studying Central European history by retrieving its global ranges of reference. Presentations about agents of knowledge thematized personal itineraries of individuals who produced knowledge, both in various contexts and of different types, such as political knowledge in the process of constructing the state apparatus in Habsburg Central Europe. In that regard, ZRINKO NOVOSEL (Zagreb) focused on agents of state science and the creative recalibration of Viennese natural law in Zagreb and Buda, while MIROSLAV VAŠÍK (Prague) traced the presence of foreign students at the University of Prague. On the same panel, TIBOR BODNAR-KIRÁLYI (Budapest) and DANIELA HAARMANN (Vienna) plumbed the variety of Habsburg Central Europe’s inter-regional histories by studying the work of statisticians and veterinary surgeons chiefly in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

In the subsequent panel, İlKAY KIRIŞÇIOĞLU (Rome) investigated the fate of exiled Hungarian Revolutionaries who turned into go-betweens between their new Ottoman homeland and their native realms after 1848, while CLAUDIA SILVÉRA (Lisbon) focused on the interplay between the fabrication of cartographical knowledge and the imperial administration. Meanwhile, SANDRA KLOS (Vienna) surveyed scientists’ and scholars’ recollections and retrospective transfiguration of fading imperial glory after the Monarchy’s demise in 1918.

Fleshing out the appropriation of different, globally conditioned ideas within the Empire, the next panel, devoted to knowledge that circulated between fringes, showed how these ideas shaped the Monarchy’s inner structure and its role as a site of modernity, colonialism and nationalism. THOMAS MUSGROVE (London) dealt with Habsburg Bosnia’s place in global networks of anti-colonial solidarity and resistance after 1878, while OLEKSANDR SVYETLOV (Kharkiv/Dublin) spotlighted national ambiguities in the case of Andrey Sheptytsky, Greek Catholic archbishop of L’viv, whose tenure traversed Habsburg and Polish rule as well as German occupation. LEA HORVAT (Jena) discussed the emancipatory potentials of studying well-known rituals such as consuming coffee in cafés by deploying feminist decolonial methods, while LUCIJA BAKŠIĆ (Berlin) presented intellectuals’ usages of Alfred Adler’s individual psychology for political purposes after the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

To further highlight the Empire’s intermarginal potentials by drawing on a particularly eloquent case, several papers were devoted to Bohemia: NEILABH SINHA (Leiden) compared strategies of courtly representation and the collecting of mirabilia at the Mughal and Habsburg courts around 1600, whereas JITKA MOČIČKOVA and MICHAL VOKURKA (Prague) presented Bernard F. Erberg as a nodal figure in Jesuit scientific networks in the service of topography. The Bohemian perspective was additionally supported by interdisciplinary case-studies that showed Prague as a springboard for the globalization of knowledge: While ANNA-MARIA PÍPÁLOVA (Cambridge) focused on the global impact of the Bohemian patriotic Jesuit Bohuslav Balbín’s post-1648 sacred topographies of Marian worship, JANA HUNTER (Oxford/Princeton) discussed chronopolitics through the lens of British travellers to 19th-century Bohemia with a particular focus on questions of modern time-management and ascribed historical delay. JANA LAINTO (Helsinki) concluded the panel by looking at Danish agricultural knowledge brokered by Arnošt Kraus and implemented in Bohemia to supress epidemics, giving the circulation of knowledge in the Empire another, transnational dimension. Finally, the doctoral and post-doctoral sessions were concluded with JAN MATONOHA’s (Prague) presentation about Jaroslav Hašek’s and Joseph Roth’s narratives of World War I.

Although sliding into the background now and then, the conference’s stated aim, i.e. the critical assessment of global-historical approaches’ productiveness for Habsburg Central Europe, was fruitfully substantiated and guided by several lectures of prominent scholars. Moreover, the lectures served as intellectual stimuli for participants’ contributions to the ongoing discussion.

One of the main challenges when it comes to researching global Habsburg knowledge is its acceptance and materialisation. PAMELA BALLINGER (Ann Arbor) showcased this problem in her lecture about marine science by studying the changing role of the Ruđer Bošković Institute’s Centre for Marine Research in Istria. Ballinger admirably supported her arguments about the political layerings of ecological knowledge and situated the Centre at the crossroads of national(ist) strategies during the Empire and after its disappearance. By doing so, she demonstrated how knowledge materialized in different exhibits, procedures and power exchanges in the Habsburg Littoral can illustrate and even affect global outturns of, for example, World War I.

Partly connected to Ballinger’s presentation, PIETER M. JUDSON (Florence) addressed the restrictiveness of national historiography, arguing that the rewards global approaches hold in store for the study of the Habsburg Empire remain insufficiently recognized. Rather than the somewhat vague term “empire,” Judson advocates the usage of a term “imperial practices” to illustrate the entanglement of national and imperial (mostly, but not exclusively colonial) aspects when approaching phenomena of the long-lasting Habsburg Empire. Moreover, the interplay between these two elements, the imperial and the national, is the key to understanding the state building from “below” and therefore to relocating the Habsburg lands in the myriad global networks obliterated by national historiographies.

Chiming with Judsons views on entanglements, JANA OSTERKAMP (Munich) focused on Habsburg federalism and its perception through the lens of histoire croisée. By comparing what she dubbed “administrative,” “multi-ethnic” and “historical” types of federalism, Osterkamp introduced an innovative reading of Habsburg political history in a global perspective. The increasing enmeshment of Central Europe’s legal systems, the 1848 revolution as a starting point for multi-ethnic federalism, as well as a variety of modular combinations between federalism and constitutionalism defined the Habsburg Monarchy’s accommodation of fragmentations and containment of (national) conflicts by superimposing federal structures. In addition, as Osterkamp argued, it was especially the global federal moment that offered an alternative to the nation state approach in the study of the Empire’s longevity and lasting importance for political practises across the planet long after 1918.

To conclude, the international summer school raised important conceptual questions, many of which were connected to power relations, to their hierarchies (imperial, colonial, national) and the proper toolkits for their study, to individuals’ agency as well as to regional and local specificities of the Habsburg Empire in the light of the production and circulation of knowledge. Guided by recent discussions on global history, lectures and readings, the participants explored the benefits of re-positioning Habsburg subjects as global actors. Thanks to the congenial atmosphere and productive argumentation, the summer school opened the door for future research on Habsburg Central Europe under the sign of the global history approach.

Conference overview:


Johannes Feichtinger (Vienna), Steffen Höhne (Weimar), Franz L. Fillafer (Vienna)

Faculty Seminar: Knowledge-Making, Interaction and Circulation in Practice. Habsburg global

Moderators: Johannes Feichtinger (Vienna), Jan Surman (Prague)

Panel 1: Sites and Styles of Imperial Knowledge-Production

Zrinko Novosel (Zagreb): The Professors at the Faculty of Law of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Zagreb as Agents of Knowledge Circulation

Tibor Bodnar-Királyi (Budapest): Political Knowledge in Production: A Decentered View of Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Central Europe

Miroslav Vašík (Prague): Students from “abroad” at the University of Prague

Daniela Haarmann (Vienna): Knowledge against Epidemics. Establishing a State controlled Veterinary System in Habsburg Monarchy around 1800

Panel 2: Enablers and Enemies of Empire across Borders

Claudia Silvéra (Lisbon): In the Eyes of the King: Cartography and Imperial Administration

İlkay Kirişçioğlu (Rome): The Travels of a Bohemian Deserter: Forging a Transnational Narrative

Sven Mörsdorf (Florence): Austro-Hungarian Consuls: Actors and Intermediaries in Diplomacy and the Science of Empire

Sandra Klos (Vienna): The Golden Age of Empire – Nostalgic Retrospectives of Austrian Scholars and Scientists on the Habsburg Empire in Autobiographic Self-Descriptions post 1918

Faculty Seminar 2: Habsburg Knowledge-Production

Moderators: Franz L. Fillafer (Vienna), Johannes Mattes (Vienna)

Panel 3: Courtiers and Cartographers: Connecting and Comparing Bohemia, c. 1600–1750

Neilabh Sinha (Leiden): Early Modern Eurasian Courtly Cultures: Natural History, Art, and Collecting at the courts of Jahangir and Rudolf II

Jitka Močičková (Prague) and Michal Vokurka (Prague): View from the Outside: Bernard Ferdinand Erberg’s (SJ) Topography of Bohemia and his Scientific Network in the Middle of the 18th Century

Panel 4: Intermarginal Modernity: Knowledge circulating between fringes

Lea Horvat (Jena): A Taste of Caffeinated Emancipation: Coffee, Cafés, and Gender in the Habsburg Empire, 18th – Early 20th Century

Oleksandr Svyetlov (Kharkiv, Dublin): On Ideas, Practices and Objects: The Religious Ingredient in “National Emancipation” during Times of Civilisational Ruptures: A Case Study of Andriy Sheptytsky (1865–1944)

Lucija Bakšić (Berlin): Intellectual Networks and Circulation of Individual Psychology in East-Central and South-East Europe in the First Half of the 20th Century

Thomas Musgrove (London): Expanding Central Europe: Global Perspectives on Habsburg Colonialism in Bosnia, 1878–1914


Pamela Ballinger (Ann Arbor): Intimate Ecologies, National(ist) Science? Circulations of Marine Science along the Habsburg Littoral

Faculty Seminar 3: Habsburgische Literaturen zwischen Regionalität und Transnationalität

Moderators: Steffen Höhne (Weimar), Alice Stašková (IFK Wien)

Panel 5: Bohemia as a Workshop of World Knowledge

Anna-Maria Pípalová (Cambridge): Depicting Bohemia for a Global Audience in the Works of Bohuslav Balbín

Jana Hunter (Oxford/Princeton): Travel Writing, Temporality, and Embodied Experiences in Prague, c. 1848–1918

Jana Lainto (Helsinki): A ‘Danish Model’? Transnational Networks and Circulation of Danish Agricultural Practices in Bohemia at the Turn of the Century

Panel 6: Die Künste

Eva Palkovičová (Bratislava): Eine andere Facette der nationalen Wiedergeburt –Alltäglichkeit, Feminität und Komik in der slowakischen Prosa der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts

David Vondráček (Prague): Wie tschechisch ist die tschechische Operette?

Jan Matonoha (Prague): Two Central-European authors, two varying “écriture” of WWI?


Pieter M. Judson (Florence): What to do with ‘Empire’ and ‘Circulation’?

Faculty Seminar 4: Science across Empires: Comparison, Competition, Entanglements

Moderator: Pamela Ballinger (Ann Arbor)


Jana Osterkamp (Munich/Leipzig): Comparing Habsburg Histoires Croisées

1 Conference overview: https://www.oeaw.ac.at/fileadmin/Institute/IKT/PDF/Veranstaltungen/Veranstaltungen_2021_up/Einladungsblatt-IKT-Summer-School-V22-09-2022-final__2_.pdf.
2 Call for papers: https://www.oeaw.ac.at/fileadmin/Institute/IKT/PDF/CfP_Empire_of_Circulation.pdf.
3 Some of the texts in the reader were written by Franz L. Fillafer, Johannes Feichtinger, Johannes Mattes, Jan Surman etc.

Veröffentlicht am
Weitere Informationen
Land Veranstaltung
Sprache(n) der Konferenz
Sprache des Berichts