We understand decentering as a methodological approach to question some of historiography’s traditional centerings: regional centerings (Swabia, Franconia, Odenwald, Thuringia, Tyrol), social centerings (subjects, princes/manorial lords, Protestant reformers) and ideological centerings (confession or criticism of rule). Disbanding these traditional focal points enables us to see other, broader contexts; it allows us to detect interferences and interplays that may bring to light a complexity and multiformity far greater and wider-ranging than conventional approaches have been able to highlight. This is to be achieved by understanding centers and decentering not so much in terms of geographic or topographic positions and movements, but rather by examining them at the level of the actors and their patterns of interaction. Following the "POLY" research group ('Polycentricity and Plurality of Premodern Christianities' research group at Goethe-University, Frankfurt), centering and decentering are described as the concentration or dissolution of interaction contexts, respectively, which take place continuously in all areas and on all levels of historical reality and form polycentric structures. Doing so draws attention to the interferences between the different spheres of action: Decentering in one area unleashes dynamics in other areas. The concentration and dissolution of interaction contexts in the religious arena does not come without consequences for politics and economics, for example. Oftentimes, these shifts in interaction patterns go hand in hand with dislimitations: As opportunities for and spheres of action open up, boundaries and centers shift – and vice versa.
On the level of phenomena, the concept of decentering invites us to start with the social agents themselves and ask about the formation and shaping of interaction groups and communicative networks: To what extent did the social agents draw on existing structures, and where were these structures overcome or called into question? What aspects of centering did the social agents themselves perceive and how did they respond to them? In other words, how did political centers (e.g., princely courts, manorial estates, bailiffs’ households, village assemblies), economic centers (e.g., cities, markets, monasteries), and ecclesiastical-religious centers (e.g., theological faculties, places of pilgrimage) form and what role did they play? To what extent did this polycentric structure change as a result of new, altered patterns of interaction that followed from the dislimitation or the opening up of new spheres of action, or vice versa? What role did practices of power/knowledge, or aspects of these, play in those processes of concentration, dissolving, and dislimitation of interaction contexts? What significance did they have in the conflict over notions of order and interpretive authority, especially for the legitimization of violence, also and especially on the part of the insurgents’ opponents? To what extent do aspects of temporality play a role alongside questions of spatiality – how stable or permanent were the new centers in terms of interaction contexts? Were there new ones that successfully established themselves, old ones that held their ground, while others disappeared after only a short period of time? To what extent did these centers play a role within individual interaction groups as “vanishing points” for processes of group formation (demarcation, belonging, identity, historical self-images)? How open were these processes in times of uprisings and upheavals, or is it possible to identify certain path dependencies after all?
The questions to consider in this context include (but are not limited to):
- the opening and closing of spheres of action and group formation
- dimensions of violence
- dynamics of path dependencies
- communicative networks
- interpretive authorities
- notions of order
- inventions of historiographical tradition
We invite contributions to the conference. The focus will be on the protest movements conventionally referred to as the “German Peasants’ War”, but contributions dealing with other uprisings, riots, and revolts between the 15th and 17th centuries are also welcome, as they allow for a broader diachronic as well as horizontal contextualization.
If you are interested in presenting a paper at the conference, please submit via e-mail a proposal with the working title of your presentation and a short abstract (one page), along with a short bio (max. one page) to email@example.com
Submission deadline: March 15, 2023.