Since the 1990ies, “precarity” and, in some languages, “precarisation”, have established themselves as terms to describe perceived insecurities and vulnerability. Originating in developments in the workplace, they are used most notably to denote the spread of insecure conditions into spheres of life that were previously deemed secure. “Precarity” thus also marks a discursive realignment of the social world: Since the 1970ies, precarious conditions have been increasingly deplored and made visible, but at the same time, they have also been normalized and integrated into the lives of the majority populations of “western” societies.
Taking up the concept of precarity from a historical perspective and investigating processes linked to it can enable us to connect various contemporary phenomena and their histories with each other and to put them into comparative perspective. This field extends from labour relations, identity assertions or governance to the very conditions of academic research itself. Therefore, at the 18th Potsdam Postgraduate Forum on Contemporary History, we propose to take the concept of “precarity” as a starting point to inquire into situations of insecure circumstances in contemporary history: (co-)productions and perceptions of them, ways of dealing with them, and their effects on those exposed to them. Following broad definitions of precarity, we encourage participants to apply this concept not only to labour relations and poverty, but to use it to explore how insecurity and volatility were produced, normalized, perceived and dealt with in various spheres of society. At the same time, we also want to provide space for discussing the use value of “precarity” as an analytical term for the discipline of history and for historicizing the concept and its semantic field. Contributions that try to approach processes of precarisation from a global angle or from intersectional perspectives are especially welcome.
The contributions can address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Strategies and practices of coping with and subjectification of precarity in different spaces and systems, including beyond those types of working conditions that are typically identified as precarious
- Living conditions at the margins of “western” boom and transformation societies
- precarious conditions being perceived and addressed in civil society, politics, media, and academia
- Global contexts of precarity, (post-)migrant and intersectional perspectives, informal labour in the Global South, connection between precarity and globalization
- Who is speaking for the “precariat”? How can you write a (global) history of precarity?
- Precarity and time: insecurity, vulnerability and the lack of long-term perspectives as part of an erosion of modern temporal regimes? Precarity as diagnosis of the present time
- Precarity/precarisation as analytical concepts
- Historicizing the semantic field of “precarious”, “precarisation”, and “precarity”: transfers, adjacent and related concepts, trends of scientization and/or popularization
Contributions to panels (approx. 20 minutes, followed by a joint discussion) can be submitted by PhD students in history as well as graduates who are currently preparing a PhD project and doctoral graduates who have recently completed their PhD. Participants from other disciplines are also most welcome if their contributions are related to historical questions and/or methods. Please send your proposals of 400 words or less, accompanied by a short CV, to firstname.lastname@example.org in one document. The deadline for submitting proposals is 30 June 2023. The conference will be held in German; however, contributions can also be submitted and presented in English.
The 18th Potsdam Postgraduate Forum on Contemporary History will take place at the Centre for Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam on 23-24 November 2023. Participants will be reimbursed for costs of travel and accommodation.
 Cf. Eckart Conze, Die Suche nach Sicherheit. Eine Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland von 1949 bis in die Gegenwart, München 2009, pp. 932f.
 Cf. e.G. Robert Castel, Klaus Dörre (eds.), Prekarität, Abstieg, Ausgrenzung. Die soziale Frage am Beginn des 21. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt am Main 2009; Mona Motakef, Prekarisierung, Bielefeld 2015; Amrei Bahr / Kristin Eichhorn / Sebastian Kubon, #IchbinHanna. Prekäre Wissenschaft in Deutschland, Berlin 2022.
 Cf. e.G. Guy Standing, The Precariat. The New Dangerous Class, London 2011 or Isabell Lorey, Die Regierung der Prekären, Wien 2012.