The Weimar era is commonly seen – particularly in the popular imagination – as a golden age of cultural experimentation. This narrative holds up modernist masters, from Thomas Mann to Hannah Höch, and famous cultural institutions, from the Bauhaus to Ufa, as representatives of “Weimar culture”, a singular phenomenon that distinguished Germany on the world stage. The unique cultural renaissance is often described and explained in a national framework – from the trauma of the lost war to the fleeting liberties of an unstable, crisis-ridden democracy.
Recent scholarship has challenged this narrative. One of the main points of criticism is the reductive, often-elitist nature of the Weimar canon that elides the full richness and diversity of the period’s cultural output as well as its complex, far-reaching international legacies. Another important criticism has come from postcolonial scholars, who have stressed the Eurocentric normativity of the concepts of modernism, modernity, and modernization.
This workshop will bring together scholars advancing new approaches to the cultural history of the Weimar era. We take our inspiration from Dipesh Chakrabarty’s call to “provincialize Europe”, in the sense of historicizing and criticizing modernity’s claims to universality to uncover its colonial heritage. In this vein, we invite submissions on any aspect of the culture of the Weimar era that approach their subject from a transnational or postcolonial perspective and in its global context.
However, we also employ the idea of “provincializing” in a second, more literal sense: we invite scholars who focus on cultural life outside of Berlin and other urban centres of Weimar Germany. These two perspectives – the global and the local – are not mutually exclusive, but rather dialectically intertwined: we are interested in work that shows how transnational phenomena, such as commodity flows, economic crisis, and international politics, shaped the cultural life in the country at large, or how cultural producers in the periphery linked their work with these processes.
Finally, we welcome submissions that historicize and criticize the concept of “Weimar culture” itself. Over the years, several scholars have suggested that the idea of Weimar culture as a golden age of modernism is an invention of the Cold War era to salvage parts of German history from the spectre of fascism, or to shed light on later periods of cultural struggle and political polarization. Our workshop will revisit this interpretation in light of the recent trend of using interwar Germany as an explanatory tool for our current period of socioeconomic crisis and right-wing, authoritarian-populist politics across the globe.
The workshop will take place in Utrecht, the Netherlands, from 25-26 April 2024. The sessions will be conducted in English. There is a limited amount of funding to support participants’ travel and accommodation costs. Graduate students and participants without an institutional affiliation will be prioritized in the allocation of funding. The organizers, Jochen Hung (Utrecht University), Britta Schilling (Utrecht University) and Nicholas Baer (UC Berkeley), are planning an international publication based on the contributions of the workshop.
The workshop will include a keynote lecture by Prof Uta Poiger (Northeastern) on “Weimar and Now: Culture, Race, Politics“.
Please send an abstract no longer than 500 words, together with a short CV, to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for submissions is 11 September 2023.