Embedding Cultural Brokers: Institutionalisation and Impact in the Arts, Sciences and Economy

Embedding Cultural Brokers: Institutionalisation and Impact in the Arts, Sciences and Economy

Fachbereich Geschichte und Soziologie, Universität Konstanz; Faculty of History, University of Cambridge
Universität Konstanz, Senatssaal, Universitätsstraße 10, 78457 Konstanz
Vom - Bis
06.07.2017 - 07.07.2017
Wehrs, Nikolai

The term ‘Cultural Broker’ has nowadays become rather fashionable in the Humanities, yet remains a relatively ill-defined concept. Originally used by anthropologists to describe the role of mediators between indigenous and Western societies, the term is now used more broadly to refer to intermediaries between, as well as within, cultures. However, little has been done to clearly define the term, and more importantly the social position and wider impact of cultural brokers. Our project aims to provide an innovative and challenging historical interpretation of what we mean by ‘cultural brokers’ by exploring and comparing their specific networks as engines of (or obstacles to) cross-cultural (ex)change; consider processes of professionalization and social mobility as well as questions of their changing self-fashioning and ‘Fremdwahrnehmung’. In short, we plan to take the analysis of cultural brokers out of the field of cultural encounters and into global social history in order to assess the long-term impacts of brokers on identity, society and economy more broadly.

This workshop will be the second one of a series of three, organized in cooperation between the University of Cambridge and the University of Konstanz, to be held between 2016 and 2018. The first workshop, entitled ‘Historicizing Cultural Brokers: Agency and the Limits of Power’, has been held in Cambridge in December 2016. While this workshop has focussed on conceptual issues and on the figure of the cultural broker proper, the second workshop will seek to ‘embed’ brokers more systematically in their social and political environments. Looking at the arts, the sciences, and the economy, we will concentrate on selected spheres of activity, which in the modern age were particularly prone to cross-cultural exchange. In doing so, we will assess brokers’ impact in these spheres and juxtapose their agency with other factors shaping the historical trajectory of the brokered issues. Alongside the factor of institutionalization as one such trajectory, we will also pay attention to other, sometimes less obvious forms of impact. They include anything from social practices and cultural artefacts to knowledge and ideologies, as well as products and taste issues. Ultimately, the exploration of brokers’ impact will produce useful empirical as well as intellectual groundwork for the third workshop to be held in Cambridge again in 2018. The whole project is designed to maximize the academic exchange between Cambridge and Konstanz by engaging several of their scholars in a fruitful debate on the impact of ‘cultural brokers’ as ‘social actors’ from 1700 to the present.


Thursday, 6 July 2017

13.30 Welcome and introduction:
Martin Rempe and Nikolai Wehrs (Konstanz)

14.00 Panel I: Cultural brokerage in musical life

Celia Applegate (Vanderbilt) and Martin Rempe (Konstanz)
What do George Eliot and George Kastner have in common? On inconspicuous impact of German music in 19th century France and Britain

Benjamin Walton (Cambridge)
Opera troupes beyond Europe

Comment: Jürgen Osterhammel (Konstanz)

15.30 Coffee

15.45 Panel II: The Sciences and transcultural knowledge production

Helen Anne Curry (Cambridge)
Seeds of contention: the Rockefeller Foundation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the international conservation of crop diversity, 1960–1975

Kristin Meißner (Berlin)
Informal diplomacy: Western experts in Meiji Japan

Comment: Helmut Walser-Smith (Vanderbilt)

17.15 Coffee

17.30 Keynote speech

David Blackbourn (Vanderbilt)
Germans and the American university system in the 19th century

20.00 Workshop Dinner

Friday, 7 July 2017

9.30 Panel III: Consumer cultures and extractive industries

Jan Logemann (Göttingen)
Translating ‘American’ consumer culture: émigré marketing experts as cultural brokers

Steven M. Press (Stanford)
Blood and diamonds: Europe, Southwest Africa, and the culture of colonialism, 1908-1918

Comment: Laura Rischbieter (Konstanz)

11.00 Coffee

11.30 Panel IV: Brokered art and architecture

Margit Kern (Hamburg)
Hieroglyphs of Faith. Missionaries as actors in transcultural negotiation processes and image theory in 16th century New Spain (Mexico)

Johan Lagae (Ghent)
Houses for “whose” culture? 1950s projects for cultural centres in the Belgian Congo.

Comment: Cornelia Escher (Konstanz)

13.00 Lunch

14.30 Conclusion: Cultural brokers and their impact revisited

Bianca Gaudenzi (Cambridge)
Harry Liebersohn (Urbana-Champaign)
Sven Reichardt (Konstanz)
Moritz von Brescius (Konstanz)

Chair: Nikolai Wehrs (Konstanz)

16.00 Coffee and end of the meeting

18.00 Informal gathering at Constanzer Wirtshaus (beer garden)


Nikolai Wehrs

Universität Konstanz, Fach 1, 78457 Konstanz


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