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For a Differently Centered Central European History: Reflections on Jürgen Osterhammel, Geschichtswissenschaft Jenseits des Nationalstaats

  • Helmut Walser Smith (a1)
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1. von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang and Schuiller, Friedrich, Xenien 1796, ed. Schmidt, Erich and Suphan, Bernhard (Weimar, 1893), nos. 95, 96.

2. Cited in Sheehan, James J., German History, 1770–1886 (Oxford, 1989), 553.

3. Febvre, Lucien, A Geographical Introduction to History, trans. Mountford, E.G. and Paxton, J.H. (New York, 1925), 38.

4. Cited in Dillard, Annie, Teaching a Stone to Talk (New York, 1982), 47.

5. Osterhammel, Jürgen, Die Entzauberung Asiens: Europa und die asiatischen Reiche im 18. Jahrhundert (Munich, 1998).

6. Osterhammel, Jürgen, Geschichtswissenschaft jenseits des Nationalstaats: Studien zu Beziehungsgeschichte und Zivilisationsvergleich (Göttingen, 2001). Page references in the text refer to this edition.

7. Blackbourn, David and Eley, Geoff, The Peculiarities of German History (Oxford, 1984); Lüdtke, Alf, ed. Alltagsgeschichte: Zur Rekonstruktion historischer Erfahrungen und Lebensweisen (Frankfurt am Main, 1989); Central European History 22 (September/December, 1989).

8. Arnold cited in Kuper, Adam, Culture: The Anthropologist's Account (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), 9.

9. Geertz, Clifford, “Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” in Geertz, , The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973), 5.

10. Ortner, Sherry, ed., The Fate of “Culture”: Geertz and Beyond (Berkeley, 1999), 7. Originally published in Representations 59 (Summer 1997).

11. See the essays in ibid.

12. Eltis, David, ed., Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives (Stanford, 2002), 3.

13. Sahlins, Peter, Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees (Berkeley, 1989).

14. Clifford, James, “Mixed Feelings,” in Cosmopolites: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, ed. Cheah, Peng and Robbins, Bruce (Minneapolis, 1989), 368–69; Clifford, , Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century (Cambridge, Mass., 1997).

15. Deleuze and Guattri cited in Malkki, Liisa, “National Geographic: The Rooting of Peoples and the Territorialization of National Identity among Scholars and Refugees,” in Becoming National: A Reader, ed. Eley, Geoff and Suny, Ronald Grigor (Oxford, 1996), 441.

16. Wiebe, Robert H., Who We Are: A History of Popular Nationalism (Princeton, 2002). See also Modes, Martha, “The Mercurial Nature and Abiding Power of Race: A Transnational Family Story,” American Historical Review 108, no. 1 (02 2003): 84118.

17. Osterhammel, Jürgen, “Transnationale Gesellschaftsgeschichte: Erweiterung oder Alternative,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 27 (2001): 467. Here, however, Osterhammel's own dichotomy, between an ethnography of the particular and the generalizing categories of the history of society, is overwrought.

18. See Ther, Philipp, “Beyond the Nation: The Relational Basis of a Comparative History of Germany and Europe, Central European History 36, no. 1 (2003): 4573.

19. Raphael, Lutz, “Nationalzentrierte Sozialgeschichte in programmatischer Absicht: Die Zeitschrift ‘Geschichte und Gesellschaft. Zeitschrift für Historische Sozialwissenschaft’ in den ersten 25 Jahren ihres Bestehens,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 25 (1999): 2425. The figures are for essays with a geographical focus. To the German figure of 61.3 percent should be added 3.3 percent for Switzerland and Austria, and only. 8 percent for “Mitteleuropa” (though 4.5 percent for southeastern Europe). The figures for the West are as follows: 5.7 percent for France, 5.4 percent for Great Britain, 3.9 percent for the U.S. and 3.3 percent for Latin America. A telling, if imprecise, comparison is with the results of William McNeill's survey of books written in the United States on European history between 1968 and 1978. McNeill counted 543 on Great Britain, 311 on what was then the U.S.S.R., 304 on France, and 231 on Germany. Here the eastern orientation, supported by the Cold War, is significant, as are the sheer numbers. Between 1975 and 1999, Geschichte und Gesellschaft only published eight articles on Russia. McNeill, William H., “Modern European History,” in The Past Before Us: Contemporary Historical Writing in the U.S., ed. Kammen, Michael (Ithaca, 1980).

20. Ibid., 33, 35–36.

21. Osterhammel, , “Transnationale Gesellschaftsgeschichte,” 469.

22. Said, Edward W., Orientalism (New York, 1978).

23. The standard work is Checkering, RogerKarl Lamprecht: A German Academic Life (Atlantic Highlands, 1993).

24. See Field, Geoffrey G., Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain (New York, 1981).

25. Ratzel, Friedrich, Anthropogeographie (Stuttgart, 1891), 180, 438.

26. Cited in Febvre, , A Geographical Introduction to History, 910.

27. See, for a thoughtful introduction, Paasi, Annsi, Territories, Boundaries and Consciousness: The Changing Geographies of the Finnish-Russian Border (Chichester, 1995); Febvre, Lucien, “Frontière: The Word and the Concept” in A New Kind of History: From the Writings of Febvre, trans. Folca, K., ed. Burke, Peter (London, 1973), 208–18.

28. Osterhammel, Jürgen, “Alexander von Humboldt,” in Archiv für Kulturgeschichte 81 (1999): 120. The full title of Humboldt's work is, Relations historique du voyage aux régions équinoxiales due nouveaux continent.

29. Osterhammel, , “Alexander von Humboldt,” 131.

30. Osterhammel, , “Geschichte, Geographie, Geohistorie,” in Geschichtsdiskurs, vol. 3, ed. Rüttler, W. et al. (Frankfurt am Main, 1997), 260.

31. Bernheim, Ernst, Lehrbuch der historischen Methode und der Geschichtsphilosophie, 3rd and 4th eds. (Leipzig, 1903), 287.

32. Osterhammel, Jürgen, “‘Peoples without History,’ in British and German Historical Thought,” in British and German Historiography, 1150–1950: Traditions, Perceptions and Transfers (Oxford, 2000). On Ritter, see Osterhammel, , “Geschichte, Geographie, Geohistorie,” in Geschichtsdiskurs, vol. 3, ed. Kütder, W. et al. (Frankfurt am Main, 1997), 257–71.

33. We might consider as a starting point of this reception, Medick, Hans, “Missionäre im Ruderboot,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 10 (1984): 295319, and the negative reaction, first circulated as a kind of underground, unpublished manuscript, by Hans Ulrich Wehler, and later published as “Alltagsgeschichte: Königsweg zu neuen Ufern oder Irrgarten der Illusionen,” in Wehler, , Aus der Geschichte lernen (Munich, 1988).

34. See, for earlier criticisms along this line, Clifford, James, “Review Article: Edward W. Said, OrientalismHistory and Theory 19 (1980): 204–24, reprinted in Clifford, , The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge, Mass., 1988); Prakash, Gayan, “‘Orientalism’ Now,” History and Theory 34 (1995): 199212.

35. Febvre, , A Geographical Introduction, 361.

36. Quoted by James J. Sheehan in the introduction to Sheehan, James J. and Lehmann, Hartmut, eds., An Interrupted Past: German-Speaking Refugee Historians in the United States after 1933 (Cambridge, 1991) 1.

37. For an extended review of this literature, see Osterhammel, Jürgen, Sklaverei und die Zivilisation des Westens (Munich, 2000).

38. Eltis, David, ed., Coerced and Free Migrations: Global Perspectives (Stanford, 2002), 13.

39. Werner, Michael and Zimmermann, Bénédicte, “Penser l'histoire croisée: entre empire et réflexivité,” Annales: Histoire, sciences sociales 58, no. 1 (2003): 736, which emphasizes the Franco-German side of a history of relations.

40. On Augsburg, François, Etienne, Die unsichtbare Grenze: Profestanten und Katholiken in Augsburg (Sigmaringen, 1991); on upper Silesia, see the pathbreaking dissertation of Bjork, James Edward, “Neither German nor Pole: Catholicism and National Ambivalence in Upper Silesia, 1890–1914,” (Ph.D. diss., University of Chicago, 1999); on Lodz, Winston Chu, “Volksgemeinschaft unter sich”: German Minorities and Regionalism in Poland, 1918–39,” forthcoming in German History from the Margins, ed. Neil Gregor, Nils Roemer, and Mark Roseman; for the nineteenth century, see Schlögel, Karl, Promenade in Jalta und andere Stadtbilder (Frankfurt am Main, 2003), 126–38. In 1830, German speakers still constituted 74 percent of the population of Lodz.

41. Milosz, Czeslaw, A Treatise on Poetry, trans, by the author and Hass, Robert, (New York, 2001), 21.

42. That “the eastern part of Europe, far from being uniform, is even richer in variety than the western,” see Halecki, Oscar, The Limits and Divisions of European History (London, 1950), 121.

43. Barkin, Kenneth D., “Eine amerikanische Zeitschrift zur deutschen Geschichte,” Comparativ 1–2 (1993): 190.

44. Ibid.

45. For the initial discussion, which has since taken on ever larger proportions, see Schöttler, Peter, ed. Geschichtsschreibung als Legitimationswissenschaft 1918–1945 (Frankfurt am Main, 1997), especially Schöttler's introductory remarks, 7–30.

46. Underlined in the original. Published in Ebbinghaus, Angelika and Roth, Karl Heinz, “Vorläufer des ‘Generalplans Ost’: Eine Dokumentation über Theodor Schieders Polendenkschrift vom 7. Oktober 1939,” in 1999, vol. 7, no. l (1992): 86. On this aspect of Conze's thinking, see Etzemüller, Thomas, “Sozialgeschichte als politische Geschichte: Die Etablierung der Sozialgeschichte in der westdeutschen Geschichtswissenschaft,” Comparativ 12, no. 1 (2002): 27.

47. Burleigh, Michael, Germany Turns Eastwards: A Study of Ostforschung in the Third Reich, 2nd ed. (London, 2002), 165–66.

48. Ibid., 184–85.

49. For the influence of an essentially American assimilation theory, see Wehler, Hans-Ulrich, “Zur neuen Geschichte der Masuren,” Zeitschrift für Ostforschung 11 (1962): 147–72; Klessmann, Christoph, Polnische Bergarbeiter im Ruhrgebiet, 1870–1945 (Göttingen, 1978).

50. On the necessity of integrating cultural perspectives into the history of migration, see the learned and ambitious synthesis of Hoerder, Dirk, Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millenium (Durham, N.C., 2002).

51. The definition of cities from Sennett, Richard, The Fall of Public Man: On the Social Psychology of Capitalism, (New York, 1978), 39ff.

52. Schlögel, Karl, Die Mitte liegt ostwärts: Europa im Übergang (Munich, 2002). On provincial cities, Werner, Meike G., Moderne in der Pronvinz: Kulturelle Experimente im Fin-de-Siècle Jena (Göttingen, 2003), esp. 962. See also the exemplary study of King, Jeremy, Budweisers into Czechs and Germans: A Local History of Bohemian Politics, 1848–1948 (Princeton, 2002).

53. “The point,” write Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper, “is that colonial historiography has been so nationally bound that it has blinded us to those circuits of knowledge and communication that took other routes than those shaped by the metropole-colony axis alone.” Stoler, and Cooper, , “Between Metropole and Colony: Rethinking a Research Agenda,” in Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, ed. Stoler, Ann Laura and Cooper, Frederick (Berkeley, 1997), 28. For a sense of the insights that this approach may yield, see Deborah Neill's forthcoming dissertation at the University of Toronto on French and German colonial doctors.

54. On the significance of the margins for twentieth-century European history, see Diner, Dan, Das Jahrhundert verstehen: Eine universalhistorische Deutung (Frankfurt am Main, 2000), 12, 199. On the expellees and ethnic complexity in German and Central European history, see now Ther, Philipp, Deutsche und polnische Vertriebene: Gesellschaft und Vertriebenenpolitik in der SBZ/DDR und in Polen 1945–1946 (Göttmgen, 1998); and, with respect to religious complexity, Dark, Joel, “Religion and Refugees in postwar West Germany” (Ph.D. diss., Vanderbilt University, 1998).

55. David Eltis, “Migration and Agency in Global History,” in Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives ed. idem (Stanford, 2002),13. Kulischer's figure also did not include the Jews deported and killed in the Holocaust.

56. Amery, Jean.Jenseits von Sühne: Bewältigungsversuche eines Überwältigten (Stuttgart, 1977), 138.

57. Ibid.

58. Schlögel, , Die Mitte liegt ostwärts, 4445.

59. For an introduction, Herbert, Ulrich, Nationalsozialistische Vernichtungspolitik, 1939–1945 (Frankfort am Main, 1998).

60. For an astute criticism of this aspect of cultural history, Biernacki, Richard, “Method and Metaphor after the new Cultural History,” in Beyond the Cultural Turn, ed. Bonnell, Victoria E. and Hunt, Lynn (Berkeley, 1999), 6294.

61. Sewell, William H. Jr., “Whatever Happened to the ‘Social’ in Social History?,” in Schools of Thought: Twenty-Five Years of Interpretive Social Science, ed. Scott, Joan W. and Keates, Debra (Princeton, 2001), 215–17.

62. See, however, the alternative program, which is to use the margins and fragments to understand the center in a new light. See Joan W Scott, “After History?,” in ibid., 85–103. In its essence, this is also the mending tone of Jarausch, Konrad H. and Geyer, Michael, Shattered Past: Reconstructing German History (Princeton, 2003). Their individual contribution to international history aside, the frame of this book remains a national frame. “For the coming generation of scholars, the challenge,” they write, “consists of constructing a new kind of cultural history of German politics” (p. xi). The cultural approach “consists in the exploration of how a sense of self and bonds of belonging are formed, and when and why they are torn” (p. 19).

63. For the American discussion, see the excellent collection, with an incisive introduction, by Bender, Thomas, Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Berkeley, 2002); for France, Werner and Zimmermann, “Penser l'histoire croisée;” for a startling work that employs this way of seeing in the British context, see Colley, Linda, Captives: Britain, Empire and the World, 1600–1850 (New York, 2003).

64. Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung: Tractatus logico-philosophicus (Frankfurt am Main, 2003), 80. (5.5303).

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Central European History
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