The 20th Century in Basic Concepts. A Dictionary of Historical Semantics in Germany

The project The 20th Century in Basic Concepts. Dictionary of Socio-Political and Cultural Semantics in Germany continues the historical dictionary Basic Concepts in History, associated with Reinhart Koselleck. The articles therein concentrated on the so-called ‘Sattelzeit,’ the epochal threshold in which the cultural semantics of medieval Europe transformed into the modern world, that is, on a conceptual-historical examination of the emergence of modernity. In the entire 119 articles, however, the 20th century merely figures in short outlooks. They reveal that by the 20th century many concepts had already lost their radiance, had become semantically empty or obsolete, or had been replaced by new concepts.

The planned dictionary is an interdisciplinary and cooperative research project intended to go beyond enshrining established knowledge. Rather, we intend to make an experimental contribution to basic research in the humanities, in cultural studies, social sciences, and in history. Taking our cue from Koselleck’s characterization of the historical narrative, our aim is ‘writing down, writing further and rewriting history’ from the perspective of a changed present. Especially, however, new basic concepts emerging in the 20th century shall be examined. As such, Koselleck’s overarching hypotheses will be put to the test and, in turn, may possibly be historicized themselves.

Methodologically, the concepts will be approached from a different perspective than in the original endeavor, conceived of more than half a century ago. This concerns, for example, the use of broader source material that is more easily accessible and evaluated with digital technologies today. Conceptually, this entails not only the inclusion of metaphor, as called for by Koselleck himself, but also a fresh approach to the relation of factual and conceptual history.

 

Fig. above: Naomi Booth. Source: Pixabay.

from 2022 on funded in the Leibniz Cooperative Excellence program
since 2020
Head researcher(s): Ernst Müller

 

See also

Subproject(s)

Basic Socio-Political Concepts of Scientific Provenance

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL) since 2022
Head researcher(s): Ernst Müller

Associate researchers: Alexander Friedrich, Barbara Picht, Falko Schmieder

The ZfL-based subproject will analyze concepts that originated in or were significantly shaped by scientific discourse, circulated between disciplines and migrated into socio-political as well as everyday discourse. These include concepts such as ‘Diversität,’ ‘Energie,’ ‘Evolution,’ ‘Funktion,’ ‘Gen,’ ‘Generation,’ ‘Geschlecht,’ ‘Information,’ ‘Kommunikation,’ ‘Medien,’ ‘Nachhaltigkeit,’ ‘Natur,’ ‘Netz,’ ‘Ökologie,’ ‘Prävention,’ ‘Prognose,’ ‘Rasse,’ ‘Regulation,’ ‘Struktur,’ ‘Theorie,’ ‘Trauma,’ ‘Umwelt.’  This type of concept is specific for the socio-political language of the 20th century and sets it apart from that of previous centuries. This type reflects the tendency of a decreasing reliability or a faster expiration time of concepts which involves a liquefaction of meaning. This results particularly from the concepts losing their reification during their diverse migrations between the different social spheres and thus functioning as randomly interpretable empty formulas or non-words. One question is whether the tension between experience and expectation as highlighted by Koselleck is still true for this type of basic concepts and which new forms it might take. In comparison to Koselleck’s Basic Concepts in History (Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe), this type of concept also documents a shift in formative semantics from the historical- and sociophilosophical to the scientific level which was formulated under the keywords of a scientification of the social or a politicization of the sciences.

The project can connect with the ZfL’s longstanding experience with an interdisciplinary history of knowledge and of the social. The goal to properly grasp the terms migrating between the knowledge cultures and disciplines with broad dispersion requires additional digital tools from concept history research which are capable of analyzing clusters and domains of different disciplinary uses of concepts synchronically and diachronically. Here, also, a wide range of groundwork has been made and can now be expanded upon.

 

Basic Socio-Political Concepts with Large Scope and Duration

Leibniz-Institut für Deutsche Sprache (IDS) since 2022
Head researcher(s): Mark Dang-Anh

Associate researcher: Stefan Scholl

The IDS-based project explores a selection of political basic concepts. It focusses on politically relevant partial corpora such as the publicist discourse during the post-war era, the parliament protocols of the 20th century, or political speeches during National Socialism. This focus centers on the corpus-based analysis of a concept-constituting use of language and its methodical contextualization.

Website of the project at the IDS

Basic Socio-Political Concepts Negotiating Concepts of Time and Progress

Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam (ZZF) since 2022
Head researcher(s): Rüdiger Graf

Associate researcher: Simon Specht

The ZFF-based project analyzes the change of concepts that express temporality and historic transformation. It focusses on concepts such as ‘Fortschritt,’ ‘Krise,’ ‘Entwicklung/Evolution,’ ‘Modernisierung,’ ‘Zukunft,’ or ‘Utopie,’ concepts that were politically controversial and that, time and time again, served the determination of their own place in history as they were discussed in society.

Website of the project at the ZZF

Publications

Ernst Müller (ed./eds.)

FORUM INTERDISZIPLINÄRE BEGRIFFSGESCHICHTE (FIB)

E-JOURNAL (2022) 11th YEAR / ISSUE 1
Berlin 2022, 37 pages
ISSN 2195-0598
DOI 10.13151/fib.2022.01

Begriffsgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts
Themenheft des Archivs für Begriffsgeschichte

Vol. 63, Issue 1 (2021)
Felix Meiner, Hamburg 2021
ISBN 978-3-7873-4004-0 (Print); 978-3-7873-4010-1 (eJournal)
Ernst Müller, Falko Schmieder (ed./eds.)

FORUM INTERDISZIPLINÄRE BEGRIFFSGESCHICHTE (FIB)

E-JOURNAL (2021) 10th YEAR / ISSUE 1
Berlin 2021, 58 pages
ISSN 2195-0598
DOI 10.13151/fib.2021.01
Ernst Müller, Falko Schmieder

Begriffsgeschichte
zur Einführung

Junius, Hamburg 2020, 200 pages
ISBN 978-3-96060-317-7
Ernst Müller, Wolfert von Rahden (ed./eds.)

FORUM INTERDISZIPLINÄRE BEGRIFFSGESCHICHTE (FIB)

E-JOURNAL (2020) 9th YEAR / ISSUE 1
Berlin 2020, 108 pages
ISSN 2195-0598

Ernst Müller

Barbara Picht

Falko Schmieder

 

The project continues the long-standing research on the theory and practice of interdisciplinary history of concepts from which these publications, among others, have resulted:

Ernst Müller, Falko Schmieder

Events

Lecture
28 Oct 2022 · 2.30 pm

Ernst Müller/Falko Schmieder: Das 20. Jahrhundert in Grundbegriffen – Das Konzept eines neuen Lexikons

FernUniversität in Hagen, Gebäude 2, Raum 1–3, Universitätsstraße 33, 58097 Hagen

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Lecture
30 Sep 2022 · 11.00 am

Falko Schmieder: Zur Aneignung des Marx’schen Fetischbegriffs bei Walter Benjamin und Roland Barthes

Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Institut für Germanistik, Mozartgasse 8, 8010 Graz, Österreich

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Workshop
07 Sep 2022 · 10.00 am

Wert- und Traditionsbegriffe

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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Workshop
06 Sep 2022 · 10.00 am

Politisch-soziale Grundbegriffe wissenschaftlicher Provenienz

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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Workshop
28 May 2022 · 10.00 am

Falko Schmieder, Birgit Ziener: Walter Benjamins Thesen über den Begriff der Geschichte

Helle Panke e.V. – Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin, Kopenhagener Str. 9, 10437 Berlin

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International Conference
19 May 2022 – 20 May 2022

Estetica e filosofia della storia | Estética y filosofía de la historia | Ästhetik und Geschichtsphilosophie

Università degli Studi del Molise, Campobasso

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Project launch
28 Apr 2022 · 2.00 pm

Launch of the project “The 20th Century in Basic Concepts”

Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung (ZfL), Schützenstraße 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Etage, Trajekte-Tagungsraum / Zoom

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Talk
15 Feb 2022 · 7.00 pm

Doris Liebscher, Falko Schmieder: “Rasse” im Recht gegen Rassismus?

Helle Panke e.V. – Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin Kopenhagener Str. 9, 10437 Berlin

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Workshop
02 Dec 2021

Epochenschwellen und Epochenzäsuren

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Aufgang B, 3. Etage, Seminarraum

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Lecture
25 Nov 2021 · 12.00 pm

Falko Schmieder: Odo Marquards Kritik der Geschichtsphilosophie und sein Gegenprogramm der Kompensation

Universitat de València

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Lecture
25 Nov 2021 · 10.30 am

Ernst Müller: Der Begriff “Entzweiung” bei Joachim Ritter

Universitat de València

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Lecture
25 Nov 2021 · 9.30 am

Barbara Picht: Der Beitrag der Ritter-Schule zum Historischen Wörterbuch der Philosophie

Universitat de València

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Workshop at Warburg-Haus Hamburg
22 Oct 2021 – 23 Oct 2021

Die “Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg.” Das intellektuelle Netzwerk der KBW, part II

Warburg-Haus, Heilwigstraße 116, 20249 Hamburg

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Lecture
15 Sep 2021 · 12.30 pm

Falko Schmieder: Positivismusstreit

Universidad de Salamanca

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Lecture
13 Sep 2021 · 12.30 pm

Ernst Müller: Fakultäten/Universitätenstreit

Universidad de Salamanca

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Lecture
13 Sep 2021 · 11.00 am

Barbara Picht: Historismusstreit

Universidad de Salamanca

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Lecture
15 Jun 2021 · 12.30 pm

Henning Trüper: Rescuing the dead from oblivion: humanitarian morality and historical discourse

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Campus de Getafe, Edificio Ortega y Gasset

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Lecture
15 Jun 2021 · 11.30 am

Ernst Müller: Die Entdeckung des Gefühlswerts in der Begriffsgeschichte

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Campus de Getafe, Edificio Ortega y Gasset

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Lecture
14 Jun 2021 · 11.00 am

Falko Schmieder: Der Überlebensbegriff als Instrument der angstpolitischen Kolonialisierung des Alltagslebens im Atomkriegs- und Ökologiediskurs

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Campus de Getafe, Edificio Ortega y Gasset

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Lecture
14 Jun 2021 · 10.05 am

Barbara Picht: Angst. Wie schreibt man ihre Geschichte?

Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Campus de Getafe, Edificio Ortega y Gasset

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Lecture
19 Oct 2020 · 7.00 pm

Barbara Picht: “Das 20. Jahrhundert wechselt sein Aussehen je nach Blickwinkel.” West- und östliches Europa aus der Perspektive des polnischen Schriftstellers Czesław Miłosz

Helle Panke e.V. – Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung Berlin, Kopenhagener Str. 9, 10437 Berlin

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Workshop
27 Feb 2020

Aufgaben und Methoden der Begriffsforschung: Die Beispiele Staat und Politik

Freie Universität Berlin, DFG KFG 2615 - Rethinking Oriental Despotism, Fabeckstr. 15, 14195 Berlin

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Media Response

31 Aug 2022
Ein Zeitalter wird besichtigt

Report by Thomas Thiel, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 202 (31.8.2022), N4