The Geopolitics of Concepts: Circulations, Competitions, Hegemonies

The Geopolitics of Concepts: Circulations, Competitions, Hegemonies

Editor: Federico Brusadelli, Assistant Professor of Chinese History, University of Naples "L'Orientale" (Italy)
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20.10.2024 -
Connections Redaktion, Leipzig Research Centre Global Dynamics, Universität Leipzig

This volume wishes to contribute to a “geopolitical turn” in the discipline of global conceptual history. The main purpose of the book is therefore mainly theoretical and methodological, ambitiously global in scope - with no geographical or linguistic region, or specific conceptual cluster, to be intentionally privileged or marginalized.

The Geopolitics of Concepts: Circulations, Competitions, Hegemonies

In 2019, while celebrating the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic of China, President Xi Jinping stressed how “there are diverse ways to realize democracy, so we must not be confined to just one particular rigid model” and pointed out that “experience has shown that China's model of democracy is workable and effective in the country". Two years later, China's State Council Information Office released a white paper, significantly titled China: Democracy That Works, which reiterated how the country managed to create “a form of democracy with distinctive Chinese features”, one that “reflects humanity's universal desire for democracy” and therefore constitutes “a new model to the international political spectrum”. The Chinese energetic attempt at re-articulating (or appropriating) “democracy” is just one among the many possible examples of how the confrontation for the hegemony over socio-political “foundational concepts” (from “sovereignty” to “self-determination”, from “nationalism” to “socialism”) has increasingly become a significant component of competing geopolitical agendas, reflecting global geopolitical tectonics well beyond the national or regional contexts.

By this token, conceptual history - to borrow Hagen Schulz-Forberg’s words – has proved to be valuable “as a new approach within the field of global history and thus clad in a global and entangled gown”; as a “polycentric rather than a nation-centric, Western-centric, or indeed anti-Western-centric approach”; as “an epistemological horizon towards which European and Asian, or indeed any agency and semantics, are related on an equal basis and with equal validity”; and as “a multilingual academic practice”.1 This is demonstrated by the evident broadening of the discipline’s linguistic reach and geographical scope over the last decade. This originally “European” methodology now receives growing attention across the continents and is seen as a fruitful path for approaching the intellectual encounters and entanglements between the “West” and the “rest” in a fresh perspective at a time when traditional Eurocentric, nationalist or Marxist master-narratives are being contested or abandoned. Conceptual history can serve as a precious compass “to chart the terrain of various intellectual traditions” 2, moving from national to continental and then transcontinental frameworks, and privileging circulatory patterns over bilateral transfers. Otherizations of any kind (including orientalism and self-orientalism), together with linear narratives, have been increasingly challenged by the observation of the complex, sometimes surprising, cross-fertilization, adaptation, transmutation of concepts and political models, their intermittencies and pulsations.

This volume wishes to contribute to this broadening process, by encouraging a clearer “geopolitical turn” in the discipline of global conceptual history. The main purpose of the book is therefore mainly theoretical and methodological, ambitiously global in scope - with no geographical or linguistic region, or specific conceptual cluster, to be intentionally privileged or marginalized. Contributions should refrain from either supporting or disproving the “conceptual articulations” taken into consideration, favoring their critical analysis and their historical/geopolitical contextualization. The chronological arc is equally flexible and open: although a majority of the contributions is expected to deal with the analysis of the post-cold war geopolitical “great spaces”, and to cross the “Global north vs Global South” narrative, exercises in applying the “geopolitics of concepts” to earlier times are more than welcome.

Contributions should identify a single concept, or a “conceptual constellation”, and examine their articulations in a well-defined context through the use of primary sources, shedding light on their geopolitical imbrications and implications. Authors are invited to submit their contributions dealing with the “geopolitical dimension” of concepts such as: democracy, self-determination, colonialism, ethnicity, revolution, secularism, freedom, ecology, feminism, rule of law, equality. These are just preliminary suggestions and do not constitute by any means an exhaustive list.

The focus can be on individual or group actors, involved in local, national, regional, transnational, international movements, either supporting or challenging official discourses and government agendas. Even for “local” cases, the intellectual and socio-political layers of the conceptualization should be put in relation to geopolitical forces, by highlighting the connection, response, or resistance to global and/or regional discourses. Here, Reinhart Koselleck’s suggestion to use “spaces of experience” and “horizons of expectations” as analytical categories3 can be helpful to connect specific processes of conceptualization to wider geopolitical shifts, observing them beyond any essentialist and teleological simplification.

The volume will be published in English (US). Please submit abstracts of 300 words max and 3 keywords, with the author(s) name, institutional affiliation, contact email, and a short biography of 100 words max to no later than September 20th, 2024. Submissions from Postgraduate and Early Career Researchers are encouraged.

The editor will inform authors whether they have been accepted by October 20th, 2024. Full manuscripts of c. 8000 words (including footnotes) are expected to be submitted by May 2025. The editor will advise on submission guidelines and the publishing timeline.

1 Hagen Schulz-Forberg (ed), A global conceptual history of Asia, 1895-1940 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014), p. 1.

2 Dominic Sachsenmaier and Andrew Sartori, “The Challenge of the Global in Intellectual History”, in Global History, Globally. Research and Practice around the World, ed. Sven Beckert and Dominic Sachsenmaier (London: Bloomsbury, 2018), 215-231, p. 221.

3 Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (New York: Columbia University Press 2004).