Upcoming events

Human Rights and the Idea of Choice

Professor Sophia Rosenfeld, University of Pennsylvania

Friday, 18 May, 16:00-17:30, Bushuis/OIH VOC-zaal

In her lecture Professor Rosenfeld will consider the importance of the idea of choice for the development of the modern human rights movement.  The notion of freedom entailing the proliferation of both opportunities for choice-making and choices themselves is widely understood to be central to the rise of consumer culture in the West. This understanding of freedom-as-choice should, however, equally be recognized as critical to conceptions of the self that increasingly shaped human rights ideology from the eighteenth century onward.

Rosenfeld will explore how this came to be by focusing less on key philosophical texts than on the rise of new, quotidian social practices associated with choosing, including both voting (in which one is asked to pick representatives) and couple-based social dancing (in which one is asked to pick potential romantic or marriage partners), that flourished in the wake of the age of revolutions. Methodologically, the talk will also focus on how ideologies are made.

Sophia Rosenfeld is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches European intellectual and cultural history with a special emphasis on the Enlightenment, the trans-Atlantic Age of Revolutions, and the legacy of the eighteenth century for modern democracy.  She is the author of A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001) and also of Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard, 2011), which won several prizes. She is now writing two new books: one on how the idea and practice of choice-making became so central to modern conceptions of freedom, and the other on truth and democracy in historical perspective.

January – June 2018

Tuesday, February 27, 16:00-18:00, Bushuis/OIH E 1.02
Lisa Kattenberg (UVA) : The Power of Necessity. Reason of State in the Spanish Monarchy, ca. 1590-1650
Usman Ahmedani (UVA) : Nationalism and Culture in the Late Ottoman Empire

Tuesday, March 13, 16:00-17:30, Bushuis/OIH E1.02
Boyd van Dijk (King’s College, London / European University Institute, Florence) : Human Rights in War? The Forgotten Origins of the Geneva Conventions of 1949

Friday, 18 May, 16:00-17:30, Bushuis/OIH VOC-zaal
Sophia Rosenfeld (University of Pennsylvania) : Writing the History of Choice

Tuesday, June 19, 16:00-18:00, Bushuis/OIH E1.01E
Geert Janssen (UVA) : Vitoria, Grotius, and the Birth of the Modern Concept of Asylum
Marc de Wilde (UVA) : The Invention of the Refugee in Early Modern Europe