“The Invention of the Refugee in Early Modern Europe” Public Lecture by Geert Janssen (UVA, History) – 19 June 2018
Geert Janssen talked about his new project on the invention of the refugee. What is a refugee and when, why and how do societies create them? Janssen’s project seeks to answer these questions by focusing on the agency of displaced minorities in early modern Europe (16th-18th centuries). Integrating historical, legal and social scientific approaches to migration, the project proposes that the term ‘refugee’ frames a particular type of migrant as a victim of repression. It hypothesises that religious dissenters in Reformation Europe were the first to develop and exploit this terminology. By pursuing a cross-confessional and transnational approach, the project will be the first to map the early modern invention of the refugee and gauge its long-term societal impact. Shifting away from traditional approaches to refugees as passive victims of conflict, this project will open up a new field in historical studies that views refugees as formative agents of social, religious and political change.
Geert Janssen has been working and teaching in the History Department at University of Amsterdam in 2013, after teaching early modern history at Oxford, Cambridge and Leiden. He has a broad interest in European history of the early modern period (16th-18th centuries), in particular its political and religious culture, and the history of migration. Much of his work is concerned with the Low Countries, including the Dutch Revolt and the Dutch Golden Age of the seventeenth century.
“Vitoria, Grotius, and the Birth of the Modern Concept of Asylum” Public Lecture by Marc de Wilde (UVA, Law) – 19 June 2018
Hugo Grotius is often identified as founder of the modern concept of asylum. De Wilde argued that Grotius’s most innovative contribution was not his theory of asylum, but his concept of expulsion, and more particularly, his notion that a permanent refuge should be offered to foreigners who had been collectively expelled on religious grounds. Grotius’s notion was informed by his own experiences as a lawyer advocating the admission of Sephardi Jews, who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal, to the Dutch provinces. More particularly, it was based on a reinterpretation of Francisco de Vitoria’s concept of the ‘law of hospitality’ and the duty to admit foreigners irrespective of their religious beliefs. Reinterpreting Vitoria’s concept, Grotius was the first to formulate a theory regarding the state’s responsibility to offer a permanent refuge to victims of (religious) persecution.
Marc de Wilde is head of the Department of General Jurisprudence at the University of Amsterdam. His research interests include the history and theory of the rule of law, human rights, the state of exception, emergency powers and constitutional change. He is currently teaching courses in European Legal History, Legal Philosophy and the History of Legal Theory.
“Human Rights and the Idea of Choice” Public Lecture by Sophia Rosenfeld (University of Pennsylvania) – 18 May 2018
In her lecture Professor Rosenfeld considered 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 explored 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.
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.
“Human Rights in War? The Forgotten Origins of the Geneva Conventions of 1949” Public Lecture by Boyd van Dijk (King’s College, London / European University Institute, Florence) – 13 March 2018
“The Power of Necessity. Reason of State in the Spanish Monarchy, ca. 1590-1650″ Public Lecture by Lisa Kattenberg (UVA) & Nationalism and Culture in the Late Ottoman Empire” Public Lecture by Usman Ahmedani (UVA) – 27 February 2018
“Bitter Fruit: Hip Hop’s Intellectual Genealogy” Public lecture by dr. Rachel Gillett – 9 October 2018
In her lecture dr. Gillett explored what it means to take Hip Hop seriously as a form of history and an intellectual engagement with the politics of memory and Empire. She reviewed Paul Gilroy’s concept of the Black Atlantic paying particular attention to the exchanges between Continental Europe and America. The lecture drew on music by Billie Holiday, IAM, and Stromae to show how they interrogate European assumptions about rationalism and suffering and confront listeners with uncomfortable histories.
Rachel Gillett (Ph.D. Northeastern University, USA) is an Assistant Professor in cultural history at Utrecht University. Her research focuses on race in France, popular culture, and on the black Atlantic from a French perspective. She also works on the notion of cosmopolitanism in popular culture and on rugby and race relations in a post-colonial context. Her current book, under contract with Oxford UP, is entitled Begin the Biguine: Race and Popular Music in Interwar Paris.