“Malcolm X and the concept of human rights” – Lecture by Emma Stone Mackinnon (Cambridge) – 28 November 2019

discussant: Katy Hull, lecturer American Studies, UvA


In the year and a half before he was killed, Malcolm X frequently denounced the US for violations of human rights, including seeking to bring a complaint about the treatment of black Americans before the UN. On the usual telling, the language of human rights appealed to him  because, unlike that of civil rights, it provided ground for international appeal. Among historians, his use of human rights is often seen as part of a Cold War story in which international demands for rights were increasingly domesticated, in favour of advocacy for civil rights alone – a shift that allowed for certain strategic gains but also represented the loss of a broader imaginary. But by returning to the use of human rights in Malcolm X’s thought, and connecting it to his earlier critiques of American hypocrisy, this talk will propose we can find a version of human rights politics far more robust than the current literature suggests. In recovering a radical and egalitarian human rights politics of the late 1950s and early 1960s, we see how Malcolm X used the concept of human rights to address and draw connections between economic inequality, anticolonialism, and American power internationally. His was an idea of human rights that grew out of a longer-running critique of American hypocrisy, and that, while it responded to that past, also projected a new vision for the world.


Emma Stone Mackinnon works on political theory and the history of human rights. She is currently a Junior Research Fellow at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge; as of January 2020, she will join the History Faculty at Cambridge as a University Lecturer in the history of political thought. Her work has appeared in Political Theory and Humanity, and is forthcoming in several edited volumes.

“How Egypt forgot its sectarian past in 1919” – Lecture by Hussein Omar (Dublin) – 7 November

Co-organised with the Amsterdam Centre for Middle Eastern Studies


In scholarship and in the public imaginary alike, the 1919 revolution’s most enduring and iconic legacy was to endow the newly sovereign Egyptian state that it birthed with a sacred and ecumenical union between Muslims and Copts. As protestors raised the insignia of the Muslim crescent embracing a Coptic cross, it was alleged everywhere that there was no place for sectarian differentiation in the newly sovereign state. And yet such allegations are profoundly ahistorical. In this paper Omar examines the emergence of these symbols by placing them in the context of a set of debates around the status of Egyptian minorities that broke out from 1910 onward. By doing so, he argues that 1919 did not inaugurate debates about national unity but was rather a culmination of them. But even further, Omar suggests that 1919 made a taboo of certain uncomfortable topics about minorities and their rights. And finally he asks why it is that these sometimes awkward debates have barely registered in scholarship and why the mythographers of the new Egyptian state would deliberately ‘forget’ them after 1919.

Macro vs. Micro: The Challenges of Global Intellectual History – Summer School organised with the Huizinga Institute for Cultural History – 3-5 July

With key note lectures by dominic sachsenmaier (Georg-August university Göttingen) and andrew fitzmaurice (University of sidney)

More information: http://www.huizingainstituut.nl/summer-school-2019/


Worldwide, intellectual history is moving into new, exciting directions. Tapping into new source materials, covering longer stretches of time, dealing with broader geographical spaces, making comparisons and drawing connections on a global scale, as well as combining established and new (digital) methods, both young and up-coming as well as established experts are in search for new answers – and perhaps more importantly – new questions. The aim of the Huizinga Summer school is to discuss the methods and insights of Global Intellectual History with RMa students and PhD researchers.

Since a decade or so, intellectual historians are self-consciously treading the paths of ‘big’ and ‘global’ intellectual history. Established intellectual history methods such as the ‘history of concepts’ (Koselleck) and the ‘history of political languages’ (Pocock) have from their inception pursued long-term chronological and broad geographical enquiries. Yet only recently more self-reflective endeavours have been made to explicate and articulate both the potentialities and challenges of doing intellectual history ‘on a large scale’. In response to criticisms that ‘big intellectual history’ runs the risk of neglecting the specific (cultural, linguistic, political, intellectual, social) contexts in which ideas are embedded, David Armitage has suggested ‘serial contextualism’ as a way to trace ideas through a number of epochs and places. Others have made a case for ‘global comparative history’ to enable comparisons of epoch and places that are not necessarily connected; and yet others stress the need for examining the circulation, transfer, intermeshing, and adaptation of ideas.

Although these are promising and suggestive approaches to intellectual history on a ‘macro level’, they raise the question what role there is left for intellectual history on the ‘micro level’. Is it possible to somehow bring into dialogue the ‘macro’ and the ‘micro’, and if so, how? Furthermore, by focusing on ‘big’ and ‘global’ – and stressing interconnectedness, exchange, and integration – who and what is included and excluded? Surely resistance, conflict, separation, and isolation are also part of big and global intellectual history. Such considerations, finally, raise questions about the use, value, lessons and challenges of big and global intellectual history. Why should we do it? What is its societal value?

Key note Dominic Sachsenmaier (Göttingen)

Abstract: Writing the Global History of a Man Who Never Traveled

Combining global historical and micro-historical perspectives opens up new opportunities for the individual researcher but it also brings new challenges. This talk will present some experiences with writing the book “Global Entanglements of a Man Who Never Traveled. A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Christian and his Conflicted Worlds” which was published by Columbia University Press in 2018. It also presents some key arguments of the latter – for instance the idea that we need to pay more attention to the power constellations (local and global) that shaped the religious exchanges during that epoch in the history of Chinese Christianity.


Dominic Sachsenmaier holds a chair professorship in “Modern China with a Special Emphasis on Global Historical Perspectives” at Göttingen University/Germany. Before coming to Göttingen in 2015, he held faculty positions at Jacobs University, Duke University as well as the University of California, Santa Barbara. One of his monographs is “Global Perspectives on Global History. Theories and Approaches in a Connected World” (Cambridge UP, 2011). Dominic  Sachsenmaier is one of the three editors of the book series „Columbia Studies in International and Global History“ (Columbia UP). He is also the president of the US-based Toynbee Prize Foundation and an elected member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Key note Andrew Fitzmaurice (Sidney)

Abstract: Micro-Intellectual History and the Limits of the Global Turn

Drawing on his forthcoming book, Professor Andrew Fitzmaurice will advocate an approach combining ‘Micro-Intellectual History’ and social history of ideas. Questioning recent developments in the fields of global intellectual history’ and longue durée intellectual history, he will conclude with some critical perspectives on the societal relevance of the global turn.


Prof. Fitzmaurice’s research has focused upon the ideologies of European empires. His early work concerned the political ideas of early American colonisation. More recently, he has been concerned with Europeans’ justifications for the appropriation of land and sovereignty in the non-European world from the sixteenth century through to the twentieth. His current research project focuses on the role of the British nineteenth-century jurist Sir Travers Twiss in the justification of the Congo Free State. He is the author of: Sovereignty, Property and Empire, 1500-2000 (Cambridge: CUP, 2014); Humanism and America: An intellectual history of English colonisation, 1500-1625 (Cambridge: CUP, 2003). Recent publications include ‘Scepticism of the Civilizing Mission in International Law’, In: M. Koskenniemi, W. Rech, M. Jimenez Fonseca (eds.), International Law and Empire: Historical Explorations (Oxford: OUP).

“The future of intellectual history” – Public lecture by Richard Whatmore (Saint-Andrews) – 11 June


Richard Whatmore is Professor of History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the St Andrews Institute of Intellectual History. He is the author of What is Intellectual History? (Polity, 2015), Against War and Empire (Yale University Press, 2012) and Republicanism and the French Revolution (OUP, 2000). He is the co-editor of, among others, Markets, Morals and Politics. Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought (Harvard University Press, 2018) and Companion to Intellectual History (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016). His current research interests include: Early Modern and Modern Intellectual History; Theories of Empire, Democracy and War; Enlightenment and Revolution; Republican Diaspora; Small States and Failed States; Relations between Britain and Europe; Political Cartoons.

“From idolatry to religions: The missionary discourse on Buddhism and the invention of theistic Confucianism, 1550-1700” – Public lecture by Joan-Pau Rubiés (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) – 30 April


The emergence of a European discourse to distinguish, analyse and historicize various non-Biblical religious traditions within Asia involved a significant amplification of the concept of idolatry. The Jesuit experience of Japanese Buddhism in the second half of the sixteenth century posed a particular challenge, because of its overt atheism. In the Japanese context, idolatry (a superstitious, misdirected belief) and atheism (a lack thereof) came to be seen as complementary rather than opposites. Hence the patristic models of Christian apologetics, based on distinguishing elite monotheism from popular religion in ancient paganism, and which had been useful when confronting Hinduism, in Japan had to be replaced by a system where the elite cultivated an atheistic form esoteric monism. When focusing their dialectical firepower upon on the doctrines of double truth and non-theisitc monism, the Jesuits were in fact responding to the doctrinal distinctiveness of East Asian Buddhism, notably the emphasis on provisional teachings, on the one hand, and Buddha-nature, on the other. Hence the Jesuits can be seen to have responded to the actual doctrines of the Japanese monks, rather than simply export a prefabricated model of idolatrous paganism.  Through the synthesis of the missionary leader Alessandro Valignano, the Jesuit interpretation of Buddhism became crucial not only to the mission in China, where it underpinned (through a negative contrast) the selective accommodation of ‘theistic’ Confucianism, but was also influential in European intellectual culture more generally in relation to the analysis of pantheism.


Joan-Pau Rubiés (PhD Cambridge) is the coordinator of the Research Group on Ethnographies, Cultural Encounters and Religious Missions (ECERM) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, which has received funding from the ERC (Marie Curie Program), AGAUR (SGR) and MINECO. His research is focused on the study of cross-cultural encounters in the early modern world, from a perspective combining the contextual analysis of ethnographic sources with the intellectual history of early modern Europe. He is currently developing various lines of research including: travel writing and ethnography, religious dialogue and cultural mediation, the intellectual impact of travel writing and the origins of the Enlightenment, diplomacy and cultural encounters and the comparative history of early modern empires and globalisation.

“The Origins of the End of Ideology Debate: An Alternative History” –Public lecture by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins (Yale) – 12 March

Discussiant: Merijn Oudenampsen


Proponents of the end of ideology thesis of the 1950s, such as Daniel Bell, Seymour M. Lipset and Raymond Aron, argued that the successes of post-War European welfare states proved that parliamentary forms of democracy made obsolete the need for workers to put their trust in revolutionary ideologies such as Marxism. As a consequence, the standard historical account of the end of ideology debate almost always sees it growing out of a critique of radical social thought. This paper argues that such a rendering obscures a much more complicated history of the end of ideology thesis. Its defenders also viewed it as an alternative to the neoliberal thought of the Mont Pelerin Sociey whose free market ideas stood as a threat to fledgling European welfare states and as such could undermine the very economical and political system that allowed for end of ideology.  The end of ideology thus was also directed at neoliberalism, and like with neoliberalism its concerns were also global in scope. Yet the liberalism it promoted was less centered on establishing global institutions for free trade, and instead focused on articulating theories of development and industrialization that would make revolutionary ideologies obsolete in the third world.


Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins is a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He is a global historian of 20th century intellectual and political thought and is currently working on two book projects: The first is titled, “The Neoconservative Moment in France: Raymond Aron and the United States” (Columbia University Press) and looks at the larger transatlantic intellectual origins of the neoconservative movement. The second one focuses on the rise and fall of global secularism since the Cold War. Previously he has published scholarly articles in The Journal of the History of Ideas, Modern Intellectual History, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere. He is currently coediting two books: Michel Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) with Stephen Sawyer; and Christianity and the New Historiography of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2020) with Sarah Shortall.