“Western Civilization” in the Thought of Afro-American and Francophone Black Intellectuals – from the Great War to the Early Cold War – Public lecture by Georgios Varouxakis (Queen Mary, University of London)
Utrecht, Thursday 10 March
Afro-American thinkers were faced from early on after Emancipation with their relation to ‘European’ (or/and some decades later, ‘Western’) civilization. They were Americans, finding themselves in a country that identified itself with a civilization purportedly originating in Western Europe and claimed as the heritage of Americans of European origin. The strategies African American thinkers and activists developed in order to cope with that predicament differed widely and evolved over time. They generated a range of responses. Some demanded to be allowed equal and unsegregated educational opportunities to share in that ‘European’ culture, accepted as higher — and thereby prove their worth within and through it. Others opted for more or less complete rejection of ‘Western’ or ‘European’ cultural norms and tried to find inspiration and pride through a ‘return’ to ‘primitive’ African art, folklore and music. And still others attempted to prove that ‘Western’ civilization had originated in Africa and therefore to claim respect for African-Americans as co-owners of the cultural heritage of that civilization. Among the responses was the attempt to claim empathetic superiority for African Americans because of their ability to understand both the ‘white’ vantage points of their majority fellow-Americans and another vantage point that was unique to themselves. That ‘double vision’ African Americans were endowed with, thanks to their predicament, was proposed as a unique advantage through which they could make their distinct contributions to ‘Western Civilization’. Meanwhile, African, Madagascan and Caribbean thinkers and activists in the French republican empire were facing similar dilemmas in a considerably different context. Their responses were similarly varied and ranged from Blaise Diagne’s complete conformism to French citizenship, through René Maran’s protest in the preface of his novel Batouala, or Jane Nardal’s ‘internationalisme noir’ and the notion of Afro-Latinity, to the Négritude movement. The close interactions between American and Anglophone Caribbean Black thinkers on the one hand, and Francophone African and Caribbean Black intellectuals on the other, ensured that these debates and developments were not isolated but directly cross-fertilised each other. The paper will attempt briefly to analyse the attempts to respond to, or re- define, ‘Western Civilization’ in the thought of authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Jessie Fauset, William H. Ferris, Alain Locke, Rayford Logan, Hubert Harrison, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Jane Nardal, Paulette Nardal, Kojo Tovalou Houénou, Louis T. Achille, Aimé Césaire, Alioune Diop, Léopold Sédar Senghor, Frantz Fanon, and several others.
Georgios Varouxakis is Professor of the History of Political Thought at Queen Mary University of London, where he is also Co-director of the Centre for the Study of the History of Political Thought. His research interests lie in modern intellectual history and include the history of political thought (British, French and American 19th-20th centuries), the history of international political thought, political thought on nationalism, patriotism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism, on empire and imperialism, and the intellectual history of ideas of the West and ideas of Europe. His books include Liberty Abroad: J. S. Mill on International Relations (2013), Mill on Nationality (2002), and Victorian Political Thought on France and the French (2002). He is currently writing The West: The History of an Idea, to be published by Princeton University Press.
Global Conservatism? The Political Thought and Itinerary of Lebanese Diplomat Charles Malik (1906-1984) – Public lecture by Chloe Kattar (Darwin College)
Amsterdam, Tuesday 10 May
The lecture will explore the possibilities of writing a global intellectual history of conservatism in the latter part of the 20th century through a biographical lens. To do so it will look at the political thought and career of Charles Malik, a Lebanese diplomat in the US with a long career in the United Nations and one of the signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Through a mapping of his late career and activities in the global sphere, the presentation will combine conceptual and transnational histories to demonstrate how ideas, networks and religious solidarity intersect. Whereas traditional histories of conservatism have focused on the West, the lecture will draw attention back to the Middle East to shine a light on an oft-neglected strand of Christian conservatism which drew on personalism, anti-communism, anti-Arabism, and the rights of minorities.
Dr Chloe Kattar is a historian of the modern Middle East, interested in the global movement and exchange of ideas between the Arab-speaking world and Western societies, and an expert of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). Kattar is a Research Fellow in History at Darwin College, where she also acts as the Fellow Librarian. In 2021-22, she is also a Fellow of Europe in the Middle East (EUME) at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin.
The Most Liberal of All Ideas: The Political Thought of the Holy Alliance – Public lecture by Isaac Nakhimovsky (Yale University)
Discussant: Beatrice de Graaf (Utrecht Univesity)
Amsterdam, Tuesday 7 June
The Holy Alliance of 1815—usually taken to be an ideological mask for Russian power, now most familiar as a label for conspiratorial reaction—was initially embraced by many contemporary liberals as the dawning of a peaceful and prosperous age of progress. In order to explain why, this talk examines the Enlightenment origins of the Holy Alliance and the connections between its history and the better known transatlantic history of nineteenth-century movements to abolish slavery, poverty, and war. In doing so it expands the scope of histories of international law as well as histories of empire in the Atlantic world, and offers a fresh map for understanding the broader history of federalism and global order.
Isaac Nakhimovsky is Associate Professor of History and Humanities at Yale University. He is the author of The Closed Commercial State: Perpetual Peace and Commercial Society from Rousseau to Fichte (Princeton, 2011), and has written on many other topics in the history of political thought since the eighteenth century. He has collaborated on an edition of Fichte’s Addresses to the German Nation (Hackett, 2013) as well as two volumes of essays on eighteenth-century political thought and its post-revolutionary legacies: Commerce and Peace in the Enlightenment (Cambridge, 2017), and Markets, Morals, Politics: Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought (Harvard, 2018). He is currently finishing a book on liberalism and the Holy Alliance.
Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century – Public lecture by Jessica Patterson (Cambridge)
Amsterdam, Tuesday 4 October
In the second half of the eighteenth century, several servants of the English East India Company published accounts of what they deemed to be the original and ancient religion of India. Drawing on what are recognised today as the texts and traditions of Hinduism, these works fed into a booming enlightenment interest in Eastern philosophy. At the same time, the Company’s aggressive conquest of Bengal was facing a crisis of legitimacy and many of the prominent political minds of the day were turning their attention to the question of empire. In this lecture, Jessica Patterson will situate these Company works on the ‘Hindu religion’ in the twin contexts of enlightenment and empire. Exploring some of the themes and figures in her recent monograph, Religion, Enlightenment and Empire: British Interpretations of Hinduism in the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge University Press, 2021), Dr Patterson will offer an account of the role of heterodox religious approaches to Indian religions for enlightenment thought, East India Company policy, and contemporary ideas of empire.
Jessica Patterson is a historian of eighteenth and nineteen-century intellectual culture and political thought, with a particular emphasis on enlightenment and empire. She took her first degree in History, at the University of Cambridge. She then completed the MA in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History, offered by Queen Mary University of London & University College London. Following this, her AHRC funded PhD was completed at the University of Manchester, where she was a President’s Doctoral Scholar. Prior to joining the History Faculty at Cambridge in 2020, she held posts in intellectual history, at Queen Mary, and the history of political thought, at King’s College London.
Cultivating Fraud: How Imperial Agents Harvested Anti-Ottoman Knowledge and its Consequences on the Islamic World – Public lecture by Isa Blumi (Stockholm University)
Groningen, 24 november
The British, Italian, Spanish, French and American Empires adopted an array of contradictory policies towards their respective Muslim subjects scattered throughout the world. As they managed often conflicting agendas that targeted Muslim polities with still strong associations with the Ottoman Empire, a growing repertoire of intelligence gathering and academic “knowledge” production informed these relations at the turn of the 20th Century. Strategies that sought to recruit potentially key socio-economic, cultural, religious, and political allies implicated many who originated from within the Ottoman Empire. By the turn-of-the-century, Britain, Italy, Spain, France and the United States all sought to expand their influence among these previously recruited clients. In the case of Britain, the outbreak of the Great War produced a number of reliable alliances with Arab/Muslim intellectuals based in Cairo and India. Likewise, their strategic partnerships with various merchant-cum-political leaders in Ottoman territories availed to France and Italy leverage over their Muslim subjects throughout Africa. The Spanish and United States’ imperial administrations engaged Ottoman subjects in the South China Sea islands, inhabited by Muslim polities often violently resisting their rule. The lecture will shed light on the consequences of these cultivated alliances that effectively induced dissent, turmoil, revolt, and structural transition. The intersecting histories of cooperation/alliance-making and resistance in three distinctive areas formally resisting foreign administration will be read comparatively within the larger context of modern empires facing disparate and contradictory challenges from local responses to the contingencies created by war. As these events regularly upset imperialist/capitalist ambitions, they demand that historians focus on a multiplicity of factors contributing to the modern world’s (dis)order including the complex relations Ottoman subjects had with the larger world.
Isa Blumi (Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Stockholm University) researches societies in the throes of social, economic, and political transformation. He compares how European imperialist projects in the Islamic world intersected with, and were thus informed by, events within the Ottoman Empire. His latest work covers the late Ottoman period and successor regimes, arguing that events in the Balkans and Middle East are the engines of change in the larger world. His research into migration as a primary lens to understand such processes have resulted in numerous articles and the books: Ottoman Refugees, 1878-1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World. (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013) and Destroying Yemen: What Chaos in Arabia tells us about the World (University of California Press, 2018).