Call for Papers

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Research on the history of universities and higher education institutions is often associated with founding anniversaries. Since the writing of history mostly takes place within the universities themselves, it is at the same time an expression of the institutional self-image at the time of the anniversary and is suitable for examining reflected and unreflected self-attributions. The study of university anniversaries, however, does not only enable the perspective of past presences, but also recurs to past expectations of the future and the role that history should play in it.

Thus, anniversaries can give rise to conflicts about past and future alike: on the one hand, within a university, when different founding narratives and references to tradition compete with each other; on the other hand, between different universities, when they dispute anniversary celebrations. Therefore, anniversaries can also fail and entail further negotiation processes. For example, the (non-)selection of anniversary actors, i.e. those capable of speaking and making history, also represents a question of power, as student counter-anniversaries show, not only in the context of "1968." In addition, the allocation of funds associated with anniversaries can trigger distribution struggles and the cognitive interests of the historians responsible conflict with the goals of university administrations or press departments.

For, and this opens up another field of investigation, anniversaries represent a central aspect of the communication of universities. In doing so, universities distinguish themselves with claims of social relevance that also reveal interdependencies of tradition and innovation, past and future. The modes of attributing future relevance are shaped by the institutional self-image of a university, for example in the question of the utilization and applicability of its knowledge. Contradictions arise not only between types of institutions (for example, in the comparison of university and TH), but also between faculties and subjects that are shaped by different scientific cultures. Despite their disparate content, such attributions of relevance are formulated against the background of conscious and unconscious assumptions about the future.

Finally, anniversaries are used to establish institutional gravitas, often through a commemorative publication that is not infrequently assembled as an all-institutional effort by dozens of authors. But this is not the only "history site" that the anniversary produces; these range from exhibitions to plays to websites, from receptions by higher-level authorities to celebratory receptions, or parties by student fraternities. Through various historiographic practices, individual and collective identities are addressed and affiliations to (imagined) communities are (re)produced. Thus, performative social practices of different actors crystallize in the jubilee, each forming new ensembles through adaptation and alteration.

Possible contributions to the workshop, which will take place at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology on June 19-20, 2020, will discuss questions concerning the outlined and other problematic areas since about 1750, using the example of universities, polytechnics and technical colleges, teacher training colleges and pedagogical colleges, military academies and universities of the German armed forces, comprehensive universities and universities of applied sciences, special state schools and privately funded universities. Particularly welcome are approaches that discuss "past futures," link different types of institutions, take a diachronic approach, or examine the role in the jubilee of those university members who have received less attention to date (e.g., from technology and administration). Critical reflections on ongoing, or planned, university anniversaries are also welcome.

Thus, against the backdrop of an often segregated research landscape that often separates the history of universities from that of other types of higher education institutions, the workshop aims to support the development of an integrated historiography of higher education. In this way, the workshop ties in with the Karlsruhe lecture series "Technische Hochschulen. Perspectives on University History" from the summer of 2018.

We request topic proposals (max. 2,500 characters, including spaces) for 20-minute presentations as well as a short biographical note via email to anton guhl does-not-exist.kit edu and by 31.01.2020 inclusive. Speakers will be selected by 29.02.2020. Lecture and conference languages are German and English. We will try to cover travel and accommodation costs for all speakers, with initial funding for researchers without institutional affiliation and travel funds. Publication of selected contributions (peer review), e.g. as a special issue of a journal, is intended. Participation in the workshop without contributing to a publication is explicitly possible; conversely, participation does not constitute a publication.