Since 1998

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InterDisciplinarity: Conceptual Explorations

21st International Conference on the History of Concepts

University of Málaga, 25–28 September 2018


In June 1998 two eminent political scientists, Melvin Richter, of the City University of New York, and Kari Palonen, of the University of Jyväskylä, organized a conference on Conceptual Changes in European Political Cultures at the Finnish Institute in London. Henrik Stenius, the director of the Institute, served as the host. That meeting brought together scholars from fourteen nations to discuss ongoing collaborative projects on social and political concepts in such places as the Netherlands, Finland, France, Denmark, and the Soviet Union, and to listen to a variety of empirical and methodological presentations on related matters. Informing many of the reports and exchanges were the relatively recently completed volumes of the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe or GG for short edited by Otto Brunner, Werner Conze and Reinhart Koselleck.

Underlying the conference were arguments made by Richter and Palonen about the possible convergence of German Begriffsgeschichte and the so-called “Cambridge School” approach(es) to the historical study of political thought. Both Reinhart Koselleck and Quentin Skinner attended and took part in the conference’s varied dialogues. At its close, the participants agreed to form an international network which would meet regularly, publish a newsletter, and develop an archive of projects and proposals, as well as interviews with, and critical reflections by, scholars engaged in them. Thus emerged The History of Political and Social Concepts Group.

Since its initial gathering in London, the Group has met annually some nineteen times, and on four continents, in conferences which have ranged in scale from a small working seminar (Copenhagen, 2000), to mid-sized meetings (Rio de Janiero, 2004; Aarhus, 2016), to quite large academic congresses (Bilbao, 2003 and 2013; Moscow, 2010; Buenos Aires, 2011; Bielefeld 2014; Timişora, 2015).

Among their themes have been The Use and Abuse of Words (Paris, 1999), Rhetoric and Conceptual Change (Tampere, 2001), Translation and the History of Concepts (New York, 2005), Transnational Concepts and Transfers (Istanbul, 2007), and The Diffusion of Western Concepts in Asia (Seoul, 2008).

At the Helsinki meeting in 2012, the membership agreed to change the name to The History of Concepts Group in recognition of growing interest in concepts from such realms as religion, the natural sciences and philosophy. Nevertheless, research on the social and political however broadly or narrowly defined still tends to dominate. The theme of the most recent conference, held at the University of Oslo in September 2017, was Concepts in the World: Politics, Knowledge and Time. The Málaga conference, Interdisciplinarity: Conceptual Explorations, further enquires into methodological aspects in the practice of conceptual history.

For further information, please visit the website of The History of Concepts Group.

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