Call for 4th GRAINES Summer School now open

Call for Papers

Dividing the World? Imperial Formations in Continental and Maritime Empires from the 17th to the 21st century

4th GRAINES Summer School, University of Cologne, 14–17 June 2016

In the winter of 1884/85 representatives of 11 European countries as well as the Ottoman Empire and the United States met in Berlin to discuss and decide the future of the African continent. It was not the first time European powers laid claim on vast territories far from their own. Spain and Portugal had already done so in 1494 when they signed the treaty of Tordesillas, and since then European and a few non-European countries had asserted their economic, political and/or cultural influence over large parts of the world. Nevertheless, the Berlin Africa Conference marked the height of the age of imperialism and until today epitomizes how a small number of powers divided the world amongst them. It also serves to remind us that the modern age was to a large extent shaped by empires and imperialism.

Imperial History has always stressed the importance of empire for the development of modernity. However, until recently scholars have focused mainly on typical colonial empires such as Spain, Portugal, France, the Netherlands, Germany and most notably the British Empire. The study of continental and/or non-European empires like Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, the United States, China or Japan has not been neglected but undertaken mostly in separate scholarly fields. Besides that, the age of imperialism has often been regarded as a mere transitory period in the rise of the modern nation state.

During the last years, though, globalization and the end of the Cold War have sparked a renewed theoretical and empirical interest in political formations beyond the nation state. Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt reintroduced the concept of empire to describe post-modern political phenomena. Historians like Ulrike von Hirschhausen and Jörn Leonhard focussed on the age of imperialism instead, but compared maritime and continental empires. Others, like Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper, included different types of empires in the same analytical framework. And Ann Laura Stoler and Carol McGranahan questioned the usefulness of “empire” as an analytical frame altogether. They suggest studying imperial formations, which include settings that are not part of empires, but characterized by imperial conditions like flexible borders, heterogeneous populations, a lack of legitimacy from below, legal inequalities and civilizing missions. Thus the scholarly field of imperial studies has broadened beyond European maritime empires and the age of high imperialism.

Based on this broad approach the GRAINES Summer School 2016 will take a closer look at imperial formations in continental and maritime empires from the 17th to the 21st century. We will focus on various forms of empires and imperialism, be they European or non-European, capitalist, socialist or fascist, modern, early modern or post-modern, territorial or non-territorial. During our seminars, reading groups and lectures we will discuss the similarities and differences between those settings and how imperial formations can be approached from various disciplinary and methodological standpoints.

Our guiding questions are:

• How do we define imperial formations? What is the relationship between imperialism and colonialism? What distinguishes or links states, nations and empires?
• Are there specific forms of imperial rule? What constitutes them? How are they legitimized? Where and when do they produce resistance or resilience?
• Are there specific imperial forms of belonging and citizenship within imperial formations? How is difference produced? What role do intersecting dimensions of race, class, gender, nationality etc. play in this process?
• How are imperial formations organized spatially? Do they have centres and peripheries, borders, boundaries or frontiers? What is the relationship between different spaces of empire? How are they produced?
• How did imperial formations reshape practices of consumption? Did empire effect trade, production and processing? What perceptions and imaginations of imperial economies existed?
• When and where do imperial formations compete or cooperate? Do they exchange expertise and people? Is there a transfer of imperial practices and discourses? Which concepts do they borrow, adopt or adapt and which are discarded?
• How are imperial formations represented (through maps, photographs, museums and exhibitions, literature, films, video games…)?

The summer school is organised by the Graduate Interdisciplinary Network for European Studies (GRAINES) in cooperation with the University of Cologne and the Global South Studies Center (Competence Area IV). The program includes reading and discussion groups, lectures and excursions, as well as room for the presentation and discussion of student projects. While the summer school will have a distinct interdisciplinary and trans-epochal character, potential participants should demonstrate historical awareness and general interest in history. We invite postgraduate students from a broad range of theoretical perspectives and disciplines to submit their project proposals to the organisers.

The working language of the summer school is English. Accommodation costs will be covered, a limited number of travel bursaries may be available.

To apply, please send your project proposal of maximum 1000 words and a one-page CV by 15 March 2016 to Dörte Lerp at


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