This is the #Menton2013 Summer School Blog. With the Summer School only a few days away, most papers have been submitted or are on their way. The range of topics is fascinating and a pleasure to read. Any comments and questions may be posted here will help us to facilitate the discussions and debates at Menton. For the Summer School programme see Menton Programme.

To access photos from the Summer School, visit the @Menton page.

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(And yes: this IS the view from SciencesPo, Menton)

So please feel free to add to the virtual part of the Summer School.

Learning from the Reichsland . The Japanese Empire’s encounter with Alsace-Lorraine

Travelling to Europe from East Asia in the 1890s was a long way. But why, of all places, Alsace-Lorraine that had been annexed by the German Reich in 1871 and had become the Reichsland? This was the focus of Akiyoshi Nishiyama (Tokyo) in his witty and fascinating key note on “A Borderland seen from a ‘borderless’ country”.

After the Meji Restauration in 1868 and during the early decades of the expanding Japanese Empire, expeditions and individual experts were sent to Europe and Germany in particular. The German Reich was regarded as the country to study. It was here where the Japanese government and experts thought to learn how to do Empire.


Prussia was regarded as similar to Japan in recent history – from small and second-rank to European power. The borderlands of the Wilhelmine Empire, Alsace-Lorraine in particular but also the Posen region, were seen as ethnically mixed regions from which the ethnically homogenous Japan could learn during its phase of expansion into East and South-East Asia. This was the context in which missions and individuals were sent to the Reichsland to study language policies, education and administration in the border region. (Bernhard Struck)

Dervishes and Cricket: Transfers and Exchanges 

I have read with great interest the papers by Tom Cunningham (Edinburgh) “Missionaries, Sport and the Kikuyu, 1907-1937” and Cem Kara (Munich/Prague) “Dervishes and ‘modern Europe’. Cultural Contact and Exchange through the Bektashi Order in the long 19th century”. It is interesting to see how two, in many ways different papers on disconnected topics – one on cultural and intellectual around a religious order, the other on sport in a British imperial context -, share issues both in terms of method, approach, questions and sources.

Both papers are well set-up, raise thought-provoking questions and navigate carefully through some historiographical and methodological issues even though they stem, as it seems, from PhD research topics in the making. What Cem seems to suggest is that encounters and “contact situations” with the Bektashi order, may this be through visitors and travellers, show a more complex and more subtle relationship than for instance Said’s “Orientalism” suggests. Individual actors, from both sides, sought connections and parallels in terms of intellectual agendas but also in terms of practices such as “cross-fertilisation” of masonic practices and rituals.

In a similar vein, the paper by Tom Cunningham on sports in the British Empire, with a focus on Kenya, seems to suggest that the “transfer” of sport practices war far from a uni-lateral and one-directional process from metropole to colony. While there might have been clear visions by the colonisers on the reasoning behind sport and the introduction of body practices (“civilising”, “modern”), the paper clearly argues for a more complex mutual relationship that allows for agency and initiative not only on the side of the “powerful colonisers” but also on the local or individual level in the colony.

To my reading these two papers, among many others submitted for the summer school, highlight the potential benefits of a broad perspective on European history under an “open umbrella” perspective of transnational history. I am very much looking forward to Menton learning more about the topics – and many others. (Bernhard Struck)

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(Picture Roberto Zaugg, Basel, explaining (dancing?) transnational flows, left Johannes Kontny, Vienna #Menton2013)

9 responses to “#Menton2013

  1. We received following questions concerncing the “comments”/”discussion” on each presentation:

    QUESTION: “Can I also enquire about the exact nature of the input to the discussion of interim results? Is it supposed to be a sort of summary or rather our individual contributions? If the latter, shall it relate to the papers presented at the particular panel or rather to the main theme? Please advise.”

    ANSWER: Every commentator is asked to discuss one paper with regard to the summer school main theme. The literatur provided should faciliate this task.

  2. We received further questions:

    QUESTION “Ich hätte noch eine Frage zum Ablauf der Projektvorstellungen: Sollen die Kommentatorinnen und Kommentatoren auch die Projekte vorstellen oder wirklich nur kommentieren, nachdem die Themen von den jeweiligen Doktorandinnen und Doktoranden bereits vorgestellt wurden? Vorige Woche war ich nämlich auf einem Workshop, in dem der Kommentar auch die Vorstellung des Themas voraussetzte…”

    should commentators give an abstract of the paper or just comment on the presentation?

    Each participant presents her/his paper in a short presentation. After that the commentator makes a comment on this presentation and the paper within the Summer School’s main topic.

  3. Montag, 10. Juni 2013 19:12
    Dear all,

    here is some further information that will hopefully facilitate your prepraration:

    1) Your presentation should not extent 5min., everyone has read the papers of the others, so keep it rather short,

    2) each commentator has about 3-5min. for his/her contribution,

    3) Readings: please read the whole “reader” and all the papers, at least of the sessions you attend on box.com

    Thank you & kind regards

  4. There have been some queries recently concerning how to comment on papers that you are assigned to. There is no blueprint to do so, not the least since some might be closer to a specific paper in terms of expertise, with other papers this might not be the case. Perhaps one way of using the maximum of five minutes would be to, first, briefly wrap up the content of the paper you are commenting on or what you (the non-expert think the main points are), second, try to related it some broader issues of the summer school (discussions, readings, relations to other papers) and, third, ideally try to come up with further questions that might help facilitate the discussion.
    Again, there is no blueprint how to do it. This is simply a suggestion and the key point is to demonstrate some in-depth engagement with some of the papers and show some responsibility for the success and, not the least, joy of the summer school.
    Best wishes, we hope this helps, Bernhard

  5. Martyna Mirecka

    Berhnard, thank you very much for your comment. Can I clarify, that the same rules/guidelines apply to the comments on discussions (only on a bigger scale)? Some of us were designate to comment not on specific papers, but provide input to the group discussion. Cheers! Martyna

  6. Many thanks for your comments Bernhard. I think the variety of themes and topics of the papers and keynotes is wonderful. I enjoyed Alexander van Wickren’s piece ‘The circulation of knowledge of tobacco cultivation in Baden and Alsace around 1800’ which demonstrates how a detailed and tightly woven study, by tracing the particular networks of particular ‘actors’, can have a global scope. I look forward to commenting on it in the presentations.

    Nice, too, to see African-related topics. Illustrates Jean Francois Bayart’s argument that despite received conceptions, the Continent has not been marginal to the history of the world. (I would recommend to all – though we have enough great reading already!- the long essay JF Bayart, ‘Africa in the World’, 2000).


  7. As a quick response back to Martyna’s request on the nature of general comments and summaries of the project presentation groups: this should be a brief input of up to five minutes trying to sum up some key points of the discussion of the respective group. It should try to wrap up more generic points that were common to the debate in the respective groups and ideally, again, related to the broader themes and readings rather then questions on individual papers.

  8. Pingback: After the Summer School | GRAINES

  9. Pingback: Call for Papers: GRAINES Summer School 2014, Vienna | Centre for Transnational History

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