In the last two decades a huge volume of writing on ‘global’ history has come to imbibe, supplement, and contest the industry of older ‘area studies’ scholarship to reorient historical study beyond the ethnocentric focuses of so-called ‘extra-European’ history. This movement came largely in response to the political, economic and social impacts of ‘globalisation’, as well as emergent academic and activist critiques of such processes. The growth of diasporas creating alternative units of transnational analysis and the guarded liberalisation of a number of regimes (and its consequences for the ability to write about the past) added to this considerable momentum. ‘The effect of all this has been to open new vistas on a past that once seemed accessible by only one route – the story of Europe’s expansion’ (Darwin).
This seminar series aims to add to, and draw from, these new paradigms of ‘global history’ to promote cognisance of global change, similitude, dissonance and above all interconnectedness in the modern world. We hope that the papers presented, alongside publications such as the Journal of Global History, can capture the increasing interdisciplinarity and conceptual reach of the social sciences and humanities in thinking about the world’s past.
‘Transnational’ research has since grown rapidly, opening up spaces between macro-histories of ‘globalisation’ and older micro-histories of ‘regions’. This location has been greatly analytically preoccupied with flows of people or information across constructed and often conceptually restrictive boundaries. Thus the study of diasporas, commodities, consumption and discursive circulation, often in comparative fashions, have been at the heart of this ‘transnational’ scholarly dynamism – an approach that has become intertwined with, by also challenges, increasing sophisticated ‘global’ histories.
Some of the ‘global histories’ that emerged in the early post-Cold War world were, however, also accused of reductivism in their ideological execution, even from within areas that many ‘global’ historians were attempting to celebrate. Some argued that these new histories rather ironically tended to flatten the political and social complexities of the ‘global South’ in their attempts to emancipate the non-European world. To supplement, but also interrogate, ambitious ‘global’ studies, less sweeping ‘transnational’ histories therefore also developed. Such work opened up broad analytical possibilities through the scrutiny of networks and actors, which are only implicitly revealed in the colonial archives.
Naturally, we do not want to maintain that nations are losing their historiographical importance. Rather we stress that nations are embedded in the term transnational and are not elements to be transcended, rather interrogated and supplemented with more eclectic methodologies. This seminar aims to engage with such themes and eclectic case studies in intellectually stimulating and convivial fashions.
Papers on a broad range of temporal, thematic and geographical emphases are welcomed. If you would like to present a paper, or indeed have any questions, please get in touch with us. Visit pages Transnational and Global History Seminar