German Historical Institute London Summer Lecture Series 2024 – LECTURE

Date / time: 7 May - 2 July, 5:30 pm

German Historical Institute London Summer Lecture Series 2024 - LECTURE


Join us for our GHIL Summer Lecture Series 2024! In order to take part in person or virtually, please register via our website:

7 May 2024 (5:30pm) | GHIL/Zoom

Hannah Murphy (King’s College London) and Sarah Schober (University of Zurich):
Artisanal Race-Making in Early Modern Germany (Double Lecture)

Hannah Murphy: Skin, Scarification, and Artisanal Race-Making in Early Modern Germany

The provocation of this paper is that early modern German artisanal writers thought about ethnography, race, and human difference through the lens of Kunst—craft or artisanal knowledge. Exploring early modern travel narratives written primarily by medical practitioners, the paper focuses on a case study of skin and scarification. As a mutable, textured site of beauty, adornment, and surgical skill, skin offered up a contested surface for race-making which reflected internal European preoccupations with expertise and the boundaries of medicine, as well as anxieties around geography, mobility, and embodied difference. By examining accounts of skin practices that were written before race was conceptualized as an epidermal question of colour, we can disaggregate artisans as agents of race-making, as well as recover the complexities and centrality of artisanal skin practices from racialized texts.

Hannah Murphy is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History and Director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies at King’s College London. She is a historian of science and medicine, and the Principal Investigator of a £1.4m UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship project exploring the role of medical practitioners in the transatlantic slave trade.

Sarah Schober: Loose Threads? Hair, Race, and the Making of Wigs in Early Modern Germany

Between 1650 and 1820 hair became a matter of racial distinction. People were categorized and separated not only by the colour of their skin or the measurements of their skulls, but also by the colour, texture, and abundance of their head and body hair. The talk will analyse the early modern racialization of hair by linking it to the emerging large-scale trade in human and animal hair in the early modern ‘age of the wig’. Reading the scientific discourses on racialized hair alongside sources on the manufacturing of wigs and the dealings within the early modern European hair trade, the talk poses the question of how we might explore hidden and indirect practices of race-making.

Sarah-Maria Schober is a researcher and lecturer in early modern history at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Her book on early modern urban societies, physicians, and the social value of excess was published in 2019. In her second book project The Civet Cat. Producing Exotica in Early Modern Europe, she is focusing on the history of the civet scent and its producer, the civet cat. Schober is also currently working on a project on hair, early theories of race, and multispecies approaches to history.

11 June 2024 (5.30pm) | Goldsmiths |In co-operation with Goldsmiths, University of London

Ravi Sundaram (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi): Populist Media Aesthetics?

Twenty-first century populist movements have mobilized sensory infrastructures of digital media that create connection, imitation, and collective association. Our contemporary technological milieu is routinely framing political aesthetics, particularly collective action and public speech. The expanded landscape of contemporary digital media suggests that populist affect may not be an exception to liberal normativity but a routine form of the political in the twenty-first century. This lecture draws from research in India on right-wing populist aesthetic techniques in the context of sensory infrastructures, and from two research sites where violence and aesthetic strategies come together: a legal event where activists are tried under anti-terror laws and selective ‘evidentiary’ information is leaked in right-wing fora; and the routine referencing of anti-Muslim videos from vigilante actors in the political mainstream. The lecture will examine violence in the sensory world of technological populism.

Ravi Sundaram is a Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. He co-founded the Sarai media programme at the CSDS along with Ravi Vasudevan and the Raqs Media Collective. He has authored Pirate Modernity: Media Urbanism in Delhi (2010) and edited No Limits: Media Studies from India (2015). His recent book Technopharmacology (with Joshua Neves, Aleena Chia, and Susanna Paasonen) came out in 2022. Sundaram’s essays have been translated into various languages in India, Asia, and Europe.

18 June 2024 (5:30pm) | GHIL/Zoom | In co-operation with the Modern German History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research (IHR)

Philipp Gassert (University of Mannheim): Contesting Political Spaces: Thoughts on a World History of Street Protest

Even though we now live in an age of digital media, physical street protest is not a thing of the past. Anyone knows that even in the twenty-first century, public, symbolically charged spaces continue to be occupied by protesters who hope to score political points. We may even be under the impression that the frequency of street protests has increased. So why does ‘taking to the streets’ still work, even though we can be so wonderfully outraged online today? The obvious answer is: it can be explained historically. I will take my examples from 250 years of history, covering a wide range of societies, issues, and geographical entities in order to present preliminary findings on an ongoing project about a world history of street protest.

Philipp Gassert teaches contemporary history in Mannheim. He has published widely on the history of the 1968 movements and the 1980s’ peace movements. In 2018 he published the first full-length monography on post-war German protest history Bewegte Gesellschaft: Deutsche Protestgeschichte seit 1945 (Stuttgart, 2018). He is currently writing a world history of street protest from the eighteenth century to the present.

25 June 2024 (5:30pm) | GHIL/Zoom

Radhika Singha (Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida): International Penology in Colonial India: Too Advanced, Too American, Too Expensive?

The Indian Jail Committee report of 1919–20 is often cast as the turning point in colonial penal policy, when reform and rehabilitation were added to deterrence. But it is also acknowledged that very little changed on the ground. Why after all did a cash-strapped, politically-besieged regime sponsor a globe-trotting tour of jails and reformatories? Why did the committee return to enthuse about ‘flexible or indeterminate sentencing’, a principle embraced in the USA but faltering in Britain? To deflect criticism about the harsh treatment of ‘seditionist’ prisoners, the Jail Committee recast spaces of confinement as sites for agendas of post-war economic, institutional, and civic reconstruction. It presented a combined vision of confinement and social engineering that was taken up by colonial successor regimes.

Radhika Singha taught modern and contemporary Indian history at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi until her retirement. She is currently a visiting Professor at Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida. Her research focuses on colonial criminal law, colonial identification practices and protocols, and borders and border-crossing, and it often intersects with labour history. She is currently working on criminology and ‘scientific’ penology in India 1894–1955, and the Foreigners Act and deportability in colonial India.

2 July 2024 (5:30pm) | GHIL/Zoom

Christine Krüger (University of Bonn): Analysing Reconciliation and Irreconcilability from a Historical Perspective. The Example of Germany and Britain

Whether in a global political context or within society, irreconcilability seems to be the hallmark of our present times. This explains the growing interest in reconciliation processes. Since the 1990s, ‘reconciliation’ has been an established field of research in political science. Historians, however, have explored this field only to a limited extent, although the topic should be an obvious one for them, as the call for reconciliation always relates to the past. Political science analyses of reconciliation or irreconcilability usually concentrate on political explanations. They pay little attention to social or economic and even less to cultural factors. This is where historical research can contribute to a better understanding. The aim of the lecture is to shed light on the potential of historical reconciliation research, with a particular focus on the entangled history of Germany and Great Britain.

Christine Krüger is Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at the University of Bonn. She completed her doctorate in 2005 (University of Tübingen) and habilitation in 2015 (University of Oldenburg). She has been a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford, Sciences Po (Paris), the Pontífica Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (Chile), and the Colegio de México (Mexico City). One of her main areas of specialization is historical peace and conflict research.