Workshop 2013, UIE, Florence: Cultural asymmetry and the limits of transnationalism in intellectual history

The Asymmetries project’s first symposium was held at the European University Institute (EUI), in Florence, Italy, on 3-4 May 2013, on the topic of Cultural asymmetry and the limits of transnationalism in intellectual history (19th & 20th century Europe). The symposium was organised by Stefan Nygård and Petri Koikkalainen, both Academy of Finland sponsored fellows at the EUI. The following questions were addressed by the participants, from a variety of regional and disciplinary perspectives:

In the practice of intellectual history today, there is a variety of ways to approach the question of how national intellectual fields relate to each other, as witnessed for example by the wide gap between centre-periphery models of cultural diffusion and postmodern appraisals of hybridity. The goal of the workshop is to address this issue by encouraging reflection upon the tension between national debates, institutions and audiences on the one hand, the transnationality of intellectual and scientific life on the other.

As the prominence of the nation-state gradually transformed the tasks assigned to history, in particular, intellectuals were given the role of distinguished interpreters of the national past, and of the nations’ future opportunities in the case of the emerging social sciences. At the same time, cross-cultural transfers played a decisive role in shaping national discourses and conceptual innovations, and intellectuals were expected to live up to standards of universality, truth and impartiality.

While for some scientific and cultural fields nationality crucially defined the terms of the debate well into the 20th century, other spheres have been more transnational. By the beginning of the 21st century, it also seems clear that the status enjoyed by history and the social sciences during the emergence and expansion of the nation-state has been weakened. Concepts such as ‘efficiency’, ‘network’ or ‘globalization’, belonging to the language of everyday governance today, differ considerably from the vocabularies used in the nationally oriented study of politics.


Cultural asymmetry and the limits of transnationalism in
intellectual history (19th & 20th century Europe)

Sala Belvedere, Villa Schifanoia, EUI, 3-4 May 2013

Friday 3 May

9.30 Welcome (Stefan Nygård & Petri Koikkalainen)

9.45- Panel 1: Universalisms / Particularisms

Henrik Stenius (Univ. of Helsinki): Concepts in Peripheries
and Centres

Matti La Mela (EUI-HEC): Merging “non-national” and national.
The example of copyright in late 19th century Finland

11.00 Coffee break

Łukasz Mikołajewski (EUI/Warsaw university): How to approach
cultural “inwardness”? Reflections on the margins of a research
on émigré literature

Johan Strang (Univ. of Helsinki): Peripheral eclecticism and
Swedish universalism. Reflections on analytic philosophy in the
Nordic countries 1930-1970

12.45-14.00 Lunch

14.30- Panel 2: Cultural transfers

David Cottington (Kingston University): Mapping the avant-garde.
Methodologies and homologies

Magnus Qvistgaard (EUI-HEC): Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. The transfer
of a scandal

15.45 Coffee break

Stefan Nygård (EUI-MWP): The cosmopolitanism and cultural
nationalism of Georg Brandes

Saturday 4 May

9.30- Panel 3: Networks, politics, ideology

Petri Koikkalainen (EUI-HEC): State, Government, Governance.
The Disciplinary Pluralism of Political Studies

Emilia Palonen (Univ. of Helsinki): Articulating the nation?
Transnational canon in Budapest street names

11.00 Coffee break

Tommaso Giordani (EUI-HEC): Between Italy, France and
Germany. Georges Sorel and the revisionist crisis of 1898

Konstantina Zanou (Univ. of Nicosia): Transnational lives of the
age of nationalism. Biography and the transnational turn in
intellectual history of the 19th century

Concluding remarks