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Dutch Wednesday, 10.02.2016: Small is Beautiful

The History of Political Thought in ‘Marginal’ Cultures


According to an old saying, history is written by the winners. This is also true for the history of political thought, in the sense that this academic field typically focuses on the intellectual production in ‘leading’ or ‘dominant’ countries and assumes that the patterns observed in these contexts have universal validity. Nevertheless, in smaller cultures, which had typically endured long periods of foreign domination, political thought often displayed different trajectories. The presentation will discuss some of these peculiarities, including the role of fear in political thinking, particularly the fear of extinction. It will also address the problem of censorship and the politicization and hence the increased role of the cultural domain in the absence of a free political sphere. Ultimately, the presentation ponders the question: which are the universal attributes of political thought and which are the characteristics that differ across time and space? 

Monika Baár is Associate Professor of History of Leiden University. Her research interests include the history of political thought, cultural history and the history of disability and global health. She is currently principal investigator of the ERC-funded collaborative research project Rethinking Disability: the Global Impact of the International Year of Disabled Persons (1981) in Historical Perspective. She is author of the book Historians and Nationalism: East Central Europe in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2010) and co-author of B. Trencsényi, M. Janowski, M. Baár, M. Falina, M. Kopeček, A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe (Oxford University Press) ,Volume I. Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Long Nineteenth Century’ (2016) and Volume II. Negotiating Modernity in the ‘Short Twentieth Century’ and Beyond (forthcoming in 2017).