Introduction to Conceptual History
Centre for Nordic Studies, University of Helsinki
Jani Marjanen & Johan Strang
Finnish and international PhD and advanced Master’s degree students from various academic fields.
In August 2017 “An Introduction to Conceptual History” will be offered by the Centre for Nordic Studies, University of Helsinki, as part of the Helsinki Summer School. Now in its twelfth year, the course will be organized by Concepta: the International Research School in Conceptual History, and The Political Concepts Standing Group of the European Consortium of Political Research (ECPR) at the University of Helsinki.
An international team of distinguished scholars and visiting lecturers will engage and encourage course members in critical discussions about the political aspects in key concepts used in human activities, as well as in the analytic concepts employed in the social sciences and the humanities. The course seeks to familiarize younger scholars with the methods and practices of conceptual history, and the study of political concepts as a style of theorizing about and analyzing political practices. The goal of conceptual history is to understand the ways in which concepts and ideas are operationalized in political life through the study of the debates on their migration, translation, reinterpretation and diffusion through time and space (from the local to the global). Conceptual analysis involves the examination of the larger semantic, discursive, ideological and rhetorical settings of conceptual controversies, and requires familiarity with a variety of approaches to discourse, ideology and rhetoric. These concepts are communicated verbally, in print and through other media.
The course will introduce the main aspects of the theory and methodology of conceptual analysis through discussions the work of scholars such as Reinhart Koselleck, Quentin Skinner, J. G. A. Pocock, Michel Foucault, Pierre Rosanvallon and Dipesh Chakrabarty as well as such thinkers as Max Weber and Hannah Arendt. Conceptual history offers a distinct perspective for studying the activity of politics, in theorizing, practices and institutions as well as the political aspects of culture, economy and society.
Students will be encouraged to use these as tools in their own research projects. A special emphasis will be placed on different examples of conceptual change, underlining the inherently contested character of concepts in use. In addition, trends in current scholarship will be explored through case studies presented by course members as well by as invited guests. The course will be conducted via lectures, discussions and work-in-progress sessions. It welcomes Ph.D. and advanced Master’s degree students from a variety of academic disciplines.
The objective is to enable the students to use the methods of conceptual history in their own research.
Course format and teaching methods
The course seeks to support the students’ thesis word by offering relevant lectures, discussions on course readings and workshops on the participants’ texts.
Means and criteria of assessment
If students submit the required assignments, read the provided texts and participate in the teaching, they will pass the course.