Call for Papers

Theme: Contact – Conquest – Colonization
Subtitle: Practices of Comparing between Europe, Africa, Asia and the
Americas, from Antiquity to Present
Type: Interdisciplinary Conference
Institution: Collaborative Research Center "Practices of Comparing",
Bielefeld University
Location: Bielefeld (University)
Date: 11.–13.10.2018
Deadline: 30.4.2018


Bielefeld University was recently awarded a major national grant for
a collaborative research center (Sonderforschungsbereich) on
“Practices of Comparing,” which brings together an interdisciplinary
group of scholars from five different faculties (history, literature,
philosophy, law, and political sciences). With projects ranging
historically from antiquity to the twenty-first century and spatially
from Europe to Southern India, West Africa, the Philippines and the
Americas, our overarching aim is to uncover the dynamic force of
practices of comparing for macro-scale historical transformation
processes. We are hence shedding light on contexts within which
comparison occurs, and on their role in processes of historical
change, rather than looking at comparison as a method – a nuance that
makes an important difference.

Within the context of this interdisciplinary research program,
several groups work on instances of European, American, and Asian
cultural contact, conquest, and/ or colonization, which seem to be
particularly pertinent contexts to research practices of comparing.
In getting to terms with the astounding and novel “realities” of
Asian, African, and American cultures, Europeans drew on the ancient
canon of knowledge and topoi that had emerged in the context of
contact and conquest of Greek antiquity in order to describe cultural

In the fields of history and literature, scholars such as Ann Laura
Stoler, Anthony Pagden, Stephen Greenblatt, Anthony Grafton, Ottmar
Ette, Frank Lestringant, Alexander Honold, and Antonello Gerbi have
shed light on different aspects of European perceptions and
comparisons in the New World. Edward Said’s seminal Orientalism
(1978) as well as other postcolonial studies stressed the importance
of ‘othering’ and put the category of difference in the center of
historical analysis. We believe that it is time to go a step further.
That is, when focusing on the ‘doing of comparisons,’ not only do we
ask for the making of differences but for the negotiation of
similarities and differences.  

Until now, research on practices of comparing in the context of
cultural contact, conquest, and colonization has remained fractured,
not least because of disciplinary restraints such as the separation
of epochs, geographical foci, and language barriers. It needs to be
asked, for example, whether and how discourses such as the Querelle
des anciens et des modernes and the “Dispute of the New
World” (Gerbi) of the eighteenth century are related and whether and
in what way elements of those earlier instances reappear in the
civilizational discourse of nineteenth-century imperialism.

With this conference, we would therefore like to bring together
scholars studying practices of comparing in situations of cultural
contact, conquest, and colonization in different parts of the world,
throughout all historical epochs – antiquity to present – and across
disciplines. In this context, we are primarily (but not exclusively)
interested in themes such as:

- Anthropological and ethnographic discourses
- Christian missions
- Legal practice and discourses
- Literary genres and cultural narratives
- War reports
- Diplomacy
- Discourses about natural environments/ climate/ geography
- Discourses of barbarianism and civilization
- Discourses of good governance vs. despotism
- The emergence of scientific fields
- Perceptions of bodies and emotions
- Medical knowledge and practice
- Medial and artefactual representations

With this international conference, we aim to create a conversation
between historical epochs as well as between different disciplines
studying cultural contact, conquest, and colonization under the
overarching theme of practices of comparing, which may otherwise not
get to speak to each other or even know of each other.

If you are interested in participating, please send an abstract of no
more than one page to eleonora.rohl...@uni-bielefeld.de until April
30, 2018, detailing the role of practices of comparison for your
research focus. Elected participants will be notified by May 15,
2018. We will cover your travel and accommodation expenses to and in

For more information on the collaborative research center go to:
Asst. Prof. Dr. Eleonora Rohland, Dr. Christina Brauner, Prof. Dr.
Angelika Epple, Prof. Dr. Antje Flüchter, Prof. Dr. Kirsten Kramer,


Asst. Prof. Dr. Eleonora Rohland
Department for Ibero-American History
Bielefeld University
Postfach 10 01 31
D-33501 Bielefeld
Email: eleonora.rohl...@uni-bielefeld.de
Web: https://www.uni-bielefeld.de/(en)/sfb1288/


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