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Making German history safe

by John Raimo

Can a museum exhibition curate itself? So far as concerns history, the answer would seem to be not quite. Here I am referring to Neil MacGregor’s work at the British Museum, namely Germany: Memories of a Nation—A 600-year history in objects (2014-2015). The show builds on the earlier project A History of the World in 100 Objects (2010), a popular radio-series and an accompanying book which draw upon the museum’s holdings. Plaques tied the latter series in to the permanent collection; the former, while also furnishing broadcasts and a book (if not quite an exhibition catalog), came into being as a proper show. The wide response to these projects hint that a trend might be afoot (at least so far as one-upping one hundred objects goes). Objects drawn from a nation or wider field might furnish their own sort of accessible—that is, quite literally concrete—stories of the most open-ended sort.

‘Narrative’ does not quite fit to describe this most basic, traditional tension in museum work. We can leave aside questions of selection, omission, contextualization, and even marketing for a moment. Where does a history told via objects exactly lead us—or what does it lead us past? A linear chronological arrangement or curation would prove hard-pressed to escape a simple progressive history of technology or, perhaps, a most interesting history of global exchanges. It would not give its viewers a material history per say of a country. The most heterogeneous collection drawing from the most disparate sources, regions, and times might also lend the illusion of encompassing inclusion. Yet this too would not quite amount to a social, economic, intellectual, cultural, gender, or even political history in the stricter terms used by historians. Rather, object-driven history allows its curators a neat side-stepping of these issues on the basis of its rhetoric. Cue rather more poetic language: there is a proliferation, constellation, converging, parallelizing, overlaying, implication, and so on of narratives. Far be it from curators to conspicuously impose a historical narrative themselves. (I hope our readers can chime in on the direction of museum studies today on just this note.)

This is a particular problem with German history. MacGregor and his team can be commended for the range of items they have selected for the exhibit. (Who ever knew about Goethite before?) The attention paid to the Trümmerfrauen seemed particularly deft in gauging their iconographic importance both in West and East Germany (see MacGregor’s broadcast here). I also grant a good deal of credit to any curators willing to display several maps and to dedicate cases to numismatics within exhibitions intended to be blockbusters. But the approach they chose only further complicates the history at hand. How easily can past historiography be dismissed when presenting German history to a general public?

The exhibit organizes itself upon the thesis that German history is “inherently fragmented.” Hence the (today de rigueur) ambiguity of the exhibition title: these are different memories of an “unstable” nation in geographical, historical, and political terms. For the exhibition’s curators, continuities and discontinuities frustrate strict chronological accounts. Accordingly, the chosen items readily fall under themes such as “Germans no more,” documenting German-communities in both the former East Prussia and Czechoslovakia for instance.

History as told by the objects, all the objects, and nothing but the objects obscures more than it reveals. In the absence of any chronology whatsoever, the thematic approach coupled with the impartiality promised by the items more often than not fails to invoke much history at all for those coming to it for the first time. For example, a cart used by East Prussian refugees in the wake of the Second World War strikes a touching note—but how well can we understand its importance without reference to the war and the present-day controversies surrounding the German Vertriebene (refugees or expelled persons—this problem of translation alone hints at the politics involved)? Or to broach an overwhelmingly large topic in as concise a manner as possible, just where does one place the Third Reich and the Holocaust in German history? A small exhibit dedicated to the gates of a concentration camp fails rather more than it even should. To my mind, the show ultimately amounts to a single history of Germany—albeit one defanged of difficulty or the need for much interpretation at all.

This is not a call for a museum rehearsal of professional historiographical debates or for a full-throated embrace of historical politics. We don’t need to refight the Sonderweg controversy. And indeed, I would here guess that the British Museum exhibit has been conceived as an implicit rejoinder to the overwhelmingly crass and politicized exhibit at the Louvre ostensibly dedicated to German art. Happily enough, however, some ready counterexamples come forward. The wonderful Time, Conflict, Photography exhibit at the Tate Modern (with an excellent accompanying catalog) forgoes a strict chronology without leaving aside politics or more tightly-focused questions of national memory. (The exhibit’s focus on catastrophes and its ranging across several national histories affords another discussion, however.) More broadly-speaking, French museums such as those at Peronne or Caen prove models of involving such historians as Jay Winter (at the former) as curators themselves. The museum-going public rises to any perceived challenge that a more academic-driven historical exhibit might pose.

I look forward to writing here soon about another exhibit, La Collaboration 1940-1945 (about Vichy France), put on by the Archives Nationales. The questions there should prove just as substantial. But to return to the British museum and that ambiguous title once again, one stuck with me: just whose memories of which nation were to be seen there? I can’t help thinking that I and crowds of other people encountered a lot of objects, fewer memories—intact, accessible, or otherwise—and even less history in any graspable sense.

 

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Neoliberal Dogma? Revisiting Foucault on Social Security, Healthcare, and Autonomy (Pt. II of II)

by guest contributor Luca Provenzano

Earlier, I discussed claims that the French philosopher Michel Foucault anticipated or deployed neoliberal dogmas about social security in an interview in 1983. I now consider Foucault’s assertions about health and healthcare in the same interview. I further assess how the allegations that he deployed “neoliberal dogmas” might relate to the contradictions of contemporary knowledge production.

In the 1983 interview, Foucault indeed proposed that “health” was not a right (cf. Zamora, Critiquer Foucault, 103). But not as a conclusion to “neoliberal” reasoning: the main argument was that it was obscurantist to “secure” by juridical right a state of biological and psychological fact. In other words, Foucault considered that a state as fragile as “health” could not be secured by legislation.

It is clear that there is hardly sense in speaking of a “right to health.” Health, good health, cannot come from a right. Good and bad health, regardless of the unsophisticated or subtle criteria that we use, are facts: facts of health and of consciousness (Foucault, Dits et écrits, vol. 4., 376).

A plausible intellectual genealogy would not include neoliberalism so much as the thought of Foucault’s former mentor Georges Canguilhem, a historian of medicine, philosopher, and medical practitioner:

Biological normalities have no guarantee other than their fact, unless one gives them a metaphysical foundation, which nothing forbids us from seeing only as a consecration of that fact…health is not at all an economic exigency to be asserted within a legislative framework [i.e., in the “right to health”]; it is a spontaneous unity of the conditions for the exercise of life.  This exercise, on which all other exercises are founded, founds for them and restricts, as they also do, the risk of failure, a risk from which the individual cannot be protected by any statute of socially normalized life (Canguilhem, Writings on Medicine, 61-62, italics mine; cf. 65; 83fn34 gives the original publication).

In this perspective, it is a juridical illusion to believe that right secures what cannot be reasonably guaranteed—health. (Consider Foucault’s own deteriorating health due to an incurable illness, then barely understood, from which no juridical statute could protect him.) But Foucault thought that society could posit rights to specific working conditions and accident compensation: “Nevertheless, we can have the right to conditions of work that do not significantly augment the risks of illness or of various disabilities. We can have the right to reparations, to care, and to sanctions when a health accident originates in one fashion or another from the responsibility of an authority figure.”(Foucault, Dits et écrits, vol. 4, 376). Foucault also thought that the law could establish the right of access to healthcare (les moyens de santé) and pointed out the problems of realizing equal access (ibid., 377). For Foucault, law could secure healthcare and health insurance but not health.

In Foucault’s opinion, if the demand for health were susceptible to grow indefinitely, it would be impossible for society to completely satisfy that demand. However, rather than offer a severe critique of healthcare expenditures, Foucault judged the contemporary rate of growth of those expenditures unsustainable: “it will be in any case impossible to let expenses under this column [i.e., health] grow at the rhythm of these past years” (ibid., 378). He argued that French society would inevitably make decisions concerning how to allocate its resources and limiting coverage for certain conditions, and that these issues needed to be publicly confronted—not determined by automatism or fiat (ibid., 378). These statements mediated both common themes about finitude from inter- and post-war French philosophy and the impact of the immediate conjuncture: on the one hand, the onset of austerity policies under Mitterrand, on the other, his own illness. The motifs of human frailty in the face of insurmountable limitations pointed towards broader societal conditions and Foucault’s own bodily decline (he concluded the interview by meditating on his own potential death).

Foucault made three major points in this 1983 interview. First, it was imperative that social provisions should produce autonomy and limit normativity in their mechanisms of access; second, social provisions would have to be adjusted to finite resources; third, the French needed to invent new practices and conceptual frameworks to address these issues.  As far as I can tell, his points had slight positive relation to the notions that the market should become the sole force for the rational distribution of societal resources or that the state should merely regulate the market and provide security and order.

Why then the allegations? In my view, the notion that Foucault deployed “neoliberal dogma” regarding social security and healthcare in this interview is prisoner to a methodology quite indifferent to the larger networks of statements in which he articulated his claims. To be sure, this method affords marvelous talking points that have been used in the latest debate such as ‘Foucault rejected the right to health’ or ‘Foucault stated that social security had perverse effects’: if you take language-fragments out of their game, you might find damning material. Yet if it is certainly possible that further evidence from the Foucault archives at the BNF will show that he positively endorsed aspects of neoliberalism, the latest case is no stronger than the one five years ago.

Finally, the most outspoken critics of Foucault in this affair do not ask about the conditions of emergence of their own critique or the difference between those conditions and the ones faced by Foucault. Knowing the future successes of neoliberalism, they project today’s conditions of thought as a norm for their source material. One symptom of this is a dismissal of Foucault’s questions and problems that never bothers to ask why the “correct” questions were not available to him at that moment. Yet regardless of whether his thought is a valuable resource for us, Foucault was not necessarily our contemporary, something both critics and defenders often struggle to accept. The need for historical reflexivity in this debate is more acute than ever.

I thank Stefanos Geroulanos for pointing out the connection to Canguilhem.

Luca Provenzano is a second year doctoral student at Columbia University. He is currently working on Louis Althusser, May 1968, and the concept of ideology.

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The Politics of Unearthing New Amsterdam in 19th-Century New York

by Madeline McMahon

John Romeyn Brodhead was fascinated by a city beneath his feet that he felt could only be dug up and discovered in the archives of the Old World. New Amsterdam, and its fraught transformation into New York, captivated Brodhead, so that even when he undertook diplomatic work at The Hague, he “divid[ed] his time between study and society.” He returned to New York in 1839 and was appointed by the state’s governor to transcribe documents relevant to New York’s colonial history in the archives of the Netherlands, England, and France.

After a slow start (he at first missed his boat, which turned out to be a good thing since that particular steamship never arrived at its destination), Brodhead seems to have worked furiously for the next few years. He was officially an Agent of the State of New York—an act of the state’s legislature had created his post. He leveraged this position and his former diplomatic ties in order to gain access to the archives. As he later wrote, reflecting back on his journey: “The inspection of the state papers of foreign governments, it is well known, is not a mere matter of course, but is considered a privilege of a high order; and is granted in most cases, only upon applications backed by high personal or official influence.” Brodhead’s quest for support in high places was riddled with failures—even after an interview, the US Secretary of State declined to give him letters of introduction, and he had to appeal instead to American ambassadors in Europe. He also sought audiences with and wrote letters to a vivid cast of European characters, from the king of the Netherlands to the archbishop of Canterbury, all to gain further access to documents. To anyone who has worked with manuscripts and rare books in the 21st century, Brodhead’s archival adventures sound strange indeed.

Nonetheless, when he returned, in 1844, one contemporary wrote that “[t]he ship in which he came back was more richly freighted with new material for American history than any that ever crossed the Atlantic.” Armed with eighty volumes of transcripts, he did what any researcher would do next: he tried to procure further funding. His Final Report (1845) was an overview of the documents he had found. Strictly speaking, it was the culmination of what he had set out to do, but it was also part of his case that he should be the one to translate and publish his findings. But politics were not in Brodhead’s favor as a Democrat, and in 1849, a Whig-controlled legislature assigned the task to two other men.

Although Brodhead wrote that an “antiquarian spirit” motivated his work, he identified with the past. He proudly claimed descent from “a colonial Hollander who stood up manfully for his Republican Fatherland” as well as “an English officer who helped his king to conquer Dutch New Netherland” as indicative of his lack of “partiality.”

Yet the battleground of the past extended beyond English and Dutch tensions in seventeenth-century New York. Brodhead’s expedition to European archives was driven in part by a national debate on American colonial origins. As the New Englander Puritan became ascendant in early nineteenth-century American mythology, New Yorkers fought back, creating the New York Historical Society (of which Brodhead was an active member) to counter that story (Joyce Goodfriend, “Present at the Creation: Making the Case for the Dutch Founders of America,” 261). The volumes of documents that Brodhead hoped to publish had New England counterparts (Goodfriend, 262). Ultimately, it was Brodhead’s identity as a New Yorker, excavating the sources for a local history—a genealogy of sorts—that compromised his impartiality. Yet it also led him to present early America as more than a monolithic English colony, and to search seriously for its sources in international archives.

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Neoliberal Dogma? Revisiting Foucault on Social Security, Healthcare, and Autonomy (Pt. I of II)

by guest contributor Luca Provenzano

Was Michel Foucault “seduced” by neoliberalism? Daniel Zamora and other scholars voice this allegation in Critiquer Foucault: Les années 1980 et la tentation néolibérale (English translation forthcoming). Last month, an interview with Zamora (translated from the French) and a later essay resonated among Foucault readers (See post by Stuart Elden). A vibrant debate also reignited last week at An und für sich (usefully curated here).

In my take, the accusations (often hyperinflated online, most strikingly here) disclose more about the production of knowledge under neoliberal conditions than they reveal about Foucault. To set up this argument for my forthcoming second post, I look to a 1983 interview about French Sécurité sociale and healthcare rights (the speakers were Michel Foucault and Robert Bono, the general secretary of the CFDT French trade union). The interview is “Un système fini face à une démande infinie” in Foucault, Dits et écrits IV (English translations are my own). For two reasons, this seems as good place as any to criticize the seduction claims: first, its brevity; second, the essentially “normative” mode pursued by Foucault. I consider only whether Foucault’s discussion of social security substantially reproduced “neoliberal” dogma about the dependent poor or the negative economic effects of social provisions. Far from serving as an active contributor to the destruction of social security, I believe Foucault attempted to re-envision it so as to reduce its limitations. (NB: French Sécurité sociale has a more extensive meaning than our “social security” and denotes the ensemble of social provisions for workers).

Let’s work through the interview. Foucault concluded his first statements about social security thus:

Finally, Sécurité sociale, whatever its positive effects, has also had ‘perverse effects’: the growing rigidity of some mechanisms and situations of dependency. This is inherent to the functional mechanisms of the institution [dispositif]: on the one hand, we give people greater security and, on the other, we increase their dependency. Rather, we should be able to expect our social security to grant each person their autonomy in relation to dangers and situations that would subordinate or subject them (Foucault, 368).

Foucault later qualified this statement:

There really is a positive demand for a [social] security that opens the route to richer, more numerous, more diverse and more supple relations to the self and to its milieu, all the same assuring to everyone a real autonomy. This is a new fact that should weigh upon contemporary conceptions when it comes to social protection (Foucault, ibid).

From the start, Foucault bracketed but acknowledged the positive effects of French social security. His inquiry concerned the more ambiguous effects of the contemporary system on personal autonomy, but Foucault apparently thought that social security and autonomy were potentially compatible. In my interpretation, he implicitly denied the claim that situations of mounting dependency were necessities of any social security; rather dependency inhered in the “functional mechanisms” of the contemporary system. Foucault further prodded his interlocutors to consider a renovation of these structures: “Shouldn’t we rather try to conceive of a system of social coverage that would take into account the demand for autonomy that we are talking about in such a fashion that these famous effects of placement into dependency [mise en dependence] would almost totally disappear?” (ibid., 370)

Notably, Foucault categorized the two sorts of “dependency” reinforced or produced by post-war French welfarism as “placement into dependency through integration” and “placement into dependency through marginalization or exclusion” (ibid., 369). “Dependency through integration” originated in the distribution of social aid through certain “normal” institutions like the family, the workplace, or the geographic region. “Dependency through marginalization” originated in exclusion from aid or marginalization from aid by the same administrative mechanisms. “Our systems of social coverage impose a determinate mode of life to which it subjects individuals and any person or any group,” he wrote, “that, for one reason or another, does not want or cannot integrate to this mode of life finds himself marginalized by the very play of the institutions” (ibid., 372). This is a critique of contemporary conditions of access to social provisions.

In my view, it was not a “neoliberal” critique in the sense that it was not at all about the purported negative macroeconomic effects of socialized coverage or how social provisions supposedly encouraged unproductive behavior among recipient populations. Foucault also took seriously the notion that non-access to coverage could be a source of “dependency” or heteronomy. His comments complimented the CFDT proposal to renounce “the absurd juridicism” of a French social aid system that discriminated against “marginals” through a bureaucratic firewall and to decentralize social welfare institutions in order to make them more accessible. Foucault envisioned not the destruction of social security but the move towards a system that would prove more agnostic towards the modes of life of its recipients: “the objective of an optimal social coverage conjugated to a maximum of independence is very clear” (ibid).

In short, Foucault asked: “what are the limits to autonomy posed by the way our social democracy administers and adjudicates claims to aid?” The critique of the mechanisms of access to social security fit Foucault’s contemporary philosophical inquiries into how systems enforced professions of identity; he wanted to investigate how the state validated dominant identities and modes of life via the distribution of aid and how to limit that effect. Foucault thought that the state should establish new forms of access to Sécurité sociale that were less contingent on the adherence of aid recipients to “normal” social categories insofar as these procedures tended to force individuals to identify as “X,” and in turn reinforced dominant institutions. The problem of social security reform for Foucault was “how to act so that the person would no longer be a ‘subject’ in the sense of l’assujettissement…” (ibid., 373) – a subject subjected to prevailing societal norms. In my view, the link to neoliberalism is at best a retrospective illusion.

Luca Provenzano is a second year doctoral student at Columbia University. He is currently working on Louis Althusser, May 1968, and the concept of ideology.

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Back in the Sattel(zeit) again

by John Raimo

Where does the historian Reinhart Koselleck (1923-2006) stand in intellectual history today? Among his readers, Koselleck remains a preeminent theorist of historical time and historiography, an innovative figure in ‘conceptual history’ (Begriffsgeschichte), and an accomplished historian in practice, not least in his editorial oversight of the great political lexicon of the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe (1972-1996). The historian’s status in his native Germany seems assured with continuing posthumous publications, scholarly attention devoted to his work, and the opening of his archives to researchers. Koselleck also remains a lively reference point among such thinkers and historians as Aleida Assmann, François Hartog, and Jacques Revel, not least following Paul Ricœur’s sustained engagement with his German contemporary. Translations of his writing (perhaps most prominently in Portuguese) and the practice of conceptual history further contribute to what has become a global reputation.

Speakers at an AHA panel this last weekend discussed the limits of this influence.* Helge Jordheim addressed the continuing feasibility of larger tropes found throughout Koselleck’s writing, most prominently the notion of a Sattelzeit (‘saddle-time) or a transitionary period into political (even secular) modernity roughly spanning 1750 and 1850. The notion of a Sattelzeit itself hearkens back to his earliest work. In his dissertation (published as Kritik und Krise or Critique and Crisis in 1959), Koselleck famously argues that the 17th century absolutist state inadvertently created the first effective, oppositional public sphere in the Enlightenment. This laid the foundations not only of the French Revolution, but also of the liberal subject (as understood today) and of the modern political order which followed. This latter period furnishes the span of Koselleck’s studies in conceptual history, namely programmatic studies of semantic change in key political concepts. Kathleen Davis questioned the consequences for historiography in this broader division, however, and not least in terms of reconceiving the Middle Ages as such. (The triad of antiquity, mediaeval, and modernity also preoccupied Jacques Le Goff to the end of his career, incidentally.)

Koselleck is not a systematic thinker, and he constantly revised his theories. While conceding a theoretical blurriness, the AHA panelists make a strong case that Koselleck’s legacy should be contested and both geographically and chronologically expanded. How far can this be done?

Two notions spring to mind. The first applies to the Sattelzeit thesis and the professional turn to global history imagined by Michael Geyer and Charles Bright among others. Following such historians as Adam Tooze, we might take the 1870s as the starting point for a worldwide convergence of (and converging opposition to) political and economic vocabularies. This is not to advance a theory of modernity, necessarily, nor indeed to dismiss the alternative national histories floating about before, during, or after the period in question. (Here Koselleck’s notion of a modern ‘collective singular’ arising in historical thought also bears upon any reconstructed ideas of progress.) As per Koselleck’s account of conceptual history, both semantic change and the circulation of ideas would prove jagged and asymmetrical in any historical telling. Yet the larger Sattelzeit thesis—when extended beyond Germany—could be tested against any history of globalization or a perceived global condition.

Conceptual history also expands beyond political concepts in Germany. Indeed, the same historiographical approach applies just as easily to larger transnational exchanges. These also prove more expansive in terms of content, finding traction not only in political but also in politicized vocabularies. Carol Gluck and Anne Lowenhaupt-Tsing’s volume Words in Motion: Toward a Global Lexicon (2009) furnishes a wonderful model for global history written in this key.

Another suggestion bears upon a possible conceptual history of human rights. The subject has recently become one of the most formidable and exciting fields in history: formidable, in light of the exacting debates swirling around its origins and character; exciting, in the sheer volume of its historiography today. But where will histories of ideas, of governmental policy, and NGOs now lead historians?

Koselleck’s insistence that circulation refines and changes concepts may afford a broader historiographical frame. Ideas trickle down and bubble back up. Drawn against a global stage, the receptions (plural) of human rights ideas and policies would vary between regions, states, areas, political identifications, and people before returning to political science departments and the occasional history blog. How deep do the archives extend on this score? What sorts of translation occurred within and across languages, which mediums carried the ideas, and how far did global aspects of human rights travel? Is there a social history, a cultural history, a media history, and so on for human rights?

The research program of Koselleck’s great lexicon, the Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, establishes an initial framework for these questions. The introduction sketches out levels of reception while implicitly tracing an arc of scholarship. Historians begin with ‘classic’ (Klassiker) texts in political theory, philosophy, jurisprudence, theology, and so on—call it the ‘Great Man’ approach to intellectual history—before advancing to ‘widely circulating’ (Streuweite) texts including literature, journalism, pamphlets, bureaucratic records, and scholarship as much as private letters and diaries. This constitutes the great work of archives then contrasted against the third-level of ‘dictionaries’ (Wörterbücher), namely the reference works progressively fixing (or attempting to fix) concepts for each period.

This schema may first appear overly-determined. Yet in practice, the historiography blurs and leads ever outwards. One example for human rights historians in this register can be found in the career of Robert L. Bernstein, founder of the Human Rights Watch as well as the long-term head of Random House.** The publication of dissidents under Bernstein’s aegis might conceivably furnish a history of the book or a literary history for human rights, say, and an account of popular intellectual history of American readers of Soviet dissidents. If Koselleck’s theories and conceptual history indeed open up such new perspectives and even archives for consideration, what other anchors for a global history of human rights can be found elsewhere?

*Please note that the panel was incomplete.
**The author thanks Timothy Nunan for this reference.

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Intellectual “Entanglements” and the Status of Modern British History

by Emily Rutherford

In my post about the History Manifesto last week, I wrote that one of the things I want to explore on this blog is the “crisis” in which the national history of modern Britain has found itself in the last fifteen or so years. As the historical discipline has become increasingly global in its outlook, British history rightly no longer enjoys the disproportionate emphasis it once had in North American departments. Now that it is no longer professionally viable for graduate students to focus in this one national field, and thanks also particularly to the theoretical interventions of subaltern studies and new methods in imperial history, it is much rarer to find a North American historian who will take the risk of specializing in British (rather than imperial, comparative European, or Atlantic World) history. (Given its status as the national history, the field is not in anything near the same level of decline in the UK.) Furthermore, it is harder to justify the relevance of studies which focus on actors who had little awareness of themselves as imperial subjects, whose lives were lived largely within Britain and shaped by distinctively British cultural and social factors. I write about people who, while they often corresponded with Europeans, Americans, Indians, and others, lived their professional lives in the Oxbridge-London triangle, rarely spoke other living languages (Latin and Greek were another matter), and only left the UK very occasionally for a lecture tour in America or a holiday in the Alps. It’s all a bit… parochial.

Still, I’d like to say a little about a new, very global, even anti-British-history, book that unexpectedly offers some opportunities for historians concerned with telling stories about intellectual cultures distinct to nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Britain. Kris Manjapra’s Age of Entanglement: German and Indian Intellectuals across Empire, published by Harvard last year, undertakes an exciting experiment in deciding deliberately to leave Britain out of a story of encounters between German and Indian intellectuals in the period roughly 1880-1930. Indeed, argues Manjapra, Indian and German intellectual relationships in a variety of fields, from experimental science through philology and psychoanalysis to visual art, were formed in explicit opposition to a perception of British hegemony around the globe (9). He traces significant and surprising connections among both left- and right-wing ideas, which eventually had major consequences for European and world politics. German Orientalist scholarship produced in collaboration with British imperial agents was adopted by the Nazi ideology of Aryanism; an anti-imperialist discourse in which German and Indian Marxists participated had unintended consequences in fascist theories of Lebensraum. But before the rise of the Nazi Party, German “post-Enlightenment” thought and Indian collaborations carried the possibility of a third way for imagining the global order, between Western European liberalism and Soviet communism—potential that was eventually firmly eclipsed by the the Cold War’s binary division of the world and the rise of a “Third World” discourse to which India was consigned (276, 290). Manjapra deftly maps these rapidly-shifting political stakes through the first decades of the twentieth century, in the process making a good case for intellectual history’s ability to demonstrate how the unintended consequences of ideas can bear a causal relationship to world-historical events.

Yet it’s impossible to avoid how Britain as a national category and British actors who helped to broker connections between Indians and Germans haunt Manjapra’s account. There were two particular examples that grabbed my attention. First, the famous German philologist and Sanskritist Friedrich Max Müller took on Indian students and played a pivotal role in founding an academic school of German Orientalism whose fate in Germany and India Manjapra traces throughout the book. But Max Müller did his work in England, in Oxford, surrounded by English as well as German and Indian students and colleagues, in a rich intellectual and cultural context that bore a closer and more complicated relation to British imperialist, anti-imperialist, and simply-apathetic-to-imperialism thought than Manjapra seems to want to let on. Second, in a smaller episode, Manjapra describes Freud’s correspondence with the Indian psychoanalyst Girindrasekhar Bose, who along with other Indian psychoanalysts infused Freud’s ideas with classical Indian philosophy, creating a new form of psychoanalysis with a particular nationalist valence. But Bose did not know German: he and Freud corresponded in English, using not Freud’s own jargon but the English translations James Strachey had created, such as “id” and “ego,” and in the process telling the historian a great deal about what a British or English intellectual context might have to do with this Indo-German encounter.

In the story of Freud and Bose, Manjapra says that English functions merely as a “trade language” (225), but there is much more than this to be said about the role of a distinctively British intellectual context and actors who operated in relation to it. Manjapra and other historians have redrawn maps of geopolitics and intellectual encounters that destabilize uncritical assumptions of Britain’s centrality and relevance, but there’s no reason that British historians should not regard this as an invitation to reformulate and strengthen claims for the relevance of the British context to understanding transnational episodes in intellectual history such as the late-nineteenth-century development of philology or psychoanalysis. In the process, my suspicion is that it will become clearer how British historians’ rich understandings of the cultural milieux in which such ideas were developed can aid in understanding their movement across borders; what forms of intellectual and cultural exchange were practiced between British and German writers and academics (an under-examined topic in this period); and perhaps also what relationship there is between imperial might and less hierarchical forms of international intellectual relationships like those Age of Entanglement seeks to describe.