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Intellectual History & Politics


The Intellectual History cluster fosters collaboration between colleagues and postgraduate students working within the broad field of the history of ideas. It encourages the presentation and dissemination of research exploring the changing landscape of intellectual exchanges in the field of European cultures. The richness of expertise of the cluster’s members means that it can encompass a multiplicity of critical approaches and methods (literary and cultural studies, political studies, sociology, psychology, among others). As an interdepartmental structure under the aegis of the School of Languages and Cultures, the Intellectual History cluster is particularly keen to encourage comparative approaches to cross-disciplinary subjects.

Areas of research

On 23-24 March 2015, Henk de Berg and Karine Zbinden organised an international colloquium on the work of the Bulgarian-born French thinker Tzvetan Todorov. The video below gives an impression of the topics and speakers (there are no full-length papers):

Todorov Colloquium Poster 2015

Originally known for his ground-breaking work in literary theory, Tzvetan Todorov is now firmly established as one of the wold’s foremost cultural critics.

A true son of the Enlightenment, he both defends our fundamental values and questions our deepest certainties. His critical interventions cover an astounding range of topics, from narratology to anti-Semitism, from painting to politics, and from history to current affairs.

Todorov addresses highly complex intellectual and social challenges with lucidity and equanimity, yet without avoiding controversial issues such as Islamic fundamentalism, the war in Iraq, and the International Criminal Court. The colloquium explored the variety of domains encompassed by Todorov’s intellectual activity, focussing on in particular on four topics: critical humanism and the legacy of the Enlightenment; totalitarianism and democracy; the role of the intellectual in the 21st century; literature and the humanities.

Marxism, Early Soviet critiques of orientalism, Gramsci and cultural theory (Prof. Craig Brandist). Languages of ideological subjection (Althusser, Balibar), Imperialism and neo-colonialist discourse (Dr. Sophie Watt)

Czech underground and dissident literature (Jan Matonoha, corresponding member)

Intellectual history events

The cluster and its members are involved in the organization and animation of various activities across departments, such as: