Subversive Concepts in Revolutionary Times

Theoretical Practice 1/2021

Editors: Piotr Kuligowski, Wiktor Marzec

Abstract submission deadline: April 30, 2020

Text submission deadline: September 15, 2020

Planned date of publication: March 2021

For centuries revolutionary movements have sought adequate categories to both criticize the existing world and to express the desire for a new one. Medieval Heretics, French revolutionaries, Russian social-democrats one hundred years later, or anticolonial militants – all had to face not only the armed forces defending the current order, but also confronted fossilized political discourses against which the expression of new ideas had to struggle.

Yet while revolutionary movements radically and widely reshaped the political vernacular, historians have mainly restricted their studies to elite discourse. The so-called Cambridge School, the influential German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte, or Jacques Guilhaumou and his collaborators, for instance, have all worked with methodological tool-kits designed to investigate conceptual innovations pursued mainly by political or symbolic elites.

While elite writers might act subversively by coining concepts that could become weapons in the hands of mass social movements, it is only in trickling down to the revolutionary masses who subsequently reappropriate and rearticulate those concepts, do they become truly popular and revolutionary.

Movements not only wield concepts that transcend the limits of the political imaginary, their expression and communication extends beyond elite media. Songs, poems and tales, banners and wood engravings have all served as important media for the expression of popular unrest. So too have the hidden transcripts of reception applied to the more top-down discourses that questioned their intended impact on the ground.

The central objective of this themed issue of Praktyka Teoretyczna is to overcome the existing elitist bias within the history of concepts. By applying novel methodological approaches and studying militant socio-political concepts along with their popular expression, we seek to examine subversive languages that have actively reconstructed understandings of the society and the enunciating subject. We invite contributions examining democratized, revolutionary concepts spreading across the social spectrum but also carrying the “popular” core, actively rebuilding society, concepts forged, profoundly redefined or, on the contrary, jettisoned by revolutionary movements. The scope of our interest is not limited to any particular place and time, we look for inspiring instances from different epochs and contexts. 

While the editors will accept article submissions for review without the prior submission of an abstract, we strongly encourage interested authors to contact us in advance. In the run-up to publication panels on the issue theme are planned for Historical Materialism London Conference 2020, History of Concepts Group Conference Berlin 2020 among others; the editors hope to develop a wider dialogue with potential contributors to the issue. 

Abstracts and full papers should be submitted via the online submission platform (https://pressto.amu.edu.pl/index.php/prt/about/submissions#onlineSubmissions). In exceptional cases, they may be sent directly to praktyka.teoretyczna(at)gmail.com

A special section will be dedicated to the conceptual change from below and the global shockwaves in the inter-revolutionary period between 1905 and 1917.

Exemplary areas of inquiry:

  •  Peasants’ rebellions and their key concepts
  • Proletarians and conceptual change
  • Popular media and conceptual change
  • Conceptual emanations of the multitude, rabble and crowd
  • Rebellion and reaction: elitist concepts towards popular unrest
  • Revolutionary concepts beyond language
  • Socialists and bottom-up, people’s concepts: symbiosis or rivalry?
  • Theorizing subversive concepts: revisits and reevaluations of established perspectives such as those of Pocock, Skinner, Koselleck, and others
  • How to write the people’s history of concepts?
  • Digital humanities and distant reading as means to tackle popular revolutionary concepts

 

Special section: the global impact of the 1905 Revolution and concepts during the inter-revolutionary prelude of 1905-1917.

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