Cultures of Crises. Workshop II: Globalising the Concept of Crisis in the 20th Century

Internationaler Workshop
Datum: 21.06.2018 to 22.06.2018
Ort: Potsdam

Rüdiger Graf, Riem Spielhaus

The workshop within the Leibniz research network “Crises in a Globalizing World”  explores if and how the concept of crisis, which was closely connected to a specifically European modernity, proliferated in other parts of the world. Experts Africa, the Middle East and Arab World, Eastern Europe and East Asia will discuss if and how the concept of crisis was translated into other languages and cultures in the course of European expansion and imperialism? Did indigenous languages have descriptions for situations and constellations within societies that are comparable to the European notion of crisis? How did these descriptions differ from the concept of crisis and did they change in processes of translation and interpretation that came about through asymmetrical cultural exchange?”

At the workshop, we do not expect fully-fledged presentations but chose an exploratory format to encourage lively debate among the participants. In four sessions, we will address a set of questions concerning the global conceptual history of crisis. In each of these sessions, we ask participants for short (five minute) introductory statements concerning these questions from their area of expertise.

Programm (pdf)


Thursday, June 21 13:30 – 14:00

Welcome and Introduction
Rüdiger Graf / Riem Spielhaus

14:00 – 16:00 Crisis – The Globalization of a European Concept?


a) In your area of research, do you find an explicit reception and appropriation of the European concept of crisis in the Koselleckian sense sketched above? Was crisis introduced as a loanword into local languages?

b) Are there paradigmatic works by scholars of politics, economy, society or culture that helped to proliferate the concept of crisis? Was there an emblematic event/process to which the concept was ascribed that later served as a paradigm for crises?

Coffee break

16:30 – 18:30 Alternative Concepts for Processes of Crises

In its traditional meaning the concept of crisis signifies transformative periods within a generally progressive temporalization of history, moments of decision in which the future of society, economy or culture is open but this openness is about to be reduced.


a) In your area of expertise, do you find this perception and at which moments did it occur?

b) Which other concepts were used to describe these periods? To what extent did they differ from a European/Koselleckian notion of crisis as sketched above?

19:00 Dinner


Friday, June 22

9:00 – 11:00 One Concept Fits All? “Crisis” in Politics, Economics, Society, and Culture

Crisis is a ubiquitous catch-all concept the meaning of which may differ according to context as well as over time.


a) In your area of expertise, can you define a singular concept of crisis or was its meaning case-sensitive differing when applied to politics, the economy, culture or society? How would you describe these differences?

b) With the increasing use of the concept recently, many authors in Europe and the United States argue that the concept of crisis has lost its original meaning signifying solely a deterioration of current states of affairs. Do you perceive a similar conceptual change in your research field?

Coffee Break

11:30 – 13:00 How to Use the Concept of Crisis: Historicization – Analysis – Narrative


a) Considering the multi-faceted and ubiquitous use of the concept in various historical circumstances, should historians, social scientists and scholars from the humanities confine themselves to historicizing the concept, exploring its use and function in specific situations? Or can we turn “crisis” into an analytic concept? What would the explanatory value of the concept of crisis be?

b) If you consider “crisis” to be an analytic concept: How would you define it and what explanatory work can it perform in your field of research? Is crisis more than just a convenient narrative device to reduce complexity?

Suggested Readings:

Reinhart Koselleck, Art. Krise, in: Otto Brunner/Werner Conze/Reinhart Koselleck (Hrsg.), Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe, Bd. 3, Stuttgart 1984, S. 1235–1245.

Reinhart Koselleck, Some Questions Concerning the Conceptual History of “Crisis”, in: Nina Witoszek/Lars Tragardh (Hrsg.), Culture and crisis. Germany and Sweden compared, Oxford 2003, S. 12–23.

Rüdiger Graf/Konrad H. Jarausch, "Crisis" in Contemporary History and Historiography (2017).

Michael Freeden, Crisis? How Is That a Crisis!?, in: Contributions to the History of Concepts 12 (2017), H. 2, S. 12–28.

Brian Milstein, Thinking politically about crisis: A pragmatist perspective, in: European Journal of Political Theory 14 (2015), H. 2, S. 141–160.



East Asia:

Professor Dr. Thomas Fröhlich (Hamburg)
Manu Goswami (New York/Berlin)

Eastern Europe:

Dr. Evgenii Savitskii (Moscow)
Dr. Magda Telus, (Braunschweig)


Prof. Dr. David Anderson (University of Warwick)

Near an Middle East:

Dr. Önder Cetin (Braunschweig)


Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam
- Großer Seminarraum -
Am Neuen Markt 9d
14467 Potsdam



Kontakt und Anmeldung

Der Workshop ist intern.

Priv.-Doz. Dr. Rüdiger Graf
Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam
Am Neuen Markt 1
14467 Potsdam
graf [at]