Fung Global Fellows Program, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, Princeton University

For scholars of global history–particularly those working on topics related to the theme of resentment–here’s a terrific opportunity to spend a year in idyllic Princeton, New Jersey, with a community of scholars devoted to global history approaches. As a recent call for applications explains, Princeton University is pleased to announce the call for applications to…

Workshop: “Transnational Relations Between Eastern Europe/Russia-USSR and The Middle East, Late 19th Century to 1991” (Princeton University, US, February 10-11, 2017)

Here’s an recent call for papers for a wokshop on transnational history taking place at Princeton University (US), on February 10-11, 2017 entitled “Transnational relations between Eastern Europe/Russia-USSR and the Middle East, late 19th century to 1991.” The program has been organized by the Université de Genève and Princeton University partnership grant co-directed by Sandrine Kott (University of Geneva) and Cyrus Schayegh…

Visiting Fellowship, Princeton Institute for Regional and International Studies, Princeton University

The Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) at Princeton University has recently announced a call for applications to next year’s cycle of Visiting Fellowships. The call explains: The Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) invites applications for 3 to 4 visiting fellowships for the 2016-17 academic year (10 months), beginning September 1,…

Fung Global Fellows Program, Princeton University

As the application season descends upon us, here’s a recent posting for one-year post-doctoral positions as part of the Fung Global Fellows Program, at Princeton University’s  Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS). The call for papers, also available here, reads: Princeton University is pleased to announce the call for applications to the Fung…

Monoglot Empire: Tracing the Journey from Scientific Babel to Global English with Michael Gordin

If you can read this, you read English. That might not seem like such a big accomplishment–perhaps English is your mother tongue, or maybe as a consumer of historical scholarship you merely took it for granted that developing an excellent level of English comprehension was a requirement for the job. Seen in historical perspective, however, the linguistic landscape that makes it common sense for you to read this blog post–and not, say, one in Portuguese or Persian–is quite unusual. We live in a monoglot world of science and scholarship today, but for much of the historical record, the case was the opposite, as Russians struggled to learn French and Englishmen apologized for their poor German, even as a functional command of three or four languages was necessary merely to access everything published.

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Michael Gordin’s latest book, “Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English”

Making things more bewildering, however, we have lived in a monoglot world before–one, however, dominated by Latin and not the West Germanic language so many of us now call our own. Not only that, the English that has succeeded as the uniform standard has, as any non-native speaker can tell you, plenty of confusing features: phonemic polyvocality (“stiff,” “stuff,” and “staff” denote very different things), and plenty of irregular verbs (“freeze” in the past is “froze,” not “freezed,” for example). So why didn’t something more logical and, perhaps more importantly, not ethnic–something not already spoken by the English–win out? Why didn’t a more accessible constructed language, like Esperanto, succeed? How did this tectonic shift happen? How did we move from linguistic chaos to seemingly greater uniformity?

These are some of the questions taken up by Michael Gordin, Rosengarten Professor of Modern and Contemporary History at Princeton University, in his latest book, Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English, published earlier this year by the University of Chicago Press. While Gordin’s first monograph concerned itself with Dmitry Mendeleev (inventor of the periodic table), readers may also be familiar with his two books on the history of the of the atomic bomb, or his more recent volume on self-proclaimed cosmologist Immanuel Velikovsky and twentieth-century debates over standards of science and pseudoscience. In Scientific Babel, Gordin shows off his ability not only to digest complex scientific prose–in Russian, German, and French, in addition to his native English–but also to connect issues in the history of science with global trends in the modern period. That makes his work one of the most exciting things going in scholarship on the history of science today. It also makes him our guest in this, our first science-directed edition of the Global History Forum.…

Wartime Ghosts and Souls in Transit: Placing Soviet History in a Global Context with Franziska Exeler

Even at a time of a supposed turn towards more global history, our perspectives of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union remain dogged by an insistence on the inescapability of regional specificities. Not least among these are the names for these places themselves – Eastern Europe, itself a relatively recent moniker, cuts off places that once tallied among the richest in all of geographical Europe, like Prague, from a “real Europe” of Paris, London, and Rome, as if “Eastern Europe” itself has a specific, idiosyncratic but common character in a way not true of “Western Europe.” Even if the process of EU expansion and economic integration has rendered formerly ridiculed “Polacks” into Europeans, the same courtesy is not always extended to Ukrainians or Belarusians. As recent Western discourse over the Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine shows, commentators are eager to ethnicize and classify “Russian-speakers” from “Ukrainian-speakers,” as if the place is explainable only through reference to ethnicity and identity.

Obviously, the experience of both the Cold War and, for countries further east, membership in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, matters greatly for the present and future of countries like Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, and, not least, Russia. But to acknowledge the importance of local specifics or the Soviet heritage is not to admit to its monolithic mattering for the direction of those societies. Kiev and Warsaw as much as Singapore and London can be interrogated with the same array of questions, and with the same comparativist’s gaze, that seemingly “more global” sites might invite.

Franziska Exeler, our latest guest to the Global History Forum

That’s why we’re delighted to welcome as our guest to the Global History Forum Franziska Exeler, a historian of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, whose research explores the impact that extreme violence has on state and societies. In her work, she analyzes the choices that inhabitants of the Soviet European borderlands made and were forced to make under Nazi wartime rule, and examines their political, social and personal repercussions. By locating the Soviet case within the larger, indeed global moment of legal, political, and personal reckonings with the Second World War, she also investigates how community rebuilding could occur within, and at times through, an illiberal regime.

Franziska, who completed her PhD in History at Princeton University in 2013, is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. We had the chance to sit down with her recently to discuss her work and her reflections on how historians of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union might profitably situate their work in an international or global context.…

Call for Papers: “The Transformation of Global History, 1963-1975” (Princeton University, October 2015)

Here’s an intriguing call for papers for a conference on global history – on the history of the discipline rather than papers exhibiting global or transnational approaches per se – taking place at Princeton University this October 9-10, 2015. Historical scholarship underwent a transformative period between 1963 and 1975. From insightful thinkers as William McNeill, Fernand Braudel, Immanuel Wallerstein, Alfred Crosby, Sidney…

The Sino-Soviet Split and the Left as Global History: An Interview with Jeremy Friedman

Among the crimes cartographical and otherwise perpetrated by the Mercator projection, the Cold War projection of an Asia dominated by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China numbers among the most egregious. Famous for inflating land areas the further away they were from the Equator, when applied to the world of the early 1950s, the map projection made it seem as if the Communist world was monolithic. The greater part of Asia was covered with red ink, while the freedom-loving (and less cartographically distorted) blue fields of the earth shrunk before the grim crimson blob stretching from Berlin to Vietnam.

Of course, the “Communist world” was never as unified and cohesive as the mapmakers suggested. While the Soviet vision of proletarian workers unifying to overthrow capitalist oppressors and the Maoist vision of peasant armies challenging imperialists from from Hanoi to Havana seemed to march in lockstep to Cold Warriors, by the early 1960s, the two socialist powers came to irreconcilable differences. Soviet advisers were expelled from Beijing as Chinese leaders castigated the Soviets for making peace with the imperialist Americans; Soviet leaders denounced Mao as a revisionist and a nationalist.

But the Sino-Soviet Split, as it is called in English and Russian (“Sino-Soviet Hostility” in Chinese – zhōng sū jiāo’è), had ramifications that went far beyond the oceans of red dye spilled by the Mercator projections. As country after country “the Third World” gained independence, the Soviets and the Chinese were among the few major powers that offered compelling developmental – and historical narratives – to fledgling nations. But what would the meaning of Revolution be in a decolonizing world? Was Revolution really about anti-capitalism, as the Soviets argued? Or was the real essence of Revolution opposition to empire, as their Chinese rivals put forward? How did the Chinese challenge affect the Soviet outreach to the Third World, and vice-versa? And what was the effect of the Sino-Soviet Split on the intellectual repertoire of a global Left?

Jeremy Friedman, whose work forms the basis of this latest installment of the Global History Forum. Image courtesy of Yale University Office of Public Affairs and Communications

Jeremy Friedman, whose work forms the basis of this latest installment of the Global History Forum. Image courtesy of Yale University Office of Public Affairs and Communications

These are among just some of the questions at the heart of the work of Dr. Jeremy Friedman, our guest in this latest installment of the Global History Forum. Friedman, the Associate Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale University, is the author of the forthcoming Shadow Cold War, scheduled to appear with the University of North Carolina Press next year, in 2015. Global History Forum spoke with Jeremy recently to discuss his intellectual journey thus far, the book, and a forthcoming project on the history of the Third World.