Der Glanz der leeren Mitte ~ The Glamour of the Empty Centre
CFPs Interdisciplinary Symposium May 27-29, 2020
King’s University College at Western University invites abstract submissions for an interdisciplinary symposium aimed at researchers engaged in the political, cultural, and social legacies of the Weimar Republic.
“Weimar in 20/20” tackles the insistent presence – in politics, culture, and social identities – of the Weimar Republic, whose foundational revolutionary impulses reach us today filtered through an intervening century of memory, nostalgia, regrets, and unfinished business. Weimar in the year 2020 is an urgent inspiration and warning: an uncertain blueprint for contemporary politics and values that even in hindsight, we struggle to evaluate clearly, with “20/20” vision.
As a starting point to interrogate this struggle, we propose as a key theme the fraught notion of the “centre”: the preoccupation with structuring a middle ground, of stimulating egalitarianism, of achieving republican consensus in the face of radicalization, partisanship, fragmentation, deep distrust, and disillusionment.
Topics addressing the potential, the successes, and the failures of Weimar’s pursuit of a stable political, cultural, and social “centre” might include:
- The search for political middle ground against a background of polarizing, radical, divisive discourses; competing centrist campaigns;
- Berlin as metropolitan hub: as cultural utopia, as decadent, as cosmopolitan, as commercial nexus;
- Constitutional liberties and freedoms opening “space” for new social identities, aesthetic experimentation, cultural exchange;
- Weimar’s “central” role in defining and critiquing contemporary notions of state, republicanism, nationhood;
- The re-centering of German identity on historical and cultural consciousness;
- The centre as a meeting point: a place of unity and/or consolidating authority; the centre as a gap, deteriorating into an indeterminate political vacuum;
- The dissipation of the centre: the multiplication of discourses of critique; competing voices; frenzied activity in the press and mass culture; Weimar from inside and out; hollow protest; satire; Expressionism; horror;
- Centralizing forces; propaganda; mediating technologies; mass audiences; popular culture;
- Enlightenment optimism crushed by nihilism – the problem and discomfort of emptiness;
- The call to reconstruct the centre; middle ground as a vacant site to (re)build and (re)imagine.