Events and Identity

Each and every year, anniversaries of historical events take place . Many of them go by unnoticed, but some of them are greatly celebrated and discussed . Especially when full decades or centuries have passed, conferences are held and large exhibitions are organized. Events are often said to have a special meaning for certain groups of people, they are said to belong to a development that lead to a common identity, or part thereof. The coronation of Charlemagne on Christmas 800, the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, or the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 8th and 9th, 1945, are just some examples. Events and how we see them can indeed create identities. But what is it that turns mere actions into “events”? How are they formed and how can their perception change?

There is a multitude of possible approaches to the study of events. Presentations in the workshop could give an overview on a certain event in history and its afterlife in political, scientific or other contexts. Moreover, the way of celebrating an event might be analysed in a more sociological perspective , for example by presenting surveys that are based on the perception of events, or by analysing the social habits that can be observed during event celebrations. A geographical approach could be taken by asking how the perception of certain events forms spaces, which sites are used for celebrations, what their specific role is, and how they change in different contexts. Finally, the theory behind events can be examined, and indeed many scholars – among them Paul Ricoeur, Hayden White, Reinhart Koselleck, and Lucian Hölscher, to name just a few – have discussed the question how and why events and their perceptions are constructed.

In attempting to give a broad overview on the study of events, this workshop has several general goals. On of them is to find one or more definitions of the term “event”, while another one is to find categories on which a comparative approach towards the study of events could be based. The workshop seeks to give ideas for a better understanding of the role of historical events for regional, national, transnational, and other forms of identities.

Back to the list of workshops.