• Conference

A Time for Destruction. The Geo-Politics, Techno-Politics, and Sensory Politics of World War I - PART 1: Geo-Politics in the Age of the Great War 1900 - 1930

World War I was a European war over the future of the world. But the futures of theworld that emerged from the war, including a yet more deadly war and a long period ofcold confrontation, were quite unlike anything the belligerents, high and low, hadexpected. It is to the futures of this violent past that the series of three conferences on “The Time for Destruction” is dedicated.

Historically minded observers, who have begun to remove themselves from the tense confrontations of nostalgia and utopia this war had generated, have begun to step out of the fog of archives in order to contemplate what happened in the light of what came of it. The latter is so important, because we cannot act as if the war has yet to happen, its consequences have yet to unfold, and its shadows have yet to lift. We now know — or, should we say, we could know if we took on the challenge of seeing this age of catastrophe as sediments of embattled futures — the kind of world that after even greater turmoil has become our world. Rather than looking in on World War I from the 19th century and consequently seeing it as a catastrophic flame-out of a prosperous, bourgeois age, we propose looking back on World War I from the other shore of the 21st century in order to see what the war begot. The first conference is concerned with the shifting tectonics of European civilization between 1900 and 1930. The image of shifting force fields that collide to explode in horrific bursts and ultimately give way to a new layout of the land serves as one of the most potent metaphors for what happened in World War I. This war was fought in defense of civilization, but it was evident to many, even foreshadowed in dreams of violence to come, that utter destruction not only was a product of a deep disquiet with, but also would inexorably change civilization. The nature of this tectonic shift is the subject of a first conference that takes the excess of destruction as a measure for the forces and movements that remade European civilization. The total nature of the war impacted all aspects of civilization in its material reality and its imagination: the spatial order of Europe and the world; the order of social bonds in and between communities and societies; the interiority and subjectivity of the human sense of self. These civilizational spaces — the way the world was configured — were the battlefields of a “greater war”, a struggle over civilized life that came to a head in the utter destruction of the Great War.

CONCEPTION: Michael Geyer (Departmentof History, University of Chicago), Helmut Lethen (IFK, Vienna), Lutz Musner (IFK, Vienna)
PARTICIPANTS: Richard Bessel (Department of History, University of York), Laura Engelstein (Department of History, Yale University), Ute Frevert (Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin), Christian Geulen (Department of History, University of Koblenz), Michael Geyer (Department of History, University of Chicago), Christa Hämmerle (Department of History, University of Vienna), Patrick Houlihan (Department of History, University ofChicago), Helmut Lethen (IFK, Vienna), Lutz Musner (IFK, Vienna), Elisa Primavera-Lévy (New York, IFK_Research Fellow),Tamara Scheer (Andrássy Universität Budapest), Karl Schlögel (Faculty of Social and Cultural Sciences, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt/Oder), Hew Strachan (Faculty of History, All Souls College, University of Oxford), Jay Winter (Department of History, Yale University)

Kindly supported by:
Kulturabteilung der Stadt Wien - MA7
Österreichisches Staatsarchiv