The Politics of Sovereignty and Globalism in Modern Germany

March 22-23, 2019
Conference at the GHI
Conveners: Rüdiger Graf (ZZF Potsdam), Quinn Slobodian (Wellesley College), Heidi Tworek (University of British Columbia), Anne Schenderlein (GHI Washington) 

Given the present challenges to what has been called the liberal world order, our conference seeks to revisit and reexamine the relationship of sovereignty and globalism in the modern era. We will use the case study of Germany and German-speaking Central Europe, which has been the site and source of extreme claims for both sovereignty and globalism over the last 150 years. From the colonial annexations of the late 19th century to the hypertrophy of sovereignty claims under the National Socialists, from the two Germanies' limited sovereignty within the postwar globalist projects of East and West blocs to unified Germany's current status as both global capitalist power and proponent of shared sovereignty in European institutions, modern Germany offers a paradigm case of the entangled histories of sovereignty and globalism. The arc of imperial dissolution annexation and independence in Austria offers a similar passage through degrees of self-rule.

Rather than seeing sovereignty and globalism as factual descriptions of the world or properties that states either have or lack, we seek to historicize the concepts in question, conceiving of them as claims that historical actors made, challenged, and denied. We invite contributions that analyze the often heated political and intellectual debates about how the principles of globalism or national sovereignty should shape the world. How has the slippery concept of sovereignty been stabilized as it moved between the scales of the individual, the people, the state, the empire, and the earth?  How have abstractions with no fixed referents, such as sovereignty and globalism, taken on such power in the political imagination and history of our times? How do they retain political traction with advocates and adversaries who defy separation along the classical fractures of the political spectrum?

Possible themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • The status of sovereignty and globalism in German legal debates
  • Redefinitions of sovereignty in structures of multilevel governance in Europe and beyond
  • International human rights regimes
  • Ordoliberalism and neoliberalism as reflections on sovereignty and globalism
  • German and Austrian roles in globalist projects like the North-South Commission, the Club of Rome and international systems research
  • German participation in global standard-setting and norm creation
  • Imperial and National Socialist visions of global order

Scholars interested in presenting a paper at the workshop are invited to send a brief abstract of 250-300 words as well as a short CV by June 15, 2018 to Susanne Fabricius (fabricius@ghi-dc.org). Participants will be notified by mid-July and are expected to submit a paper for pre-circulation by February 15, 2019. Travel and accommodation costs will be covered, pending further approval, but we also encourage participants to draw on institutional funding when available.