ZiF Workshop

The Proletarian Moment: Interdisciplinary Approaches, Comparative Perspectives

Date: 17 - 18 August 2018
Convenors: Sabine Hake (Austin, USA), Benjamin Kohlmann (Freiburg i.Br., GER)

On two days in August 2018, a group of eleven scholars from Europe and North America met to address a topic long neglected in humanities scholarship. The so-called proletarian moment of the interwar years and beyond brought profound social, political, and cultural changes in the name of the October Revolution and transformed the culture of socialist, nationalist, populist, and anticolonialist movements. Workshop participants came from German, Scandinavian, and English Literature, Dance and Art History, as well as Korean, American, and Latin American Studies and shared a long-standing research interest in the relationship between art and politics, comparative histories of socialism and communism, and alternative genealogies of modernism and mass culture.

The workshop was organized with two goals in mind: to start an interdisciplinary dialogue that revisits these major questions from contemporary perspectives, including those of postcommunism and poststructuralism, and to explore the theoretical implications for a transnational history of 20th century class, culture, and politics. We precirculated papers and used the two days to give each presenter extensive feedback and explore the multiple connections among all papers. The final discussion produced three main findings: the surprising similarities between cultural and social experiments in Korea, Sweden, and Mexico, and so forth; the extensive exchange of ideas through the movements of peoples and ideas under conditions of communist internationalism but also of political exile and displacement; and the use of proletarian identifications in nationalist and internationalist movements and in the name of revolutionary and affirmative practices.

Instead of publishing proceedings, we decided to organize another workshop in summer 2020 that would involve more extensive forms of collaboration (e.g., in the form of coauthoring). Preparations will take place during an upcoming 20-22 June 2019 conference on "Radical Styles: Forms, Commitments, Traditions" organized by Benjamin Kohlmann at the University of Freiburg.

Teilnehmerinnen und Teilnehmer

Klaus-Michael Bogdal (Bielefeld, GER), Barnaby Haran (Hull, GBR), Nick Hubble (Middlesex, GBR), Theodore Hughes (New York, USA), Hannah Kosstrin (Columbus, USA), John Lear (Tacoma, USA), Michaela Menger (Mainz, GER), Natalia Murray (London, GBR), Magnus Nilsson (Malmö, SWE), Christoph Schaub (Durham, USA), Anna Strommenger (Essen, GER), Åsa Ulemark (Malmö, SWE)

Please direct questions concerning the organisation of the workshop to Trixi Valentin at the Conference Office. Questions regarding scientific content and contributions should be directed to the organizers.


Tel: +49 521 106-2769
Fax: +49 521 106-152769
E-Mail: trixi.valentin@uni-bielefeld.de