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  • Koselleck Lecture

    Campus der Universität Bielefeld
    Campus der Universität Bielefeld
    © Universität Bielefeld


The Koselleck Lecture is an annually recurring format established in conjunction with the biennial Koselleck Guest Professorship and has its focus on central questions of historical theory. In years when there is no Guest Professorship at Bielefeld University, the lecture aims to raise the visibility of young scholars in the field of historical theory.

The Koselleck Lecture is aimed at a broader academic audience.



10.05.2023 | 18:00-20:00 | Raum X-E0-002 und online

Seit Reinhart Kosellecks Prägung des Begriffs >vergangene Zukunft< in den 1960er Jahren hat sich das Feld der Geschichte und Geschichtsschreibung stark erweitert: Ihr Gegenstand ist nicht mehr nur das, was in der Vergangenheit tatsächlich geschehen ist (die res gestae), sondern auch das, was hätte geschehen können und was, obwohl einst nicht geschehen, doch auch künftig immer noch geschehen könnte. Diese virtuelle Geschichte umgibt die realen Ereignisse wie ein unsichtbarer Kranz möglicher, aber nicht realisierter Gegenwarten, Zukünfte und Vergangenheiten, die allerdings jederzeit ihre Rollen tauschen können: Virtuelle Geschichte wird zur Realgeschichte, Realgeschichte zur virtuellen Geschichte. Der Vortrag wird das Verhältnis zwischen beiden in der neueren deutschen Geschichte anhand der Zeitfiguren der >vergangenen Zukunft< und der >zukünftigen Vergangenheit< sowie an zwei materiellen Feldern virtueller Geschichtsschreibung verfolgen: am kategorialen Wandel statistischer Erhebungen und am Verhältnis von Träumen zur historischen Wirklichkeit.


13.10.2021 | 18-20:00 | online

We are living at the end-time of truth and as such are witnesses to the weakening of the epistemic fabric that holds our conception of fact and truth firm. Seemingly solid rules of evidence and argument no longer hold sway with the result that categories such as empirical evidence or scientific method can no longer be taken as articles of faith. This makes our current epistemological moment a perilous and important one because the coordinates by which we understand politics and ethics have been obscured, especially the historical ones.

In this lecture, I engage with our current historical moment (both where we are in and how we think about history) by means of two terms loosely borrowed from Distributional Semantics in the field of artificial intelligence: temporal vectors and the compass. Temporal vectors are a means to understand semantic change over time but they are unstable because while time is moving through them, we are also moving through time.  The compass serves as a heuristic device which provides an atemporal vector (outside of time, as it were) which provides stable coordinates by which we can orient ourselves.  We can think of our relationship to the past as akin to temporal vectors: while the historian produces history, history also produces the historian. Each is moving through the other.  Throughout the late 19th and into the 20th and 21st century, the discipline of history has purported to provide a compass, an atemporal vector outside of time, to navigate our relationship to the past and provide coordinates for political and ethical pronouncements.  But as our epistemic fabric has loosened, the general belief in history’s ability to provide such such coordinates has waned and, with it, history’s role as an arbiter of politics or ethics. 

What I propose is that we rethink the compass of history at the end-time of truth as one shorn of its atemporal dimension embracing instead a logic of anachrony.  What I mean by this is a compass that does not stand outside of time but one that points to sites where the past surges into the present unexpectedly, touching us and connecting with our concerns not only for the present but also the future.  This is a compass that seeks the sites of political and ethical intervention and as such engages in a different logic of history and a different mode of argument. The anachrony of the Surge—the unrestrained mingling of past, present, and future—is disorienting compared to the atemporal neutrality of a magnetic compass pointing North.  But just as the magnetic poles of our planet have shifted rendering such a compass misaligned, our old modes of history cannot guide us at the end-time of truth. Instead, we need a new compass of history that is not restrained by what has been, and is instead attracted to what can be thus pointing us toward critical political and ethical action.  The past as future, if you will, rather than a futures past.


30.10.2019 | 18-20.00 Uhr | Raum X-E0-002

In his essay on the need for theory in history (“Über die Theoriebedürftigkeit der Geschichtswissenschaft”, 1972), Koselleck distinguishes “historical time” from “natural” time: “Historical time,” he claims, is a product of a “denaturalization” and a “destruction of natural chronology,” which in Western history took place at the end of the eighteenth century. Prior to this, Koselleck argues, the process of history had been organized according to “natural” categories: the rise and setting of the sun and the moon, the change of seasons, as well as the birth and death of the members of the ruling dynasties. But from the late eighteenth century onward, historiography was reconfigured according to categories obtained from history itself, derived directly from historical events, experiences, and expectations, such as “progress, decline, acceleration, or delay, the not-yet and the not-anymore, the before and the after, the too-early and the too-late, the situation and the duration,” as he puts it in another article from the same year. In this lecture, I intend to revisit this moment, in history and in theory, taking Koselleck’s writings as framework. In the first part, I will discuss what in shorthand could be called the “denaturalization thesis”: that the modern regime of historicity – to use François Hartog’s term – emerges from a separation of historical from natural times, including cosmological, biological, and geological chronologies. This leads to a discussion whether recent turns in the theory of history, spearheaded by Dipesh Chakrabarty’s articles on “The Climate of History” and “Anthropocene Time”, could be understood in the same terms as a “renaturalization”. In the second part of the lecture, I will return to Koselleck’s work and explore whether his theory of multiple times offers us other ways to think and write about the relationship between historical and natural times, which might prove useful in reconfiguring history in the age of climate change, or rather, in Koselleckian terms, climate crisis. My hope is that this will enable us to throw new light on both the history of history and Koselleck’s work and thus contribute to current debates about the futures of historiography.

Poster 1

Poster 2 


25.10.2018 | 18:00 - 20:00 | Museum Huelsmann, Régence-Raum, Ravensberger Park 3, Bielefeld

François Hartog ist im Oktober/November 2018 als Koselleck-Professor zu Gast in Bielefeld. Er ist emeritierter Professor an der École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris und studierte bei Jean-Pierre Vernant. Seine Arbeiten verbinden auf hervorragende Weise die Geistesgeschichte der Antike mit Fragen der Historiografie und Geschichtstheorie.
Gerade in jüngster Zeit haben seine tiefen Analysen des gegenwärtigen Zeitverständnisses ihn zu einem der viel diskutierten Geschichtstheoretiker gemacht. Seine Vorstellung von Zeitregimen hat eine tiefe gesellschaftspolitische Dimension. Hartog diagnostiziert für unsere Gegenwart ein Abhandenkommen von Vergangenheit und Zukunft gleichermaßen. Dieser ‚Präsentismus‘ hat Auswirkungen, die zutiefst zu denken geben.



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