This year’s RSPH/OPG Summer School is dedicated to studying politics ‘from below’. This Summer School prepares students to apply a multifaceted approach in writing political history. Students will delve into key historiographical debates and theories on politics from below, democracy and political representation from a multidisciplinary perspective (history, philosophy, political science). The Summer School offers a discussion of recent research on citizen letters, petitions, protests and the mass media (printed press, radio, TV). In a workshop setting, students are invited to work with various sources and methods to write political history from below.
Writing Political History from Below
Assessing the state-of-the-art in 2013, Willibald Steinmetz and Heinz-Gerhard Haupt concluded that ‘governments, monarchs, parties, or parliaments … still get the bulk of attention in many new political histories’. Although this still holds true today, studying politics from below or at the intersection of the ‘formal political world of representation and the informal political world of everyday life’ (Lawrence 2009) has been on the up. Testimony to this is research by political historians on petitioning, correspondence, electoral culture, public opinion formation, popular culture, the rise of the citizen-consumer, and the mass media, among other topics. In political theory and philosophy, too, the notion of ‘the people’ and bottom-up perspectives on political representation and democracy are en vogue.
Yet, those interested in such approaches to political history are confronted with a range of challenges. First of all, the lack of a shared vocabulary among political historians. Doing political history from below comes with a variety of concepts, such as ‘popular politics’, ‘the politics of everyday life’, ‘subaltern politics’, ‘ordinary politics’, and ‘public politics’. Definitions often remain vague. Second, a (supposed) lack of sources and representativeness: archives are highly geared towards offering access to high politics (institutional and personal archives) and the sources we do have are not equally distributed in terms of class, gender, ethnicity etc. Third, the interaction between the formal and informal political world is often staged and mediated, with the mass media playing a key role.
These challenges form the starting point for our summer school. First of all, you will familiarize yourself with the key historiographical debates and theories on politics from below, democracy and political representation from a multidisciplinary perspective (history, philosophy, political science). Second, you will explore and discuss recent research on citizen letters, petitions, protests and the mass media (printed press, radio, TV) with a focus on Western Europe. Third, you will get to work with various sources and methods to write political history from below and get the opportunity to formulate or finetune your own research ideas in a collaborative setting. You can draw inspiration from ongoing research projects conducted by the tutors of this summer school in which they approach political history from below.
The Summer School consists of several keynote lectures, workshops and thematic seminars on topics such as resistance, mass media sources, and digital humanities. During the week, there will also be time to work on assignments and opportunities to get to know fellow participants, the supervisors and (guest) lecturers.
PhD researchers, ReMA and MA students with an interest in political and social history (number of ECTS: 3-5)
After completing this summer school you are able to
– Combine a philosophical, political scientific and historical approach to the topic
– Offer a conceptual and theoretical reflection on writing history from below
– Find and select sources and methods to explore political history ‘from below’
Harm Kaal (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Marnix Beyen (University of Antwerp)
Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Please register with email@example.com before 31 March 2023 and mention a) your home university b) whether you are a PhD candidate, research master student or master student registered with the OPG (Research School Political History). If not, please mention the research school or (research) master program you are enrolled in. Enrollment is on a first come, first served basis, except for members of the OPG, who have priority access. The maximum number of participants is set at 25.
• Before the start of the summer school, participants begin preparations for a group presentation, to be delivered during one of the thematic seminars, in which they discuss key literature (8 hours in advance, 1 hour preparation during the summer school, 10 minute presentation)
• At the final day of the summer school, each participant delivers a presentation in which they apply one or more key elements of the summer school (theories, concepts, methods, sources) to their own research or research interests (e.g. presentation of a source and how it helps you to integrate a from below perspective in your research).
• Optional assignment for extra credits (2 EC): you write a short research article (c. 3000 words) which either offers a historiographical discussion of key literature / literature review or which presents an analysis of a specific case study. To be handed in one week after the conclusion of the summer school.
Attendance is compulsory in order to receive credits for this summer school.