Laboratories of the Social: Utopian Settlements and Reform Movements in the Long 19th Century

27.01.-28.01.2022, Workshop, online

Anne Kwaschik (Universität Konstanz) and Claudia Roesch (GHI Washington)

The two-day virtual workshop investigates utopian reform movements, settlements, and co-operative projects as sites of knowledge production in the long 19th century. It conceptualized these sites as laboratories, where social epistemologies and alternative designs for future societies were tested out. Rather than understanding settlements or co-ops as realms of withdrawal from modern society, the workshop seeks to investigates them as productive sites of social knowledge, where alternative forms of modern society were produced, and ailments of contemporary society were delineated. Experiments and everyday experiences were central to knowledge production in these settlements and co-operatives. Their insight would become formalized through publications, circulation of testimonies and tracts and national / international conferences and organizations.

In addition to investigating the relationship between reform movements and academia, we are especially interested in the nexus between reform movements and colonialism and in placing social reform movement within a global history trajectory. We also ask how Western community ideas are employed in colonial settings. The workshop intends to trace how alternative social knowledge often traveled on established routes of empire and colonialism but might also take exceptions and unlike routes of exchange.

The goal of the workshop is to decentralize narratives of alternative social epistemologies by bringing together historians on early socialism, Lebensreform movements and cooperativism from different parts of the world. This includes Eastern and Western Europe, North Africa, and the Americas. Using a history of knowledge approach, it wants to put emphasis on the different aspects of boundary work activists performed in establishing alternative forms of living and knowing.

Contact Claudia Roesch by January 21, 2022 for information on how to attend the workshop.

Conference Program