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CFPs: German Historical Institute Spring 2011 Conferences

The German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C., has issued calls for papers for two upcoming conferences of interest to business and economic historians:

I. "Economic Crime and the State in the Twentieth Century: A German-American Comparison," to be held at the GHI on April 14-16, 2011; the convenor is Mario Daniels. The call for papers:
In view of the widely reported cases of corruption and fraud in companies such as Volkswagen, Siemens, and Enron, as well as the public outrage that followed in the wake of these scandals, it is surprising to note that relatively little historical research on economic crime in the twentieth century has been conducted to date. Although neighboring disciplines such as law, economics, political science, and sociology offer attractive approaches to the phenomenon of economic crime, they reflect little on the continuous changes in how illegal and immoral behavior has been defined and understood in the business world since the late nineteenth century.

This lacuna is even more conspicuous, as the relatively well-established field of corruption research has demonstrated that a historicization of nomenclature and a dense description of transformations in economic practices can afford far-reaching insights into historical societal forms, including their structures, conflicts, and developmental processes.

The workshop "Economic Crime and the State in the 20th century" would like to help fill this lacuna. To this end, it will try to draw on some of the methods and aims worked out in the field of corruption research and apply them to the entire spectrum of individual phenomena subsumed under the rather diffuse collective name of "economic crime," including embezzlement, tax evasion, certain forms of corruption, investment and subsidy fraud, antitrust infringement, and industrial espionage. Conclusions regarding the historical development of persecution by the state and the accompanying socio-political discussions are widely lacking for most of these offenses. Moreover, this enumeration of very different forms of delinquency shows the need for a concretization and differentiation of the employed terms and concepts. 
Paper proposals are welcome internationally from both young and established scholars from different disciplines, including, but not limited to, business history, economic history, economics, sociology, political science, and law. The workshop, to be held in English, will focus on discussions of pre-circulated papers of 5,000 to 6,000 words. Proposals should include a paper abstract (two pages maximum) and a short curriculum vitae in English. Proposals must be submitted via email (preferably in pdf format) by October 15, 2010 January 14, 2011, to Mario Daniels.  Expenses for travel and accommodation will be covered, though those selected are encouraged to defray organizing costs by soliciting funds from their home institution.  For a fuller explanation, please see the call for papers on the GHI website.

II. "Making Modern Consumers: Rationalization, Mechanization, and Digitization in the Twentieth Century," to be held at the GHI June 16-18, 2011; convenors are Gary Cross, Angelika Epple, and Uwe Spiekermann. The call for papers:
The historiography of twentieth-century consumption usually either analyzes processes of production or centers on narratives of actors. Consumption is presented as an active process, grounded in the changing patterns of needs and wants driven by firms, consumers, or both. While these narratives underline our understanding of rationalization as a process of acceleration, the rapidly developing spheres of consumption and production emerge as more or less autonomous, clearly separated from each other. Our conference will question this perspective.

In our view, historical analysis of consumption and consumerism in the twentieth century must include the structural economic and technological changes that are normally analyzed only in reference to a supposedly independent sphere of production. Depersonalized, anonymous structures shaped not only the way consumer goods were manufactured, but also reconfigured the sphere of consumption as well as the subject-formations and self-definitions of the individuals involved. Rationalization, mechanization, and digitization caused acceleration on all social levels. They shaped and were shaped by all aspects of twentieth-century consumption, from modern retailing, product design, advertising, and supposedly personal forms of communication to the perceptions and choices of all actors involved, including entrepreneurs, marketing specialists, and consumers.
To determine the extent and significance of these interactions among anonymous structures, the twentieth-century history of consumption, and the process of acceleration, the conference will focus on three major topics:
First, we will present and analyze basic structural innovations that served to rationalize, mechanize, and digitize consumption. We will provide insight into both the actors behind these processes and the new demands that these processes placed on individuals, particularly on consumers.  Second, . . . we will focus on how these anonymous structures led to the reconfiguring of services, consumer goods, and packaging-as well as of shops and other spaces of consumption. We will also examine shifts in the communicative presentation of services, changes in advertising and marketing, and redefinitions of salespersons, service staff, and consuming subjects. Third, we will focus on acceleration processes caused by the rationalization, mechanization, and digitization of production and consumption.
The conference will not only compare American and European developments and examples. It will also investigate their interactions and mutual interferences. Special attention will be given to papers that include developments in non-Western societies.
Paper proposals (one page preferred, two pages maximum) are welcome for all topics from both young and established scholars of different countries and disciplines. Proposals should include an abstract in English and a curriculum vitae. These materials should be submitted via email (preferably in pdf format) by October 15, 2010, to Bärbel Thomas. For a complete explanation, please see the full call for papers.

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