History and Social Sciences

Departmental Seminar

Organised by Prof. Alexander Etkind and Prof. Stéphane Van Damme
Registration code: HEC-DS-HISOSC-20

  • Thursday 10 December (9:00-11:00) 
  • Friday 11 December (11:00‐18:00) 
  • Saturday 12 December (9:00‐18:00) 
  • Monday 14 December (14:00‐18:00) 

Admin. Assistant: Miriam Curci

Seminar description

Throughout the twentieth century and beyond, the historical discipline has engaged in sometimes peaceful, sometimes dramatic encounters with various social sciences –sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology, and economics. This seminar will examine some key moments in this ongoing dialogue. As we will see, the interaction was mutually beneficial: while the historical discipline borrowed from social sciences many concepts and tools for exploring the past of human society, behavior, and culture, it lent them important instruments for analyzing their own histories. We will explore different methodologies that emerged from historians’ engagement with social scientific enquiry, focusing both on ‘classic’ topics such as religion, culture, and technology, and on current debates about cultural anthropology and sociology. Throughout the semester, we will pay close attention to the different ways of ‘reading’ societies and exploring cultures that such cross-disciplinary borrowings have produced.

Participants in the seminar will take turns presenting the readings each week and launching discussions. They will also have an opportunity to write several response papers to these readings, and discuss them with the professors and other participants.


10 December (9:0011:00) 

Session 1 - 9:00-11-00: Rescaling History as social science: Big data, Case studies or story-telling?

  • Joan W. Scott, "Storytelling (about Natalie Davis)", History and Theory 50 (May 2011); 203-209.
  • Andrew Abbott, "What Do Cases Do?", in Time Matters. On Theory and Method (Chicago, 2001), chap. 4.
  • F. Trivellato, ‘Is there a future for Italian microhistory in the age of global history?’ (California Italian Studies, 2(1), 2011).
  • Lemercier, Claire. « A History Without Social Sciences? », Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, vol. 70th year, no. 2, 2015, pp. 345-357


11 December (11:0018:00) 

Session 2 - 11:00-13:00: Progress, Katechon and/or Social Sciences

  • Robert Nisbett. History of the Idea of Progress. New York: Basic Books 1980, a chapter.
  • Giorgio Agamben. The Time That Remains: A Commentary On The Letter To The Romans.  Stanford University Press 2005, a chapter.
  • Paul Virno. Déjà vu and the end of history. London: Verso, 2015 a chapter.
  • Ulrich Beck 2016.The Metamorphosis of the World: How Climate Change Is Transforming Our Concept of the World. Cambridge: Polity 2016.
  • Kate Brown. Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten, University of Chicago Press 2015, a chapter.

Session 3 - 14:00-16:00: The public, secrecy and conspiracy

Special Guest: Nicolas Guilhot

  • Antoine Lilti, "The Writing of Paranoia: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Paradoxes of Celebrity", Representations, 103, 2008, p. 53-83.
  • Luc Boltanski, Mysteries and conspiracies : detective stories, spy novels and the making of modern societies (2014).
  • Koen Vermeir and Dániel Margócsy, “States of secrecy: an introduction”, BJHS 45(2): 153–164, June 2012. British Society for the History of Science 2012.

Session 4 -16:00-18:00: Decolonization, History and Social Sciences

  • Susan Back-Morse, Hegel, Haiti and Universal History. University of Pittsburg Press 2009, 3-79.
  • Alexander Etkind. “Kant’s Subaltern Period: The Birth of Cosmopolitanism from the Spirit of Occupation”, in D. Gusejnova (ed.), Cosmopolitanism in Conflict,: Imperial Encounters from the Seven Years' War to the Cold War. Palgrave 2018, 55-82.
  • George Steinmetz, “A Child of the Empire: British Sociology and Colonialism, 1940s–1960s”, Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 2013, 1–26. 
  • Andrew Zimmerman, “German Sociology and the Empire”, In Sociology and Empire: The Imperial Entanglements of a Discipline, ed. by George Steinmetz. Duke University Press 2013.
  • Peter Mandler. Return from the Natives. How Margaret Mead Won the Second World War and Lost the Cold War. New Haven: Yale University Press 2013, 1-44, 223-254.


12 December (9:00-18:00) 

Session 5 - 9:00-11:00: The Material turn

  • Ann-Sophie Lehman, "How Materials make meaning?" in Meanings in Material (2013).
  • Tim Ingold, 'The Materials of Life', Making. Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture (2013), chapter 2.
  • Simon Werrett, 'Matter and facts: Material culture and the history of science", Alison Wylie and Robert Chapman, eds., Material evidence: learning from archaeological practice (2013).

Session 6 - 11:00-13:00: Histories of Psyences

  • Nikolas Rose, The Psychological Complex: Psychology, Politics and Society in England, 1869-1939. London 1985, 1-11, 39-62, 220-232.
  • Eli Zaretsky. Secrets of the Soul. A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis. New York 2005, 117-217.
  • Alexander Etkind, “Trotsky’s offspring: Revolutionaries, psychoanalysts and the Birth of ‘Freudo-Marxism”, The Times Literary Supplement, 9 August 2013. 

Session 7 - 14:00-16:00: History and anthropology of financialisation

Special Guest: Don Kalb (University of Bergen)

  • Don Kalb, “Conversations with a Polish populist: Tracing hidden histories of globalization, class, and dispossession in postsocialism (and beyond)” American Ethnologist, 36/2, 2009.
  • Don Kalb, “Financialization and the capitalist moment: Marx versus Weber in the anthropology of  global systems” American Ethnologist, 40/2, 2013.
  • Don Kalb, “Introduction. Transitions to What? On the Social Relations of Financialization in Anthropology and History”, in Financialization. Relational Approaches. Edited by Chris Hann and Don Kalb. Berghann: Oxford 2020, 1-42.

Session 8 - 16:00-18:00: The Spatial Turn

  • Charles Withers, "Place and spacial turn in Geography and in History", Journal of History of Ideas, 70/4, October 2009, p. 637-658.
  • George Marcus "Ethnography in/of the World System: The Emergence of Multi-Sited Ethnography", in Ethnography through Thick and Thin (Princeton, 1998).
  • Angelo Torre, "Un tournant spatial en histoire ? ", Annales HSS, 2008, 5, p. 1127-1144. 


14 December (14:00-18:00) 

Session 9 - 14:00-16:00: Joy Neumeyer (Max Weber Fellow, EUI): History of Emotions: Modernity as Melancholy

  • Barbara Rosenwein, “Worrying about Emotions in History,” American Historical Review 107, 3 (2002): 821-45. 
  • Mark D. Steinberg, "Melancholy and Modernity: Emotions and Social Life in Russia between the Revolutions," Journal of Social History 41, 4 (Summer, 2008): 813-841.

Session 10 - 16:00-18:00: Networking History

  • Bruno Latour, Reassembling the Social (OUP, 2007), introduction.
  • Bruno Latour, The Making of Law (Polity, 2010), chapter 2.
  • Timothy Mitchell, 'Carbon democracy', Economy and Society, 38:3 (2009).




Page last updated on 17 November 2020

Back to top