The 20th Century in Basic Concepts. A Dictionary of Socio-Political and Cultural Semantics in Germany
The project The 20th Century in Basic Concepts. Dictionary of Socio-Political and Cultural Semantics in Germany continues the historical dictionary Basic Concepts in History, associated with Reinhart Koselleck. The articles therein concentrated on the so-called “Sattelzeit,” the epochal threshold in which the cultural semantics of medieval Europe transformed into the modern world, that is, on a conceptual-historical examination of the emergence of modernity. In the entire 119 articles, however, the 20th century merely figures in short outlooks. They reveal that by the 20th century many concepts had already lost their radiance, had become semantically empty or obsolete, or had been replaced by new concepts.
The planned dictionary is an interdisciplinary and cooperative research project intended to go beyond enshrining established knowledge. Rather, we intend to make an experimental contribution to basic research in the humanities, in cultural studies, social sciences, and in history. Taking our cue from Koselleck’s characterization of the historical narrative, our aim is ‘writing down, writing further and rewriting history’ from the perspective of a changed present. Especially, however, new basic concepts emerging in the 20th century shall be examined. As such, Koselleck’s overarching hypotheses will be put to the test and, in turn, may possibly be historicized themselves.
Methodologically, the concepts will be approached from a different perspective than in the original endeavor, conceived of more than half a century ago. This concerns, for example, the use of broader source material that is more easily accessible and evaluated with digital technologies today. Conceptually, this entails not only the inclusion of metaphor, as called for by Koselleck himself, but also a fresh approach to the relation of factual and conceptual history.