Nomadic concepts in the social sciences (Seminar, 15-16 June 2012, Newcastle University)

‘Nomadic concepts in the social sciences’
15-16 June 2012
School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University
Project leader: Prof. Olivier Christin (Neuchâtel)
Host: Dr Luc Racaut (Newcastle).

Many expressions that designate social groups, ideologies, chronological markers or simply summarize the organization of the contemporary world seem perfectly natural and without ambiguity for those who translate them and apply them to different contexts than those in which they first emerged: workers’ movement, avant-garde, intelligencija, secularism, labour or contemporary history are such words or expressions that seem to be taken as read and do not require prerequisite knowledge of their history in order to be used properly. Yet, this is not the case. These terms do not translate well and whenever they are used commonly or in the context of scholarly work, they generate pitfalls and evoke false cognates that muddy the waters so that the initial meaning is lost. Are we sure that we know what we mean by the West, humanitarian or administration and what they mean when these words migrate across linguistic and disciplinary boundaries? The nomadic concepts in the social sciences are specifically designed to take these expressions, which have become so familiar that they are no longer questioned, and replace them in their original context and explore how they have been transformed by different disciplines and in different languages. Dozens of specialists from continental Europe and the English speaker world, sociologists, ethnologists, historians, archaeologists, philosophers, etc. have gathered so far to delineate the meanderings of these terms and to offer an appropriate and reflexive use for them.

The Newcastle meeting will be the fourth in a series that has already generated one volume of the Dictionary of nomadic concepts in the social sciences.For more information contact Dr Luc Racaut, School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University.

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