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16.07.2020 09:42 Alter: 76 days

Towards a Global Intellectual History of an Unequal World

Call for Papers

Theme: Towards a Global Intellectual History of an Unequal World
Subtitle: 1945-Today
Type: Two-Day Symposium
Institution: Aarhus University
Location: Aarhus (Denmark)
Date: 10.–11.6.2021
Deadline: 31.8.2020

This two-day symposium is designed to investigate the global
intellectual history of inequality. It will do so through a double
global lens: How have intellectuals from around the world thought
about inequality in the world?

The aim of the symposium is to contribute with a new transnational
intellectual history of inequality in different geographical and
cultural contexts. The symposium will investigate links, differences
and similarities between different intellectual traditions, as well
as the circulation of inequality concepts and knowledge across
countries. It aspires to facilitate a unique transcultural and
multi-linguistic knowledge about inequality concepts, contributing to
the fields of global conceptual and intellectual history. The
symposium will aim at a special journal issue on the global
intellectual history of inequality, exploring relationships between
geographical anchoring (place) and thinking on inequality in history.
We are delighted that the journal Global Intellectual History has
kindly agreed to be the host of this special issue.  

Critics of global intellectual history have rightfully pointed out
that few connections are actually truly global (planetary), but can
much more adequately be described as transnational or transcultural
(or ‘transcolonial’ or ‘transimperial’) connections. Taking this
criticism into account, we are interested both in learning more about
the intellectual histories of inequality in non-western countries,
including in non-English, indigenous languages. Secondly, we are
interested in learning more about intellectual and conceptual
histories of transnational connections between various parts of the
world, such as North-South and South-South connections and
intellectual biographies of key thinkers on inequality whose
histories are linked to several countries and continents. How did
intellectuals across the globe address inequalities in a post-world
war II age of ‘development’, promises of universal human rights, new
data on inequalities, and of the crucial historical dynamics of the
Cold War and decolonization?


Global inequality is one of the major challenges facing the world
community. In 2015, the United Nations adopted a new set of world
goals, including bringing down inequality (both within and between
nations). Studies of ‘global inequality’ have surged in the social
sciences and the humanities in the last couple of decades. More
broadly, inequality is more than just the simple negation of
equality. Dating back to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and up until Thomas
Piketty among others, writings on inequality have constituted a
separate field of inquiry. In intellectual history, studies on
inequality have tended to focus on canonical works or a nation state
setting. We do not yet have a global intellectual history of (global)
inequality. There is a genuine need for a transnational and
transcontinental perspective which not only compares different
geographical spaces, but also studies the connectivity in important
exchanges of ideas and concepts within the South (as in the history
of the Non-Aligned Movement), and between North and South.

Themes: Space, Temporality, Legitimization  

We are especially interested in contributions on the intellectual
histories of inequality from ‘non-Western’ areas, cultures and
languages, and in contributions that map out transnational and
transcultural connections in the intellectual histories of
inequality. The latter could be — but is not limited to — for example:

- South-North or South-South connections
- Intellectual biographies of (émigré) scholars
- International organizations as a transnational intellectual
 ‘inequality space’
- Knowledge asymmetries between Northern and Southern concepts of
- Geographical experiences shaping the thoughts of key development
 economists or other prominent intellectuals on inequality
- How particular traditions of thinking on inequality — from
 dependency theory to modernization theory, from neoclassical trade
 theory to world systems theory — crossed continents and borders
- The role of indigenous concepts and political and natural languages
 on inequality
- Lesser known (marginal, women, indigenous) voices in the global
 intellectual history of inequality
- While this symposium is mainly devoted to the era from 1945 until
 the present day, we very much welcome proposals which go further
 back in history

Inequality is a multidimensional phenomenon, and many different
terminologies exist, distinguishing between, for example, national,
international and global inequality; inequalities of class, gender
and race/ethnicity; horizontal vs. vertical inequalities; vital,
resource and existential inequality; recognition vs. redistribution,
etc. While we are especially interested in intellectual histories of
global economic inequality, we also want to explore other aspect of
the multiple global intellectual histories of inequality. Economic
inequality very often intersects with other inequalities. Similarly,
it is an empirical question what kinds of inequalities intellectuals
addressed in the past, and what kind of ‘world’ they understood
themselves to belong to. For some, being woman, being black or being
part of a lower caste was even more defining for their world than
living in particular places, be they nation states, centers or
peripheries of empire, or being ‘a citizen of the world’. While we
are very interested in histories of intellectuals reflecting on being
part of an unequal world (e.g. defined as ‘South’ versus ‘North’ or
‘Periphery’ versus ‘Center’), we acknowledge that the historical
experience of what constitutes a persons’ world is highly
historically contingent.  

We are especially keen on investigating three aspects of the global
intellectual history of inequality: space, temporality, and

First, as stated in the above, we need to know more about what role
space has played in how global economic inequality has been
conceptualized. Indeed, the call for a more inclusive intellectual
history is especially urgent here. What were the main historical
differences, similarities and connections between Northern (Western)
and Southern concepts of global inequality in the postwar era?

Second, we need to know more about the role of temporality in
historical discourse on inequality. In the context here, temporality
can refer to past expectations about whether the world was moving
towards more (or less) inequality. Similarly, the concept of
‘development’ is not just a temporal concept in itself, but also a
term by which international economic inequalities can be
conceptualized as differences in ‘development’. Which temporalities
were embedded into discourses on global economic inequalities?

Third, we need to know more about how global economic inequalities
are legitimized. Recent research has shown that economic inequality
is extremely resilient. Which vocabularies have been used to
legitimize high levels of economic inequality, both between and
within nations? While some traditions of thought have evaluated
inequality negatively, others have been more accepting of inequality
(arguing that the real problem is poverty, not economic inequality),
such as different varieties of neoclassical and neoliberal economics,
theories of marginal productivity and of trickle-down. We need to
know more about the historical and geographical dynamics of these
different bodies of thought on inequality. How has postwar global
economic inequality been legitimized and critiqued?


We are delighted to welcome Adom Getachew (author of Worldmaking
After Empire, Princeton U.P. 2019) and Siep Stuurman (author of The
Invention of Humanity, Harvard U.P. 2017) as our two keynote
speakers. The key notes will be open to the public. We will organize
the rest of the symposium around pre-circulated papers, brief paper
presentations, followed by comments and discussion in a group of
maximum 15-20 participants. Please note that the symposium will be
open for digital presentations as well. We welcome proposals from —
and on — any region of the world.

Deadline for proposals

Please send a title, a 500-word abstract and a brief (one-page) c.v.,
all in one document file, to by Monday
31st of August 2020. In your abstract, please make it clear how your
paper relates to the theme(s) of the symposium. Please note in your
submission whether you would like to present physically or digitally.
While there will be no conference fee, please also let us know
whether you will be needing financial help for your travel and
accommodation (as we have some limited funds available for such
assistance). Selected participants will be notified by 30th September
2020. Participants are expected to send a work-in-progress paper (max
4000 words) by January 31st 2021, and a full paper (max 8000 words)
by 31st March 2021. Full papers will be distributed to and expected
read by all participants before the symposium.


Global Inequality Project