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Graduate Conference: The Roots of Global Civil Society

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The Roots of Global Civil Society From the Rise of the Press to the Fall of the Wall

The concept of global civil society has gained currency in recent years among social scientists and public policy practitioners. However, it is often seen as a contemporary phenomenon – a by-product of the wellspring of popular sentiment leading to the collapse of the Berlin Wall, or of the increasingly integrated global system which emerged in its wake.

Yet, the roots of global civil society – like those of globalisation itself – may be traced far further back. Ordinary citizens and subjects have long pursued social and political aims through organisations which spanned states and empires and crossed borders – and were often explicitly ecumenical in purpose. From Buenos Aires to Beirut, Paris to Penang, growing numbers of civil society institutions – cultural clubs, philosophical and learned societies, charitable organisations and reformist leagues – emerged throughout the nineteenth century. Their members increasingly thought globally, using the printing press and the telegraph to exchange ideas, and to put their claims before the world. By the early 1900s, women’s rights activists and socialists, anarchists and Marxists, radical nationalists and religious revivalists had all created movements which ran across, and sometimes undercut, borders. Indeed, the twentieth century witnessed not only successive reforms to international society, but also the growing prominence of organisations which sought to mobilise citizens for a global purpose – from the peace leagues of the 1920s and 1930s to the anti-globalisation movements of the 1990s.

Can we locate the roots of ‘global civil society’ in such events? How did historical actors understand the ecumenical dimensions of their activities at various locations and points in time? How were these notions articulated in their writings and pronouncements? And how were they embodied in the associations they created, and the friendships and alliances they contracted? How might we, in turn, define and use the concept of ‘global civil society’? The Cambridge World History Workshop invites scholars working across a broad range of time periods and geographical areas to help answer such questions around the theme of ‘global civil society’.

Possible topics might include, but are not limited to: - The concept of global civil society, and its utility as a category of world-historical analysis - Religious and secular conceptions of civic virtue in a global context - Cosmopolitan / Trans-national models of association and articulation - Interwar globalism and the anti-colonial moment - Trade unions, NGOs, and the post-1945 consensus from below - Global Civil Society from the 1960s

The conference will be held 2-3 October 2009 at the University of Cambridge. Please check the website for further details: We particularly welcome applications from graduate students and early-career academics.

Please send a 250 word abstract, including name, contact details, and institutional affiliation as a .doc attachment to the conference organisers: Su Lin Lewis Andrew Arsan Anne-Isabelle Richard

The deadline for applications is 10th May 2009.

This talk is part of the World History Workshop series.

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