The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as well as the escalating climate crisis point to the acute necessity of understanding collective experiences. How do we conceive of and perceive what happens to us together? How do we collectively react (or fail to react) to such experiences? The era of social media creates new ways to share experiences and emotions, revealing how collective experiences can be produced and mediated. Why do some events and experiences seem to be collectively shared and acted upon while others do not?
Historical research can provide important answers to these questions, for example by historicizing the dynamics between subjective and collective experiences, by analyzing the ways shared realities are constructed in different historical contexts, and by studying the changing roles of different media and systems of meaning in shaping collective experiences. Nevertheless, if we wish to elaborate on collective experiences and their limits, the available historiographical approaches and methodologies need to be further developed. Often, the “collective” is used loosely to refer to any social grouping, synonymous with a number of other terms (social, shared, communal, joint, national, etc), or it is avoided altogether in order not to presume any collective mind or monolithic identity. Historians’ suspicions towards collective experiences are well-founded: when looked at through intersectional lenses – class, age, gender, disability, ethnicity, etc. – seemingly collective experiences are usually diverse. Yet while hardly any historian assumes that a nation or a people experience events uniformly, it is still commonplace to use a shorthand, such as “Finnish” or “imperial” experience. What can historians learn from the social and behavioral sciences in thinking about collective experiences and emotions? And what is the historian’s contribution to the study of collective experiences?
To answer these and other related questions, the conference will be an opportunity to develop collective experiences as a concept for historical analysis and explanation. Professor Piroska Nagy (Université du Québec à Montréal), Professor Mikko Salmela (University of Copenhagen) and Professor Maarten Van Ginderachter (Antwerp University), will provide wide-ranging intellectual keynote lectures to stimulate our consideration of collective experiences in history.
Call for papers is now open (deadline: 28 November 2021). Instructions and more information on the conference website: https://events.tuni.fi/historyofexperience2022/