2014-2015 Schedule

Opening Keynote Lecture:
September 5: Steven Pincus, Yale University
Wars and State Making: Re-examining the Paradigm
Introduction and year opening comment: John Brooke
2:00-3:30PM, Thompson Library, Room 165

Historians and social scientists agree that in the early modern period wars made states and states made war. In particular, scholars have agreed that the British state was forged through international warfare and that the British state did little else besides making war. Our evidence suggests that, in fact, the British state spent much higher percentage of its resources on economic development, especially in Scotland and the colonies, than its European rivals. And we found that Britain attained the key elements Weberian statehood not as a result of international conflict but rather because of civil war and reaction to fiscal crisis. Bellicists have long acknowledged that the British case was central to their claims, as Britain was one of the winners of the early modern struggle for statehood. Just as important, British state intervention in the economy played a key role in making Britain the first industrial nation.


September 19: Yannis Kotsonis, New York University
The State-Society Paradigm in Russian and Soviet History: How the Modern State Taxed Its Population and in the Process Co-opted It
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment: David Hoffman: History, OSU

Yannis Kotsonis, Associate Professor of History at New York University, explores the theoretical problem of modern state formations and the duality of the state in one classic situation: late imperial and Soviet Russia. Nicholas Poulantzas called attention to this “Janus-faced” quality of the state: it is both narrow and integral, coercive and inclusive, a separate power and a locus of mass inclusion. Here I suggest how this duality played out in the late Empire and the early Soviet period, using fiscal policy and practice in particular. States could insist that they existed in relation to their societies, and at the same time were coterminous with society. How this ambiguity played out relates to historical settings, and in Russia and the USSR it allowed for states with seemingly unlimited capacities to create and coerce.


October 31: Chapurukha Kusimba, American University  
Maritime Exchange Networks and Urban-Centered States in Ancient East Africa
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment: Dodie McDow, History, OSU

Trade played crucial role in state formation. Trade linked diverse peoples and communities in a network on interactions that had a huge impact in advancement of the daily life. Archaeologists and historians have documented evidence of biological, cultural, linguistic, commercial, and technical communication between cultures that are traceable far beyond the Holocene. Today, most of the world is integrated in a global economic system, in which as Adam Smith (1776) stated, the markets set most of the prices and determine the flow of trade and division of labor, but governments play a role closer to the one envisioned by John Maynard Keynes, intervening to try and regulate the business cycle and reduce income inequality. Ongoing research in East Africa has irreversibly revised early models that proposed migration as the primary catalyst for regional cultural transformations. It now appears that adoption of agriculture, market-based exchange, and urban centered state structures were the main catalyst for building communal and personal wealth. A steady transformation of the villages and hamlets into small towns, cities, and ultimately to city-states that hosted large and diverse citizenry is evident over much of Eastern and Southern Africa. For trade to prosper, relational and sociopolitical stability was crucial. Could bonds, pacts, treaties, and alliances (including opportunistic intermarriages) that bound the cities to their hinterlands and merchants across the sea serve as the kernel upon which global connections, contributions, and complexity arose? My lecture will discuss use local, regional, and trans-continental frames of reference to discuss the rise of maritime exchange networks and urban-centered States in Ancient East Africa.


November 7: Stephen Mihm, University of Georgia
The Standards of the State: Weights, Measures, and Nation Making in the Early American Republic
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment: John Brooke, History, OSU

The creation of uniform weights and measures was central to understandings of sovereignty and state formation in the United States from the revolutionary era onward. This paper examines the early efforts of the Continental Congress, the weights and measures clauses of the Constitution, and the contributions of Thomas Jefferson. It also analyzes John Quincy Adams’s famed report on weights and measures published in 1821. Throughout, it examines the ways that visions of a coherent nation state founded on standard weights and measures foundered in the early years of the United States.


November 14: John Clark, University of St Andrews, CHR Senior Faculty Fellow
Poison in the Garden of England: Pesticides, Pollution, and the Modern State in the 1960s
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment: Chris Otter, OSU History

In 1963, a local pollution event in southeast England attracted national and international attention.  Scientific experts, media commentators, local residents, industry spokesmen, and multiple government ministries and organizations sought to explain and contain this toxic pesticide release in Smarden, Kent. At one level, therefore, this incident provides an insightful micro-study of the intermeshing of land, built environment, organisms/people, state and government. Falling directly in the wake of the UK publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the incident also provides an opportunity to assess increasingly visible tensions between science and government (or governmentality) within a capitalist economy. It, thereby, speaks to broader issues about science, technology, and government within the rubric of the modern state. The ‘Smarden Affair’ affords insight into the biopolitics of the transition from conservation to ecology.


December 5: Victor Lieberman, Univ. Michigan   
Why was Nationalism European? Political Ethnicity in Southeast Asia and Europe c. 1450-1850
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment: Theodora Dragostinova, History, OSU

Between 1400 and 1800, as relatively isolated economic and political units cohered to form larger, more internally specialized systems, culture also was transformed. The cultural norms of emergent cores, particularly the ethnic identities of elites within those cores, radiated to dependent areas and became publicly recognized symbols of inclusion within the new polities. This process — the politicization of ethnicity — occurred with growing force in much of Eurasia, especially in regions protected against Inner Asian conquest. But only in Western Europe did political ethnicity separate substantially from religious universalism to assume those secular, horizontal, territorially circumscribed features characteristic of “nationalism.” Using Burma and Britain as case studies, this paper asks: a) Why political ethnicity after 1400 became ever more closely coordinated across much of Eurasia. b) Why in Western Europe alone we find that peculiar form of political ethnicity known as nationalism.


January 23: Rebecca Tally, Cornell University, CHR Junior Faculty Fellow
The Politics of Wheat: Economy, Society, and the Colombian State
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles, Hall, Room 168

What can disagreements over the cultivation and importation of wheat in Colombia in the 1950s tell us about the state? For the past twenty years, the Gramscian notion of “hegemony” has guided the study of state formation and practice in Latin American history. The state is seen not as a discrete entity, but rather as a process of continual contestation between popular groups and ruling elites. Recently, some have begun to question the dominance of contestation as the primary driver of state formation, looking instead to the role of violence and coercion. Intriguingly, much of this discussion has bypassed Colombian historiography. Often seen as an anomaly within Latin America, Colombia’s supposed “weak state” has never been the site of significant or sustained historical analysis, with the important exception of tales of co-optation of the state by powerful industrial and commercial interests. Yet, it is precisely in those stories of co-optation that we see hegemony at work in Colombia. This paper examines the evolving literature on the state in Latin America and explores how conflict over wheat production and importation in Colombia illustrates the need to expand the concept of hegemony, not only by taking questions of violence and coercion seriously, but also by bringing to the forefront the complex relationship between the state and the economy.


February 20:  Rita Wright, New York University  
The Rise of Early States. Political Infrastructures in Comparative Perspective.
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment:   Julie Field, Anthropology, OSU

The results of cross-cultural and comparative studies of early states have revolutionized anthropological and archaeological conceptions of pathways to complexity. The paper draws on this rising scholarship, first to re-examine long-held views such as the lists of attributes provided by of V. Gordon Childe (still useful and instructive perhaps), Wittfogel’s political centralization of the control of landscape and waterways, Weber’s patrimonial models and Eisenstadt’s views on “the west and the rest.” Second, in distinction to these earlier works in which the state was viewed as a powerful machine with a single body that lacked engines and gears, current analyses give emphasis to an infrastructural base comprised of mid and lower level contributors as the forces that moved state’s forward. My argument centers on cooperation, collective action and networks, drawn from archaeological field research in the New and Old World, as core elements of state infrastructures. A view inclusive of these factors results in a more holistic understanding of early states in which one size does not fit all. More strongly focused on the Near East and South Asia, my primary case study is the Indus civilization, where artisans and merchants formed the core of the civilization’s infrastructure.


March 6: The CHR event with Anupama Rao, March 6, 2:00-3:30PM has been cancelled due to visa complications in Germany. There will be a Skype session with Professor Rao and the 7725 graduate colloquium at 11:30-1:30, in Dulles 235.  If you are interested in attending, please contact Greg Anderson. anderson.1381@osu.edu.

March 27:  Richard Bensel, Cornell University
The Founding of Modern States
2:00-3:30PM, Spencer Political Science Conference Room, 2130 Derby Hall
Comment:  Inés Valdez, Political Science, OSU

All modern states claim that they rule by popular consent and that this consent arises out of the state’s commitment to a transcendent social purpose demanded by their citizens. They also claim that both popular consent and the state’s transcendent social purpose emerged from a founding moment when the state’s right to rule was created. In this manuscript, I ask: How does the founding meld the metaphysical belief in the “will of the people,” the granting of sovereignty, and the recognition of a transcendent social purpose into a symbolic act that then enables the state to secure political and social order? Although this melding is more complex than commonly acknowledged for traditional democracies, it is even more complicated for otherwise authoritarian regimes. In those foundings that produce non-democratic states, the justification of the new sovereignty originates in a transcendent social purpose that is both clearly articulated in political doctrine and susceptible to misrecognition if subjected to conventional democratic politics. At the founding, the political party that led the revolution utilizes the form of a legislative assembly to craft a constitution but it is the party itself that manifests the popular will and thus melds sovereignty, social purpose, and the will of the people into the creation of a new state.


April 10: Annabel Brett, University of Cambridge
The Space of Politics and the Space of War in Early Modern Natural Jurisprudence
2:00-3:30PM, Dulles Hall, Room 168
Comment: Benjamin McKean, Political Science, OSU

In War and the Law of Nations (2005), Stephen Neff stresses the historical distinction between war understood as an act and war understood as a state. This paper looks at the act of war in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century inter-political thought. As an ‘act’ of justice, it is similar to other intra-political judicial acts and indeed legal acts (legislation) in relying upon a philosophy of action that understands agency fundamentally in non-localised, or non-spatial, terms. This then throws up a series of questions concerning the relationship between that act and the spatially-situated bodies of its subjects, an interface explored in Chapter 7 of my 2011 Changes of State. In the present paper I seek to extend those lines of analysis to war, looking at the relationship between agency and space in the act of war, and at what this says about the agency of the state both within and without its borders (if indeed such a distinction can be sustained at all). (Video of this session will be not available.)


Closing keynote lecture: April 17: Quentin Skinner, Queen Mary University of London
The State’s Three Bodies
2:00-3:30PM, Thompson Library, Room 165
Introduction and series closing comment: Greg Anderson