Till van Rahden



Associate Professor for German and European Studies, Université de Montréal (Canada)

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
June-July 2010, May-August 2014, February-August 2015, December 2016-August 2017, April-July 2019

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»The Blessings of Complexity. On Democratic Forms as Elusive Objects«

Project outline:
We are all democrats now. Yet concerns over the future viability of democracy pervade scholarly and public controversies. Today, the social sciences dominate the domain of democratic theory. In contrast, the humanities have contributed comparatively little to our understanding of democracy’s fragile and contingent nature in the past and in the present. Against this background, I aim to strengthen the role of the humanities in scholarly exchanges over the meaning, the fragility and the contingency of democracy as a way of life. The focus of the research project is not on the content of content, i.e. democratic ideas in democratic polities, but on the content of form. It therefore invites conversations about the democratic content of aesthetic forms, styles, and manners. Such an endeavor responds to the suspicion that an emphasis on democratic forms, styles, and aesthetics detracts from more urgent questions about democratic substance and procedures. Key questions of such an endeavor include: If we argue that a specific culture is an essential, if elusive bedrock for democratic polities, is it possible to identify which forms and styles stimulate, sustain and revive democracy as a way of life? (Till van Rahden)

Research partner:
In 2010, 2015 and 2017, the fellowship of Till van Rahden is supported by the Cluster of Excellence »The Formation of Normative Orders«. In 2014 he was a Fellow at the Institute on the invitation of Andreas Fahrmeir (Professor of Nineteenth Century History at Frankfurt Universtiy) and the College of History of the Forschungskolleg. While at the Institute, he worked on several aspects of his research focus on »Forms, Style and Manners: Democracy as a Way of Life«.
In 2019, he is a member of the research project »Complexity in Scinece, Culture and Society« funded by the aventis foundation.

Scholarly profile of Till van Rahden


Till van Rahden teaches modern and recent hsitory at the Université de Montréal. From 2006 to 2016 he held the Canada Research Chair in German and European Studies at the Université de Montréal. Subsequently, he was a research fellow »Leibniz Institute for European History«, Mainz, and the »Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen«, Vienna. He specializes in European history since the Enlightenment and is interested in the tension between the elusive promise of democratic equality and the recurrent presence of diversity and moral conflicts. In 1993, he received an M.A. in American history from The Johns Hopkins University, and in 1999, he completed his dissertation at the University of Bielefeld which received the »Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History« and was published as Jews and other Germans: Civil Society, Religious Diversity and Urban Politics in Breslau, 1860-1925 (Madison, 2008).

Main areas of research:
Modern European History, Modern German History, Jewish History, Cultural History, History of Democracy, History of Moral Passions and Conflicts

Selected publications:
  1. »Eine Welt ohne Familie: Über Kinderläden und andere demokratische Heilsversprechen«, In: WestEnd. Neue Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung Vol.14, 2017.
  2. »Sanfte Vaterschaft und Demokratie in der frühen Bundesrepublik«, In: ernhard Gotto and Elke Seefried (eds.): Männer mit ‚Makel’: Männlichkeiten und gesellschaftlicher Wandel in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Zeitgeschichte im Gespräch, Vol.25, Munich: de Gruyter, 2017.
  3. (with Anthony Steinhoff and Richard Wetzell), »Navigating Diversity: Introduction«, In: Bulletin of the German Historical Institute, No.61, 2017.
  4. »Lumpen sammeln: Mit Siegfried Kracauer im Dickicht des 19. Jahrhunderts«, Historische Zeitschrift, 307:2, 2018, p. 319-340.
  5. »Was war die ›vaterlose Gesellschaft‹? Alexander Mitscherlich und die Debatte über Demokratie und Autorität«, in: Hilde Landwehr and Catherine Newmark (Eds.), Wie männlich ist Autorität? Feministische Kritik und Aneignung. Politik der Geschlechterverhältnisse, Frankfurt: Campus, 2018 (in print).
  6. »Die schnelle Lösung ist die autoritäre: Demokratie auf dem Prüfstand«, Tiroler Tageszeitung, 10 July 2018, No. 187, p. 3.
  7. »Demokratie als Stilfrage. Demokratie gilt gemeinhin als eine Herrschaftsform - Till van Rahden betrachtet sie hingegen als Lebensform«, in: Wissen aktuell (science.orf.at), 06 July 2018. https://science.orf.at/stories/2923084/
  8. »Demokratie verstehen«, Zukunft Forschung (Universität Innsbruck), 10:1, 2018, p. 48.
  9. »Der letzte Frankfurter: Er deutete Marx für unsere Zeit—Zum Tode des kanadischen Historikers Moishe Postone«, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 27 March 2018, No. 73, p. 12.
  10. (mit Johannes Völz), »Nachbericht zum Workshop „Was war demokratische Kultur?«, in: GOETHE-UNI online – Aktuelle Nachrichten aus Wissenschaft, Lehre und Gesellschaft, 28 July, 2017.
  11. »Sanfte Vaterschaft und Demokratie in der frühen Bundesrepublik«, in: Bernhard Gotto and Elke Seefried (eds.), Männer mit ›Makel‹: Männlichkeiten und gesellschaftlicher Wandel in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Zeitgeschichte im Gespräch, Vol. 25, Munich: de Gruyter, 2016, pp. 142-156.
  12. (ed. with Oliver Kohns and Martin Roussel), Autorität: Krise, Konstruktion und Konjunktur (=Texte zur politischen Ästhetik vol. 5), Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2016.
  13. »History in the House of the Hangman: How Postwar Germany Became a Key Site for the Study of Jewish History«, in: Steven E. Aschheim and Vivian Liska (eds.), The German-Jewish Experience Revisited, Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015, pp. 171-192.
  14. »Clumsy Democrats: Moral Passions in the Federal Republic«, in: German History vol. 29 (2011), no. 3, pp. 485–504.
  15. »Fatherhood, Rechristianization, and the Quest for Democracy in Postwar West Germany«, in: Raising Citizens in the »Century of the Child«: Child-Rearing in the United States and German Central Europe in the Twentieth Century (= Studies in German History, vol. 12), ed. Dirk Schumann, New York: Berghahn Books 2010, pp. 141–164.
  16. (ed. with Daniel Fulda, Stefan-Ludwig Hoffmann and Dagmar Herzog), Demokratie im Schatten der Gewalt: Geschichten des Privaten im deutschen Nachkrieg, Göttingen: Wallstein-Verlag 2010.
  17. Jews and other Germans: Civil Society, Religious Diversity and Urban Politics in Breslau, 1860 to 1925 (George L. Mosse Series in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History), Madison, WI: The University of Wisconsin Press 2008.
  18. »Jews and the Ambivalences of Civil Society in Germany, 1800 to 1933. Assessment and Reassessment«, in: Journal of Modern History, vol. 77 (2005), pp. 1024-1047.

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