International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought

DATES: August 7 to 23, 2012

Sami Syrjämäki, sami.syrjamaki(at) and Jani Marjanen, jani.marjanen(at)

The presumption that concepts, arguments and ideas are timeless has been replaced in recent decades by an awareness of their unavoidable historicity and temporality. Based on methods proposed by such scholars as Reinhart Koselleck, Quentin Skinner, John Pocock, and Michel Foucault, which focus on the use of language in a historical context, conceptual history serves as an innovative and rigorous approach to the analysis of key social and political concepts, arguments and ideas. The goal of conceptual history is to illuminate the concepts and ideas that are central to the operation of political and social life through the study of their migration, reception, translation, and diffusion through time and space. Conceptual analysis involves looking at larger semantic, discursive, ideological and rhetorical settings in which concepts are given meaning. Doing conceptual history, therefore, demands familiarity with a variety of linguistically oriented approaches to discourse and ideology, as well as to rhetoric.

In the summer of 2012, Concepta, International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought, and its partner institutions will organise the seventh Introduction to Conceptual History course. An international team of distinguished scholars and visiting lecturers will help participants critically examine the chief concepts in the humanities and social sciences from new perspectives. The course has two main objectives. First, it introduces students to the fundamental aspects of the theory and methodology of conceptual history, which they can then use as tools in their own research. Second, it explores contemporary trends in conceptual history through case studies.

The course includes a series of lectures, a seminar and workshops. It is designed for Finnish and international PhD and advanced Master’s degree students from various academic fields. Interest in the humanities and/or political thought is an asset.

The successful completion of Introduction to Conceptual History will require attending the lectures, seminar and workshops as well as the completion of a written assignment. To receive the six ECTS credits, students must actively participate in the course and write a 10-15 page essay. Students who wish to receive 10 ECTS credits must submit a 20-25 page essay in addition to active participation. Students should submit all essays to the organisers approximately one month after the conclusion of course. Participants are encouraged to contact the organisers concerning workshop presentations of their own work in progress in conceptual history and related fields.

More information on accomodation, fees etc. at the Helsinki Summer School pages:


HSS/Concepta “Introduction to Conceptual History”

Tuesday 8/7: Receptions

Wednesday 8/8
10:00 Opening remarks by Martin J. Burke, Jan Ifversen and Henrik Stenius
10:30-noon Martin J. Burke: The History of Concepts Movement Today
1:00-4:00 Jan Ifversen: Introduction to Conceptual History I

Thursday 8/9
10:00-noon Jan Ifversen: Introduction to Conceptual History II
1:00-4:00 Martin J. Burke: The History of Concepts and Intellectual History

Friday 8/10
10:00-noon Martin J. Burke: The History of Concepts and the Cambridge School
1:00-4:00 Jan Ifversen: Doing Conceptual History in the Past and Present

Monday 8/13
10:00-noon Jan Ifversen: Good Neighbors: Historical Semantics and Discourse Analysis
1:00-4:00 Martin J. Burke: Histories of Concepts and Histories of Ideologies

Tuesday 8/14
10:00-noon Jani Marjanen: Conceptual History in the Nordic Countries
1:00-4:00 Kari Palonen: Rhetorical Perspective on Conceptual History

Wednesday 8/15
10:00-noon Niklas Olsen: History in the Plural: A Study of Reinhart Koselleck
1:00-4:00 Work-in-progress I (chaired by Niklas Olsen)

Thursday 8/16
10:00-noon Niklas Olsen: The Origins of Neo-Liberalism
1:00-4:00 Alumni Lecture, Matti La Mela: Defining a problem: the Nordic concept of Allemansrätten

Friday 8/17
10:00-noon Work-in-progress II (chaired by Jani Marjanen)
1:00-4:00 Sami Syrjämäki: Conceptual Change and Family Resemblance

Monday 8/20
10:00 – noon Benjamin Schmidt & Sinai Rusinek : A Digital  History of Concepts (ADHoC) I : Projects and possibilities
12:00 - 15:00 Benjamin Schmidt : ADHoC II : Hands on Practice
15:00 - 16:00  Sinai Rusinek : ADHoC III : Problems and Encounters

Tuesday 8/21
10:00-noon Margrit Pernau: Taking Conceptual History Beyond National and Linguistic Borders
13:00-16:00 Claudia Wiesner: Conceptual History and European Integration

Wednesday 8/22
10:00-noon João Feres Júnior: The History of Asymmetrical Counterconcepts: the Case of Latin America
1:00-4:00 Pasi Ihalainen: Prospects for Parliamentary Government in an Era of a Global Revolution, 1917-19: Britain and Germany, Sweden and Finland

Thursday 8/23
10:00 -17:00 The 15th International Conference on Conceptual History opening day (the programme will be published at later this spring). The participants of the Introduction Course may follow the World Conference (23.-25.8.) for free.


Concepta, International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought

Centre for Nordic Studies (CENS) at the Renvall Institute, University of Helsinki

POLITU, Finnish Political Science Doctoral School

Centre of Excellence in Political Thought and Conceptual Change, University of Jyväskylä

Please direct any questions concerning the content of this course to the Coordinators, Mr. Sami Syrjämäki, sami.syrjamaki(at) or Mr. Jani Marjanen,  Any questions concerning the general arrangements (accommodation, scholarship, etc.) should be addressed to the Summer School's office at