Appel à contribution – Construction, Representation and Reception of Genealogical Knowledge during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period

Organizer :

Dr. Giuseppe Cusa, RWTH Aachen University, Department of Medieval History

Dr. Thomas Dorfner
RWTH Aachen University, Department of Early Modern History

Date and conference venue: 10-11 December 2021

Deadline: 15 July 2021

In general, “genealogy” is understood to mean two things: on the one hand, it is a field of research – an auxiliary historical science – that deals with the relationships and family lineages. On the other hand, it is a central cultural form of order and a model of thought employed in past epochs. The conference will examine this form of order and thought pattern taking a cultural-historical and interdisciplinary approach. It will focus on the way contemporaries dealt with genealogical knowledge and investigate its construction, representation, and reception. Thus, the conference will be dedicated exclusively to discourses of genealogical knowledge as opposed to the historical reconstruction of family lineages.

Regarding the constructions of knowledge, different protagonists, their knowledge as well as their intentions will be examined. Different groups – from the nobility to the civic society to the lower classes – secured their genealogical knowledge in one form or another and made it accessible. What did the creators of genealogical works know about the recorded lineage and kinship, or rather: what did they think they knew? The sources of genealogical information as well as the intention with which acquired and applied are of particular interest in this context. For instance, ancestry and kinship were resources with regard to social rank, marriage connections or exercising a certain office. Genealogy could therefore not only legitimise but also disqualify.

In addition, the treatment of genealogical knowledge in certain media is of great importance; not only does it provide information regarding the linguistic or technical skills of the author, but it also contains clues to the intention, addressees and availability of works containing and applying genealogies. As is well known, genealogical knowledge, which had been passed on predominantly by oral tradition until the High Middle Ages, manifested itself in various forms: written treatises, pictorial representations, ideas carved in stone and much more. Therefore, the form of transmission has to be taken into account, i.e. the type of object as well as whether it is the original or a copy.

With regard to contemporary discourses of knowledge the reception of genealogical knowledge is of particular interest. How was this implemented in terms of content and form? To what extent was information used and processed across different media? Genealogical knowledge, but also knowledge of a different kind, was not always taken up without reservations, much rather it was frequently modified, contested or rejected due to a competition of identity or critical evaluation of the transmitted knowledge.

The conference is being organized by the Department of History at RWTH Aachen University, which has made “History as a Culture of Knowledge” one of its main research areas. It will take place online via zoom on 10-11 December 2021. Interested researchers from the historical sciences and other disciplines are encouraged to submit an abstract of approx. 300 words for a presentation of 20-25 minutes in German or English to cusa(at) by 15 July 2021. The papers will be selected by the end of July 2021. A publication of the conference papers is planned – subject to the approval of funding.

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