Urban Space and Multilingualism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy

Urban Space and Multilingualism in the Late Habsburg Monarchy

Carl Bethke, Institute for East European History and Geography, University of Tübingen; Markian Prokopovych, Institute for East European History, University of Vienna; Tamara Scheer, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Social Science History, Vienna
Institute for East European History, University of Vienna
From - Until
13.03.2014 - 15.03.2014
Tamara Scheer

This international conference will seek to approach the issue of multilingual and multi-ethnic urban societies of the Habsburg Empire in a larger European context. Multilingualism was one of the fundamental everyday practices of the Habsburg Empire and has attracted much scholarly attention in the past decades. Most of the research, however, concentrated only on a number of the most obvious fields where multilingualism manifested itself clearly and continues to provoke heated political debates today: schooling, education and politics. While politicians and the press during the late Habsburg Empire duly highlighted these important topics, this conference will aim to focus on areas that have hitherto been largely overlooked and that have only recently become the subject of interest for historical analysis.

Firstly, multilingualism in the Habsburg army has emerged as one of the promising trends in new military history. A closer look at the everyday practices and interactions between different army corps, within the army hierarchy and especially between the local garrisons and the local population can provide valuable new insights on the functioning of the public space in the late Dual Monarchy. The same can be said about the workings of multilingualism in art and culture in Central Europe, especially public art and culture – such as architecture, monuments, theatre, opera and street celebrations, – and about diverse and specific applications of multilingualism in industry, tourism and the media. Finally, the conference will address the issue whether, and in what form, multilingualism manifested itself in the private realm and “grey” semi-private spaces like private societies, in comparison to how it was seen and practiced in public.

While armies are often in the field, public culture as well as industrial establishments can be found in the countryside, and newspapers and advertisement reach out to the most remote corners of society, it is especially revealing to observe how multilingualism was practiced at the city level. In terms of locality, therefore, the conference will concentrate on specifically urban public space and the way diverse actors saw themselves and employed their linguistic skills in urban contexts spread throughout the Habsburg Empire.

At what level and at what time did the commander of a town garrison start communicating with the city representatives in a “local” language and what language would that be? Did it matter whether they were dealing with official municipal representatives or independent local activists? How did theatres shape their repertoires to suit the multilingual public of cities? How were local heroes, whose identities were more often than not too complex to fit a limited and constrained national vision, represented and commemorated in Habsburg multi-ethnic cities? How were industrial products, including everyday goods, marketed to fit a multilingual population in one particular locality? Was it possible to distinguish patterns employed by the advertisement industry that would reappear in many other localities in the Habsburg lands? What strategies of linguistic interaction, apart from retorting to the (German) lingua franca did those urban societies accustomed to multilingualism find? Were there conflicts and did the local citizens learn to deal with them? Was handling daily life without conflicts ever a possibility? Did the process of urbanisation that brought new populations into hitherto multi-ethnic cities change the carefully established arrangements and what strategies did the new groups that came from regions which had not been characterized by multilingualism foster in the new urban space? The conference will aim to answer these questions by looking at specific urban actors, groups and localities where multilingualism manifested itself most vividly throughout the Habsburg Monarchy.

The conference will open with a keynote lecture by Pieter Judson (Swarthmore College/EUI Florence).

The working language of the conference is English. Presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. While we strongly encourage interdisciplinary approaches, especially from the fields of comparative linguistics and social sciences, as well as comparisons with other empires in the region and beyond, the paper proposals should demonstrate historical awareness and concentrate on the late Habsburg Monarchy until the end of the First World War.

A limited number of travel and accommodation grants will be available to those applicants who cannot fund their participation through their home institutions.

Please send a one-page abstract together with a short cv (including your current position and affiliation) by September 30, 2013 to the following email addresses: tamara.scheer@univie.ac.at, carl.bethke@uni-tuebingen.de and markian.prokopovych@univie.ac.at.


Contact (announcement)

Tamara Scheer

Maria Theresienstraße 3/17, 1090 Wien


Editors Information
Published on
Temporal Classification
Additional Informations
Country Event
Language(s) of event
Language of announcement