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Zero Hours

Conceptual Insecurities and New Beginnings in the Interwar Period


Edited By Hagen Schulz-Forberg

To cut off time and seal away the past, to proclaim a new beginning in the present and project a better future onto tomorrow – and thus to make history – is a key signature of modern social, political and cultural discourses. In this book, this practice is represented through the metaphor of the Zero Hour, which alludes to the wish to rebuild the past in the face of a crisis-ridden present characterised by growing conceptual insecurity, hoping for a more stable future. Indeed, the ever-new construction of our past, sequenced and ordered in explanatory narratives, bears witness to a future that ‘ought to be’. As the case studies in this volume show, this is a global phenomenon.
Against the backdrop of a confluence of experiences which unsettled conceptual norms after the First World War, this volume presents a novel approach to global history as it examines ways of breaking with the past and the way in which societies, as well as transnational historical actors, employ key concepts to compose arguments for a better tomorrow.


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This book is the outcome of an inspirational collegial effort at carving out common research interest at the former Institute of History and Area Studies at Aarhus University. I joined the institute in 2007 and was soon inspired by its internal structure that would allow common research and for a dialogue between a variety of area studies and modern history. Having developed a strong interest in global and transnational history, I began to work on the idea of the common project finally named Zero Hours in 2008/09. We had an internal seminar session in February 2010 with a renowned conceptual historian, Lucian Hoelscher, which clarified methodological questions; we were able to host an international conference at Aarhus on 24-26 June 2010, called ‘Zero Hours’ – Conceptual Insecurities and New Beginnings in the Interwar Period from a Global Perspective, which allowed us to find the second half of authors needed to cover certain fields of expertise; and we were able to host a panel session to get critical feedback on finished papers in April 2011 at the Third World Congress of the European Network in Universal and Global History (ENIUGH), which took place at the London School of Economics. Through this stretch of time and these project milestones, we have been in the wonderful situation of receiving critical and constructive feedback from colleagues both in Aarhus and further afield. A string of ‘thank yous’ for their various contributions to the project thus goes out to Cecilia Stokholm Banke, Marie-Christine Boilard, Peter Bugge,...

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