Voluntariness as Political Practice – Work in Progress and Upcoming Talks

In order to explore how voluntariness functions as a resource for political participation and civic recognition in the US, our subproject in North American History provides a critical reexamination of the yellow fever outbreaks between 1793 and 1820 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and highlights first results.

From 1793 to 1820, yellow fever struck major U.S. port cities, including Philadelphia. The disease devastated inhabitants’ health, shattered economies, and shook the newly established political structures as outbreaks spread across the country. These events took place at a precarious moment in history as the newly founded nation was struggling with the epidemics as well as worked out its democratic ideals and structures. The challenges and responses to these crises provide a lens through which we can see the significance of voluntariness for contemporaries. In particular, Pia is interested in the experiences of free Black Philadelphians as well as of Quaker and Jewish women.

Election Day at the State House, Philadelphia, 1815, painting by John Lewis Kimmel, Winterthur Museum of Art, via Wikimedia Commons

By presenting her project at the Department of History in Erfurt, at the Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt/M as well as at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and at the German Historical Institute in Washington, D.C. Pia has already pointed to how her dissertation project contributes to the understanding of voluntariness as modus operandi of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century liberal politics. Crucial to her approach to that field: How did the political principle of voluntary self-management and civic engagement help to establish differences between people on the basis of class, gender, and race? This spring, Pia will talk about her project on April 14, 2023, at the regional colloquium for American Studies at Leipzig University. A second talk brings her to the Young Scholars‘ Forum of the Annual Conference of the Historians of the German Association for American Studies in Tutzing on May 6, 2023.

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What Else Is New?

Research Day Voluntariness

On June 3, 2024, we invite fellow researchers to discuss voluntariness as focus of their research and compare goals and challenges of their projects. The research day will start at 10 am with a casual welcome into a full-day program, completed by an evening lecture by philosopher Jule Govrin.

Voluntariness 2.0 – Local and Global Perspectives

April 2024 has been the official kick-off for another three years of voluntariness research, funded by the German Research Foundation. Seven new or continuing projects will shape the new focus of the research unit’s second funding phase.

We are Hiring…Join our Team!

A position as research assistant within the Research Unit on “Voluntariness” is available at the University of Erfurt. Historians specializing in the field of North American History may apply by May 4, 2024, at the latest.