Triangle Intellectual History Seminar

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The Triangle Intellectual History Seminar is one of the premier institutions in the country for the study of intellectual history. For more than 25 years, the seminar has gathered together historians from around the country, and the world, to discuss texts in contexts, probing the intricate relations between intellectual practice, aesthetic imagination, and social reality. Our historic strength is in the intellectual history of the modern Atlantic world, focusing on political and economic thought. In recent years, the seminar has expanded to include the history of science, gender, empire, and international law. Like the discipline of intellectual history itself, the seminar continues to evolve.

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Upcoming Events

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Past Events


TIHS with Anna Krylova: Foucault, Poststructuralism, and the Fixed “Openness of History” 

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September 10, 2023

Today, it seems impossible to discuss historians’ encounter with poststructuralist theory, the ensuing triumphant surge of the “cultural turn,” and the establishment of what scholars have recently called the postcultural historiography—without the help of such paramount concepts of poststructuralist analysis as contingency, variability, instability, open-endedness, etc.  Having defined the last forty years of theoretical and methodological developments in history, these nowadays conventional tools of critique and interpretation have grown to become synonymous with the poststructuralist conceptual promise and outcome. This essay questions this standard and exceptionally generous account. What if, the essay asks, we start our account not with the resolute assertion of radical contingency and variability of the poststructuralist view of history but with something more fundamental to it—its own fixed and totalizing presuppositions? To show how an intellectual agenda opposed to fixed and totalizing reasoning can end up operating with fixed and totalizing logics of its own, the essay turns to Michel Foucault and his momentous career, to be traced from the 1960s to the 1980s. 


Anna Yu. Krylova is an associate professor of modern Russian history at Duke University. She is the author of Soviet Women in Combat: A History of Violence on the Eastern Front (Cambridge University Press, 2010), the winner of the 2011 AHA Herbert Baxter Adams Prize. She is currently finishing a collection of essays on historical theory and methodology. Her most recent publications include “Agency and History,” American Historical Review, June 2023; “Marx and the Many Lives of Marxism in 20th the 21st Centuries,” Social History, forthcoming 2023; “Legacies of the Cold War and the Future of Gender in Feminist Histories of Socialism,” in The Routledge International Handbook to Gender in Central-Eastern Europe and Eurasia (2021); “Gender Binary and the Limits of Poststructuralist Method,” Gender and History, August 2016

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TIHS with Thomas Ort: "The Meaning of Memory is Meaning."

October 1, 2023

This is a theoretical essay that reviews longstanding critiques of the concept of collective memory. Building on them, it offers a new and original one, arguing that memory has become one of the dominant concepts in the humanities and social sciences because it is employed as a generalized synonym for meaning. When scholars claim to be analyzing memory in its collective or cultural forms, they are in fact studying the ways that human beings draw on the past to create meaning in the present. That which is described as the “memory” of an event is simply the meaning ascribed to the event. What Maurice Halbwachs termed “the social framework of memory” is better understood as the social framework of meaning. Collective or cultural memory is little more than a synonym for meaning; the meaning of memory is meaning.



Thomas Ort is associate professor of modern European history and director of the Honors in the Social Sciences program at Queens College, The City University of New York. The main focus of his research has been modernist and avant-garde life in early twentieth-century Czechoslovakia, but his most recent work concerns the politics of memory in postwar Eastern Europe, specifically the changing representation of the 1942 assassination in Prague of Reinhard Heydrich. He is the author of Art and Life in Modernist Prague: Karel Čapek and his Generation, 1911-1938 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). His new book project is entitled Meaning, Memory, and the Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich.