On the history of the HPSCG
Academic approches, traditions, and schools of thought are not like parties or trade unions, with their distinct borders that separate “them from us”. The History of Political and Social Concepts Group (HPSCG) takes this distinction seriously as its true raison d’être. While committed to promote the study of the history of concepts, it does not claim to hold a patent on the discipline’s name, nor does it exclude anyone on the account of disciplinary heresy.
The HPSCG was founded at the Finnish Institute in London on June 1998, as a by-product of a meeting that brought together scholars involved in several research projects dealing with national conceptual histories. The meeting, organised at the initiative of Melvin Richter (New York) and Kari Palonen (Jyväskylä) and hosted by Henrik Stenius, then Director of the Finnish Institute, proved to be a greater success than expected. Among the scholars attending the event there were representatives of different approaches to conceptual history, such as Reinhart Koselleck and Quentin Skinner. Since its foundation the HPSCG has endeavoured to promote methodological pluralism and creativity, thus avoiding the confines of a single school of research.
Since 1998, the HPSCG has been organising annual conferences on its own. Each conference was focused on a relevant topic: Social Controversies in Political Language (1999, Saint-Cloud), Concepts of Democracy (2000, Copenhagen), Rhetoric and Conceptual Change (2001, Tampere), Comparative Perspectives (2002, Amsterdam), Concepts in the Spanish and Ibero-American world (2003, Bilbao), Transatlantic Dialogues (2004, Rio de Janeiro), Translation (2005, New York), Crossroads: Writing Conceptual Histories beyond the Nation-State (2006, Uppsala), Transnational Concepts, Transfers and the Challenge of the Peripheries (2007, Istanbul). The 2008 conference will take place in Seoul, next September, with the title “Global-Historical Diffusion of Western Concepts and the Transformation of the Northeast Asian Regional Order”.
In 2005, the HPSCG launched its own periodical, Contributions to the History of Concepts, with a star studded editorial board and a great line up of articles reflecting the plurality of academic approaches welcomed by the Group. Since the international publisher Brill has taken over the commercial operation of Contributions, making its distribution truly worldwide.
Members of the HPSCG have also created a number of academic centres, research projects, courses and networks as well as participated in workshops and conference panels dealing with conceptual history and related disciplines. . The international summer schools and the “Concepta- International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought” have been very effective in attracting new scholars and spreading the interest in conceptual history throughout Europe and beyond.
The HPSCG has been continuously expanding its membership and activities since it creation in 1998. This is a clear sign of the growing interest for conceptual history worldwide. From its European birth place, the HPSCG has taken its conference to the Americas and to Asia. In this process conceptual history has shown to be useful not only for dealing with canonical political philosophical texts within European historical contexts, but also with the translation, transplantation, rediscription and adaptation of concepts to colonial and post-colonial contexts.