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Enlightened Enmity? The Enemy of the Human Race in French Revolutionary and German Romantic Culture

Dr Steven Howe (University of Lucerne)

Abstract: The category of the ‘enemy of the human race’ has been the subject of increasing critical attention in recent years. Alongside an extensive body of theoretical literature that reads the figure through the lens of Schmitt, Foucault and Agamben, a new wave of cultural and legal-historical scholarship has impressively remapped aspects of its genealogy as a powerful rhetorical device for enabling claims to legitimate violence. The present talk seeks to add to this scholarship by analyzing (i) the (re-)emergence of the concept of the enemy of the human race as a rhetorical and ideological construct in French revolutionary culture; and (ii) its subsequent remediation in German Romantic efforts to write the nation in the early nineteenth century. This focus allows us to shed light on a previously neglected mode of cultural transfer from France to Germany around 1800 that, in turn, encourages renewed reflection on the relations between German Romantic nationalism and the values of Enlightenment thought.

Event details


Queens Building LT6.2