Do Histories of Europe Represent? Challenging Representationalism in History with Eugen Zelenak, Visiting Scholar


Location: 1060 Jenkins Nanovic Halls (Commons Room) (View on map )

Eugen Zelenak, Visiting Scholar, Catholic University in Ruzomberok
Eugen Zelenak, Visiting Scholar, Catholic University in Ruzomberok

Eugen Zeleňák, associate professor in the department of philosophy at the Catholic University in Ružomberok, Slovakia, will present his current research project over a lunchtime lecture. 

In this talk, Eugen Zeleňák examines two works dealing with the history of Europe, specifically Europe: A History by Norman Davies, which offers a global history of Europe from “the ice age to the Cold War,” and Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present by Brendan Simms, which offers a view of Europe from the conquest of Constantinople through the creation of the European Union. 

Davies and Simms differ in their accounts of Europe. Simms tells a story of Europe emphasizing geopolitical factors to promote his solution for European problems. For Davies, history is not about one set of determining factors; it is full of developments within various dimensions. Still, he puts forward his own project of reintegrating the East into European history and of curing, what Zelaňák calls, “naïve Russophilia.” But given the plurality of histories of Europe, which account provides the correct representation of the European past? According to Zeleňák, this itself is the wrong question to pose as it assumes a contentious correspondence framework, according to historical texts, which should correspond to or represent pre-existing realities and past events.

Zeleňák argues that even historical works on the scale provided by Davies and Simms offer strong interpretative stances and participate in a pluralistic debate on how to approach the past. Zelaňák intentionally distinguishes how to approach the past from how to represent the past, using the debate about histories of Europe to make a philosophical point about the nature of historical works. Namely, he challenges representationalism in history, according to which historical works should be viewed as representations of the past, and presents in its place a more non-representationalist account of history and historical works as outcomes of certain practices.

 Space is limited. Please email if you would like to participate in the event.