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Hagen Schulz-Forberg: The Spatial and Temporal Layers of Global History: A Reflection on Global Conceptual History through Expanding Reinhart Koselleck’s Zeitschichten
into Global Spaces

Recent debates on global history have challenged the understanding of history beyond the nation-state. Simultaneously, they search for non-Eurocentric approaches. This has repercussions on the relation between historical space and time in both historical interpretation and in research design. This article reflects on the possibilities of a global conceptual history by expanding Reinhart Koselleck’s theory of temporal layers (Zeitschichten) into global spaces. To this end, it introduces the notion of spatial layers (Raumschichten). First, historicisation and its relation to and interaction with spatialisation and temporalisation is pondered; then, the impact of global spatial and temporal complexities on comparative and conceptual history is considered, before, thirdly, a framework of three tensions of global history – normative, temporal and spatial – is introduced as a way to concretely unfold historical research questions through global conceptual history. Regarding time and space, the main lines of argument in global history have focused either on the question of whether or not European powers were ahead of non-European ones or on the supposedly Western linearity of time as opposed to a non-Western cosmology or circularity of time. Taking its point of departure in Zeitschichten, which break from the linear-vs.-circular logic, this article instead proposes to foreground an actor-based, multi-lingual, global conceptual history to better understand spatio-temporal practices.

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