Cosmopolitanism and Nationhood in the Age of Jefferson

02.12.2010 - 03.12.2010

International symposium, organized with the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies in Charlottesville, Virginia.

This symposium explores the origins of modern conceptions of world citizenship and the nation in Jeffersonian America. In today’s discussion, cosmopolitanism is often understood as a “transnational” antidote to problematic aspects of nationhood – indeed, cosmopolitanism is often treated as a direct antonym of nationalism. From the perspective of the eighteenth century, however, such an understanding would hardly be self-evident: for Thomas Jefferson and many contemporaries, it was possible to conceive of themselves as broad- minded cosmopolites and as ardent advocates of national interests, without having to emphasize a potential of conflict.

The symposium will take an interdisciplinary approach to the controversial topic of the cosmopolitan roots of modern nationhood, examining it in its historical, political, literary, cultural and philosophical dimensions. After a keynote by Gordon S. Wood (Brown), “The Invention of the United States, 1776-1815,” the discussion will continue with lectures by Thomas Clark (Münster), Francis D. Cogliano (Edinburgh), Catrin Gersdorf (Berlin), Markus Heide (Berlin), Peter S. Onuf (University of Vir- ginia), Dietmar Schloss (Heidelberg), Hannah Spahn (Berlin), Maurizio Valsania (Turin), Gaye Wilson (International Center for Jefferson Stu- dies) and Philipp Ziesche (Yale).

You can download the conference poster & program here.

The Program

Thursday, December 2

6:15 pm Welcoming Remarks
Andrew O’Shaughnessy (International Center for Jefferson Studies) and Winfried Fluck (Free University Berlin)
6:30-8:00 pm

The Invention of the United States, 1776-1815
Gordon Wood (Brown University)

Introduction: Winfried Fluck (Free University Berlin)

8:00 pm Reception

Friday, December 3

9:30 am Opening Remarks
Hannah Spahn (Free University Berlin) and Peter Nicolaisen (University of Flensburg)
9:45-11:00 am

American Exceptionalism: Cosmopolitanism by Another Name?
Philipp Ziesche (Yale University)

‚Beware the wit of Voltaire:‘ Transatlantic Asymmetries and the Limits of Republican Cosmopolitanism
Thomas Clark (University of Münster)

Chair: Michaela Hampf (Free University Berlin)

11:00-11:30 am Coffee Break
11:30 am -12:45 pm

Thomas Jefferson, the Transnational, and American Travel Writing
Markus Heide (Humboldt University Berlin)

Cosmopolitan Imperfections: Jefferson, Nationhood, and the Republic of Letters
Hannah Spahn (Free University Berlin)

Chair: Kirsten Twelbeck (University of Hannover)

12:45-2:15 pm Lunch Break
2:15-3:45 pm

The Limits of Love: Jefferson’s Biological Look at Wards, States, Nations, and the Cosmopolitan Community
Maurizio Valsania (University of Torino)

Coolness in the Age of Thomas Jefferson
Catrin Gersdorf (Free University Berlin)

Thomas Jefferson and Creating an Image for a Nation
Gaye Wilson (International Center for Jefferson Studies)

Chair: Andreas Etges (Free University Berlin)

3:45-4:15 pm Coffee Break
4:15-5:30 pm

Thomas Jefferson and the Provincial Cosmopolitanism of William Dunbar
Frank Cogliano (University of Edinburgh)

Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in the Literary and Political Writings of Joel Barlow
Dietmar Schloss (University of Heidelberg)

Chair: Ulla Haselstein (Free University Berlin)

5:30-6:00 pm

Concluding Remarks
Peter Onuf (University of Virginia)

Introduction: Peter Nicolaisen (University of Flensburg)

For further information please contact Hannah Spahn (

Zeit & Ort

02.12.2010 - 03.12.2010

Lansstraße 7-9, 14195 Berlin