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The first open-access digital encyclopaedia on sociability in Europe throughout the long-eighteenth century

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Sociabilities on the Move in the Long Eighteenth Century (1650-1850)


Call for papers for the H2020 DIGITENS closing conference
University of Western Brittany, Brest, France - December 7-9, 2022
Deadline for the submission of proposals: 30 March 2022

Sociabilities on the Move in the Long Eighteenth Century (1650-1850)
Sociabilités en mouvement au cours du long XVIIIe siècle (1650-1850)


For the past ten years, the research work carried out by the international network formalized into the GIS Sociabilités/Sociability in 2017 has opened new paths in sociability studies by adopting an interdisciplinary and comparative approach. Building on the traditional historiography of social historians such as Maurice Agulhon, Norbert Elias, Daniel Roche or Peter Clark, our research has first focused on the emergence, evolution and resistance of British forms of sociability interpreted in national and transnational contexts, before shedding light on the importance of mutual exchanges, influences and tensions in the (re)definition of models of sociability in the long eighteenth century. Part of this research output is now available online on the DIGIT.EN.S website (, a digital encyclopedia platform to be enriched in the coming months with new entries.
The dynamics of circulations in European and colonial societies have revealed the centrality of movement as a concept to grasp the ever-changing nature and function of sociability. Movement is a dynamic concept and process expressed and materialised through a variety of terms and actions: evolution, transformation, circulation, change, transport, mobility, transfer, exchange…
The commercial and colonial expansion as well as the Enlightenment debates on man and society contributed to a significant shift in both practices and discourses, fostering a far more dynamic conception of the social and sociable man. Moreover, the emergence of new sciences such as chemistry and anthropology in the second half of the eighteenth century set matter and bodies in motion, affected by an interplay of flux, powers and forces. The anxiety generated by this rising interest in phenomena of production, degeneration, transience and liminality paradoxically strengthened discourses promoting moral values of refinement and improvement, as well as a reflexive understanding of sociality.
Against a Western logic of space as abstract, stable, ordered and homogeneous, the concept of “movement” can offer a novel framework for the interpretation and analysis of sociabilities on the move. As underscored by Tim Ingold, “lives […] are never exclusively here or there, lived in this place or that, but always on the way from one place to another” (Kirby 32). Movement is at the core of the individual’s social life, providing opportunities of mobility or transgression, and as such is inevitably bound up with issues of control, hierarchy and exclusion. Movement stimulates by defying political and social strictures: de-familiarizing the gaze, shifting perspectives, creating fresh connections, making boundaries more permeable, enabling new prospects. It is the primal sign of life as well as the engine of social interaction, therefore key to research on sociabilities.

This international conference aims to explore new insights on forms, models and practices of sociability interpreted and analysed through the prism of movement. As such, it will conclude the H2020 DIGITENS project launched in January 2019 and initiate the new scientific programme of the GIS Sociabilités/Sociability.

We welcome proposals for individual papers (20-25 minutes given in English or French) or already constituted panels (3 papers) from various disciplinary fields (history, philosophy, art history, history of science, geography, sociology, anthropology, ethnology, literature, cultural studies, postcolonial studies). We encourage innovative methodologies and approaches as well as the use of digital technologies and techniques for the collection, storage, analysis and presentation of data.

A session of the conference will be dedicated to graduate students. We thus encourage graduate students from the institutions belonging to the DIGITENS consortium or to the GIS Sociability and working on a topic related to eighteenth-century sociability to submit a proposal for a poster presentation of their research work (10 minutes in French or English).

1. Sociability as a concept: evolution of its terminology and meanings (1650-1850)
* Language and ideas: definitions and periodization of sociability
- The changing nature and meaning of the concept of sociability as a value and as a practice from 1650 to 1850: lexical, semantic and philosophical evolution
- The gradual distinction between the adjectives ‘social’ and ‘sociable’, tracing both the various practices and the discourses that participate in definitions of sociability
- The evolution of the concept through changing practices, places and contexts (social, cultural, political, geopolitical)
- The identification of transitional periods in the conceptualization of sociability.
* Sociability as a driving force
- The definition or theorization of sociability as a drive from self to other and from self to social group: social inclination, sympathy, affect, sentiment, emotion…
- The literary and visual representations of sociability as a drive
- The importance of materiality in fostering or fuelling the sociable move: objects, places …
- The changing interpretations of social withdrawal, self-isolation or solitude

2. Sociability and travel
* Sociability and hospitality
- The emergence of new forms of sociability during travel
- The development of hospitable practices to address the needs of people on the move
- The role of food, drink and specific venues in hospitable practices
- The sociable character of the traveller
* Sociability in travelogues
- The formation of transnational sociabilities during the Grand Tour, picturesque tourism or other forms of voyage (spa, seaside …)
- The representation of sociability in travel narratives and touristic guides
* Sociability and modes of transportation
- Sociability and modes of transportation: stage coach, packet boat, horses, railways…
- The impact of means of transportation on the sociable experience
- The circulation of ‘sociable objects’ and their influence on fashions, social and cultural values and practices of sociability
* Travel restrictions
- Sociability affected by travel constraints, restrictions and other various difficulties (passport, a letter of introduction, quarantine…)
- The effect of conflicts and wars on the circulation of individuals and objects

3. Mobility, migration and contact
* Contractual mobility
- The growth of commerce and trading companies as engines of sociability
- Sociability and the rise of world diplomacy
- Maritime travel and the expansion of global communication and exchange
- Scientific expeditions, opening new horizons for socialization and promoting the advance of human knowledge
- Sociability engendered or disrupted by troop/military movements
* Migrations
- Sociability induced by voluntary migration: colonisation of new territories, exploration, transatlantic movement
- The redefinition or reconfiguration of sociability when the individual or the group is forced to leave one’s country: exile, revolution, slavery.
* Contact zones
- The role played by contact zones in the evolution of sociability
- The influence of cultural differences on forms and representations of sociability
- The reactions to settlement experiences and how they reshape norms and practices of sociability. Analysing the processes at work: conflict, rejection, adaptation, appropriation…

4. Social interaction, movement and stasis
* The effects of movement on sociability
- Movement contributing to the growth and progress of sociability
- Social mobility and hierarchies redefining sociability
- Social and political emancipation through collective action and reform
- The promotion of values of sociability through the circulation of prints and ideas
- Free movement and its effects on sociability: promoting creativity, flexibility, deviation, transgression
- Physical movement and sporting practices and their effects on bodily and social interactions
* The circulation of models
- The exportation or transfer of models and practices of sociability
- The influence of travellers and travelling practices on regional or national models of sociability
- The effect of foreign sociable models on the traveller
- National sentiment affecting the sociable experience of travel
* Immobility or the reinvention of sociability
- Immobility as fostering new forms or practices of sociability
- Social interactions and social behaviours during experiences of confinement, imprisonment, captivity or other situations of forced mobility.

Deadline for submission: 30 March 2022
For individual paper proposals, please submit a title and a 200-word abstract, along with a short
biography. For panel proposals, please also include a title, a 200-word abstract for each paper, a short biography for each speaker and contact details for one speaker on the panel.

Selection of contributions: 30 May 2022
Send proposals to
Following the conference, a selection of papers will be published.