CONCEPTA - Research Seminars in Conceptual History and Political Thought

Concepta is an academic network that offers introductory-level courses as well as thematically-specific advanced research seminars which bring together doctoral students, early-career scholars and leading specialists interested in conceptual history. Created in 2006 by an initiative of the History of Concepts Group (HCG), Concepta has organized more than twenty events that have served as global meeting places and training grounds for academics from various disciplinary and institutional backgrounds.


Concepta proceeds from the assumption that concepts are neither timeless nor unchanging. Rather, they are sites of rhetorical actions around which arguments, discourses and vocabularies turn. Drawing upon the research traditions of Begriffsgeschichte as developed by Reinhart Koselleck and contextualist intellectual history advocated by Quentin Skinner and others in the “Cambridge School,” Concepta approaches concepts as contested expressions that incorporate divergent positions on present conditions, expectations for the future and experiences of the past.

Conceptual history investigates the contingent, competing meanings given to concepts-in-use by providing analytic tools for understanding the emergence and multi-faceted development of political ideas, socio-cultural practices and scientific discourses. By focusing on the changing ways that language has been used to grasp, and to give shape to, different aspects of human behavior—in the realms of politics, social relations, religion, the arts and sciences, etc.—we can better understand the dynamics of rhetorical and institutional change and the roles of human agency in the development of ideational and ideological traditions.

Concepta also engages with contemporary research on cultural encounters and entanglements on local, regional and global scales. Our introductory courses and advanced seminars emphasize comparative perspectives both in terms of chronologies and between cultural and linguistic spheres. We support initiatives which pay attention to the processes of conceptual transfers, translations and receptions. Thanks to the recent proliferation of digitized materials and the methods of computational linguistics, it is increasingly possible to conjoin detailed, contextually-bounded studies of concepts-in-use with large-scale analyses of the frequency and the semantic relations of concepts.