No Straight Line:
Peculiar Pasts and Crooked Futures
A Symposium in Honor of Geoff Eley
Geoff Eley’s work has fundamentally reframed key questions in the field of German history and lastingly shaped the discipline of history. His work spans centuries and reaches across oceans. The questions he has asked are both pointed and of universal relevance. His contributions witnessed and shaped the many “turns” the discipline of history itself has made. His list of publications spans more pages than the average reading list for preliminary examinations in the field of German history. If one counts the presentations he has given at workshops and conferences one would assume he has lived three lives. As the organizers of this symposium in his honor, we suggest that the work of Geoff Eley deliberately evades “capture.” Instead of pounding a signpost into the ground and leaving his mark, Geoff has built bridges between fields and made waves within them, touching innumerable lives and minds in the process. To ride the waves and travel across these bridges by bringing together some of the many scholars, colleagues, students, and friends that have learned with and from Geoff is the purpose of this symposium.
No Straight Lines celebrates Geoff Eley’s impressive career, the breadth, range and importance of his scholarship, his spirit as a teacher, mentor and colleague, and his life-long commitment to justice, within and beyond the academy. Starting out as a scholar of German nationalism and the German political right and reframing the “peculiarities” of that history as an emerging young scholar, Geoff Eley’s work bore the imprint of comparative history, of thinking with concepts and theories rather than applying them, of pushing against boundaries that confine “acceptable” ways of thinking about the past, which he is currently putting into practice again by writing a comprehensive history of 20th Century Europe. Throughout his career, he has traced and critically reflected on how historical thinking has itself changed as a result of historical processes. No Straight Lines seeks to take stock of and celebrate the extent to which Geoff Eley’s work has in fact been indispensable to the intellectual shifts he has so skillfully traced and succinctly explained.
Besides celebrating the breadth and impact of Geoff Eley’s scholarship, No Straight Lines seeks to remind us all of the many ways in which his work was never just theoretical but was always connected with and energized by thinkers, writers, scholars, and students, and in turn, supported and touched so many of them in lasting ways. In this regard the Saturday dinner is as crucial a part of this symposium, as is the discussion of Eley’s scholarly footprint. That footprint was never purely abstract; nor was it only intellectual. Rather it continues to invigorate the many friendships and collaborations he has built and sustained over his career. This symposium brings us together to honor the experience of learning from and with Geoff Eley.
The Department of Anthropology; College of Literature, Science, and the Arts; Donia Human Rights Center; Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies; Department of English Literature & Language; Department of Film, Television, and Media; Frankel Center for Judaic Studies; Germanic Languages and Literatures; History Department; Institute for the Humanities; Program for International and Comparative Studies; Rice University; Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies; Weiser Center for Europe and Eurasia