Ed McLuskie, Susanne Kinnebrock & Christian Schwarzenegger: European Communication History II: An Introduction to Theoretical Perspectives

This issue of medien & zeit follows up a range of case studies aimed at revealing communication histories that were analyzed in Part I, studies conducted in light of geographical and cultural borders. They highlighted historical artifacts; examined their availability in university curricula and research centers; addressed for different countries the status and history of communication history as an academic profession; and highlighted strengths, limitations, and prospects awaiting a distinctly European account of the historical record. Such scholarship seeks to uncover history. Part II aims to turn the matter around, showing how history might inform scholarship. Here, four essays examine theoretical shifts as appropriate to historical shifts that produce rereadings of communication history. Specifically, shifts in historiography from the national to the transnational address the thematic question, “What is European Communication History?”, with theoretical issues and recommendations that take note of the recursive, EU-era problem of the nation in a transnational milieu. Essays in Part II trace this recursiveness to earlier times, preceding the formation of today’s Europe, and locate it along lines — theoretical and material — of communication and media history. Each essay offers ontological and material reasons to reconceptualize European communication history as a transnational project. Three of the four authors make distinctly different cases for communication history as transnational history, suggesting, at the very least, that “the national” cannot and, in fact, has not developed within the geographical borders of the nation. A fourth essay offers reflections on the conduct of European communication history beyond the shift from national to transnational frameworks for theory…

Juraj Kittler: Learning from Braudel A Quest for a Comprehensive History of the Public Sphere

This study argues that despite enduring criticism Habermas’ project of the comprehensive history of the public sphere is still possible if we are willing to adopt some basic methodological strategies pioneered by Fernand Braudel. The opening section contends that the concept of the public sphere itself continues to be intellectually stimulating. Indeed, the enormous impact that Habermas’ work has had on generations of scholars in the West turned it into one of the key concepts that enabled Europeans to gain better understanding of their own history – complex and properly contextualized. The study follows on with a set of epistemological and ontological moves used by Braudel that may help to overcome basic design flaws of the original Habermasian project. In doing so it argues not only for the abandonment of artificially created disciplinary boundaries, but also for overcoming of the traditional borders of nation-states, and indeed of continental confines. Consequently, the paper suggests the idea of a fluid transnational public sphere on global scale with a historical sequence of hegemonic cities at its center, and invites communication historians to cross the comfortable geographic scales of their research in order to better contextualize local, regional, or national histories. Similarly, it conceptualizes both the public sphere as well as evolving communication technologies as composite dialectic constructs that can be understood only in broad social, cultural, political, and economic historical contexts.

Andreas Fickers: Seeing the familiar strange Some reflections about actants, actors and arenas of transnational media history

The essay pleas for a critical reassessment of the nation as long lasting paradigm of historical research on mass media. By presenting the transnational perspective as a useful framework for seeing the familiar strange, the author introduces the three interrelated concepts of actants, actors and arenas as critical tools for the study of transnational media flows. Based on three historical short stories dealing with the emergence of a telegraph infrastructure for news reporting in Sweden, the establishment of a transnational „pirate“ radio and television station in the Saar region, and subversive viewing practices of the Romanian television audience in the 1980s, the authors aims at problematizing the complex spatial and topological nature of transnational mediascape by using an integral media historical approach.

Merja Ellefson: Re-mapping Journalism History Development of the Pres in the Swedish Empire an Its Former colonies Finland, Estonia and Livonia until the Early 20th Century

With history writing in general, press history is often linked to the framework of the nation state. Such nationalist approaches may, however, lead to a fragmented view of history. We should remember that many current European nation states have fairly short histories, and, even old kingdoms, such as Sweden, have changed shape several times. During the 17th and 18th century, the Swedish Empire included Finland, Estonia, Livonia, Ingria, Pomerania, Wismar and Bremen/Verden, and the previously Danish areas in the south and northwest. Later, Sweden even had small colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. The empire, however, began to disintegrate during the Great Nordic War. During the 18th century Finland, Estonia and Livonia belonged to the Russian Empire. My purpose is to provide an overview of the development of the press in the Swedish Empire and the 19th century Finland, Estonia and Livonia, and discuss limitations of national perspectives.

Klaus Arnold: Methodological Approaches to European Communication and Media History About comparisons, transfers, and European public sphere

In this paper European communication and media history is described as an emerging field of studies. Considering the methodological concepts for transnational research that were developed in historiography, it is discussed how these concepts are applied in communication and media history. In this specialized field of studies various kinds of comparisons are the most common methodological concepts. Transfers and their repercussions have been analyzed less frequently. Another concept is the analysis of the emergence and the development of transnational institutions. Here research efforts concentrate mainly on the European public sphere. Although all these concepts can be distinguished theoretically and most studies center on one or the other, they are more or less closely intertwined. Since European communication and media studies are still something new, there are numerous options for future research which are discussed at the end of this article.

Rezensionen 4/2011

Horst Pöttker & Christian Schwarzenegger (Hg.): Europäische Öffentlichkeit und journalistische Verantwortung. Köln: Herbert von Halem Verlag 2010, 484 Seiten.
– rezensiert von Richard Solder

Paddy Scannell: Medien und Kommunikation. Herausgegeben und eingeleitet von Matthias Berg und Maren Hartmann. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag 2011, 361 Seiten.
– rezensiert von Roland Burkhart

Erhard Schütz: Echte falsche Pracht. Kleine Schriften zur Literatur. Herausgegeben von Jörg Döring und David Oels. Berlin: Verbrecher Verlag 2011, 586 Seiten.
– rezensiert von Wolfgang R. Langenbucher

Werner Telesko: Das 19. Jahrhundert. Eine Epoche und ihre Medien. Wien [u.a.]: Böhlau 2010, 336 Seiten
– rezensiert von Wolfgang Duchkowitsch

Stefanie Averbeck-Lietz: Kommunikationstheorien in Frankreich. Der epistemologische Diskurs der Sciences de l’information et de la communication (sic) 1975-2005. Berlin: Avinus Verlag 2010, 552 Seiten.
– rezensiert von Ursula E. Koch


Ed McLuskie, Susanne Kinnebrock & Christian Schwarzenegger: European Communication History: An Introduction


This two-part special issue on “European Communication History” involves authors from a variety of linguistic traditions in a journal usually appearing in German. While medien & zeit has published in English before, we note that authors find themselves leaving behind their primary linguistic homes. The act is a move beyond borders even when indigenous materials of historical research may defy the linguistic inflection. This is not to say that a decidedly “European history” is embraced by all authors in this volume. Ambivalence in suggesting commonalities across multiple cultures and nationalities has both academic and societal precedence. Moreover, historical research offers its analyses while political and economic circumstances chart directions and erect barriers between cultural groups and nation-states. In the midst of struggles to keep transnational dimensions afloat, harder lines shape EU nations as conservative movements display an ironic transnationalism through diffuse but recognizably cautious orientations vis-à-vis many faces of diversity and economic similarities. Research offers its claims on whether “Europe” can be a baseline category for communication history while European identity confronts pulls from two opposed directions: familiar lands of the past and uncertain globalization going forward. “Europe,” “history,” and, here, “communication” each lean into contemporary debates as soon as their respective definitions and elaborations appear. “History” refers to indigenous but also mutually defining cultures. “Communication” means struggles for solidarity or the means of transmission and influence, welcome or otherwise. This range of problematic definitions and situations produces replies as this journal asks, “What is European Communication History?”

Add to this question the predicament of the historian locked into the present to reconstruct earlier human experience, perhaps through media content, its channels, or national and regional communication policies. As “facts” of history meet the historian’s acts of interpretation per the hermeneutic traditions, that which survives for the historical narrative depends on the narrative as much as the facts to shed light on what to consider “European” and “communication.” …

Nelson Ribeiro: The Rise of a New Field Researching Communication History in the Iberian Countries

The article demonstrates how Communication History developed in Portugal and Spain demonstrating that, despite the fact both countries were ruled by dictatorships between the 1930s and the 1970s, the field of media studies in general received totally different treatment from the two authoritarian regimes. Moreover, it also demonstrates that after the implementation of democracy Communication History continued mostly on two different paths in the Iberian countries due to the distinct ways in which media studies were integrated in the academia. The different stages of development achieved by the field in the two countries are also explained. Nevertheless, despite all the differences, the author points out common themes that have been researched on both sides of the Iberian border and demonstrates that, despite media history being mostly dominated by nation-bound approaches, today there are common patterns on how it is produced in Portugal and Spain with clear similarities to the work also being carried out in other European countries.

Marcel Broersma: From Press History to the History of Journalism National and Transnational Features of Dutch Scholarship

In this essay the historiography on journalism in the Netherlands is critically examined. Three stages are distinguished in scholarship, moving from press history, i.e. mapping the institutional history of the press, to journalism history to the history of journalism. The latter indicates a shift from history focused on news production and professionalization to an approach that also includes the content, form and style of news coverage. It is argued that this pattern is not necessarily unique to the Dutch case and might be present in other European countries as well. Furthermore, following in the footsteps of Carey and Curran it is contended that a transnational grand narrative of journalism is implicitly in evidence in European historiography. This narrative is a story of continuous progress in which the development of journalism is interpreted as a long road from a partisan press to press freedom, including the establishment of an autonomous profession independent of political and economic powers that obeys more or less the objectivity regime and the practices and formal conventions resulting from it. This article concludes with a plea for a more nuanced history of journalism that takes reflective styles of journalism seriously and demonstrates the interplay between national specificities and transnational universals.

Cornelia Bogen: Structures of European Communication History The Case of Health Communication

This paper presents a comparison of health discourse in times of different media revolutions, focusing in particular on the rise of the “typographeum” during the 18th century, with the emergence of the digital revolution today. Three structures of media evolution are identified in the discourses of professionals and medical laymen over these three centuries, i.e., the communicative structure of contradiction, of sensationalism, and of self-reference. Focusing on melancholy, a main topic in health communication in various countries of Western Europe during the age of enlightenment, and depression in the present, it is argued that the presentation of medical information is probably determined more by media processes and media strategies of attracting the public’s attention, rather than by the increasing knowledge of medical science. Thus it is suggested that when it comes to the analysis of developments within European communication history, evolutional, transnational, and actor-oriented perspectives have to be taken into account.