Seminar “Historical Notions of Privacy in Latin America”

This series of seminars aims to address historical issues of privacy in Latin America, in Europe, and transregionally. Each month, one of the participants will present a work-in-progress, which will be circulated in advance and discussed online via zoom. This event is open, and scholars of all countries are welcome to join. Meetings will be held on the last Thursday of the month at 17:00 CEST/CET. Exceptions will be informed in advance. The language of the seminar is English. If necessary, questions in Portuguese or Spanish can be posted on the chat and will be translated.

NEXT MEETING: MAY 27, 2021, 17:00 CEST (12:00 BRT)

Dr Frank Ejby Poulsen will present his work-in-progress

How to write a global intellectual history of privacy?

For Privacy Studies to establish itself as an academic field, it must be global, or called ‘Western’ Privacy Studies. Current research in the history of privacy shows—against the general conceived opinion—that privacy did exist in the early modern period. In this sense, privacy is a historical topic that the historian can observe across time. But is privacy a global phenomenon that the historian may identify across space? Scholars disagree whether privacy is solely a ‘Western’ phenomenon or is universal. In this paper, I argue that scholars, in fact, agree if one understands privacy as a human experience. Privacy is a universally shared human experience, but the conceptualisation and the expression of privacy are context-dependent. This also includes the so-called ‘Western’ privacy, which is as varied as cultures and mores in the ‘Western’ part of the world. Understood in this sense, a global history of privacy becomes possible. A global intellectual history of privacy would resemble a contextual mapping of various conceptualisations of privacy across space and time on a global scale. The question remains open as to how this approach differs at all from ordinary intellectual history besides the concern for non-Western contexts and how appropriate a global intellectual history (of privacy) might be for the early modern period.

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