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In this edition of the Amsterdam Seminar Global Intellectual History, Sophia Rosenfeld (University of Pennsylvania) will give a lecture entitled "Human Rights and the Idea of Choice".

Event details of Amsterdam Seminar Global Intellectual History: Sophia Rosenfeld
Date 18 May 2018
Time 16:00 -17:30
Location Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis
Room Venue: Bushuis (VOC-zaal)

In her lecture Professor Rosenfeld will consider the importance of the idea of choice for the development of the modern human rights movement.  The notion of freedom entailing the proliferation of both opportunities for choice-making and choices themselves is widely understood to be central to the rise of consumer culture in the West. This understanding of freedom-as-choice should, however, equally be recognized as critical to conceptions of the self that increasingly shaped human rights ideology from the eighteenth century onward. 

Rosenfeld will explore how this came to be by focusing less on key philosophical texts than on the rise of new, quotidian social practices associated with choosing, including both voting (in which one is asked to pick representatives) and couple-based social dancing (in which one is asked to pick potential romantic or marriage partners), that flourished in the wake of the age of revolutions. Methodologically, the talk will also focus on how ideologies are made. 

Sophia Rosenfeld is Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches European intellectual and cultural history with a special emphasis on the Enlightenment, the trans-Atlantic Age of Revolutions, and the legacy of the eighteenth century for modern democracy.  She is the author of A Revolution in Language: The Problem of Signs in Late Eighteenth-Century France (Stanford, 2001) and also of Common Sense: A Political History (Harvard, 2011), which won several prizes. She is now writing two new books: one on how the idea and practice of choice-making became so central to modern conceptions of freedom, and the other on truth and democracy in historical perspective.


The Amsterdam Seminar Global Intellectual History is a platform for researchers from different faculties and departments at the University of Amsterdam who are working in the field of intellectual history and related disciplines. These include, among others, the history of historical, legal and political thought, conceptual history, the social and cultural history of ideas, as well as research at the intersection between intellectual history, institutions, politics, and practices.

Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

Room Venue: Bushuis (VOC-zaal)

Kloveniersburgwal 48
1012 CX Amsterdam