Speculative Endeavors

Online conference organized by Katrin Horn, Karin Hoepker, and Selina Foltinek at the University of Bayreuth, Oct 21-23, 2021

Visit the conference’s website here

We may be a bit late with our comment on the project’s conference but not less enthusiastic about its outcome! From October 21-23, 2021, the Speculative Endeavors Conference eventually took place virtually. Last year, we postponed our event in the hope we might meet in person in 2021. Early this year, we made the call that it might be wiser (and safer) to move the conference online. And, sure, the missed conversations over coffe and in the hallways put a little damper on things. In the end, however, we were simply happy to finally meet those people virtually who had sent their fantastic abstracts on a wide range of topics in 2019. The conference planning had certainly come a long way!

Speculative Endeavors examined cultures of knowledge and capital in the US during the long nineteenth century. In particular, presentations focused on illicit, tacit, oral, unofficial, or subjugated knowledges. In the century of the rise of Wall Street, the increasing incorporation of America, and the experience of economic volatility, people sought potential “insider knowledge” about the machinations of markets, and different knowledges competed in times of heightened uncertainty. Practices of speculation, covert informational labor, and related mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion closely regulated access to and speculative value of such knowledge. Heike Paul, the director of the Bavarian American Academy (BAA), kindly offered to start off the conference with a few words on the contemporary context of the the conference topic. As chairs, Sylvia Mayer, Regina Schober, Birte Christ, and Jana Keck guided our speakers and all participants through the panels to align the panelists’ long, pre-circulated papers and short, 7-min Zoom talks. This format allowed us to have extensive, 60min-Q&As which lay the focus on dialogue and exchange, which for us are central to the value of conference. We couldn’t be happier with how all our participants were willing to committed to making this format work! Conference presentations were given by twelve speakers from the US, UK, Austria, and Germany. They covered topics from the areas of rumor & speculation, disenfanchised knowledge (institutions), the trade of private knowledge, and knowledge production in the so-called private sphere.

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