University scandals and the public sphere of Imperial Austria: the Wahrmund and Zimmermann affairs
Between 1907 and 1911, Imperial Austria experienced two major controversies concerning entanglements of science and religion. In 1907, the Innsbruck specialist in church law, Ludwig Wahrmund, publicly criticized the new ‘antimodernist’ and antiscientific trends of Catholic science, causing semester-long protests, fights, university closures and heated parliamentary debates. Antagonized in Innsbruck, Wahrmund relocated to Prague. The controversy triggered by his work, however, united students from across the monarchy in Wahrmund’s defence. In 1910, an analogous conflict arose in Cracow after Kazimierz Zimmermann was appointed professor of Catholic sociology. This time the protest against his teachings, although intensive, transgressed Galician boundaries only to a limited extent, failing to mobilize progressive student groups to go on the streets outside of the province. This article analyses the difference between protests against Wahrmund and Zimmermann from a spatial perspective. The author argues that the way both conflicts were received in politics and in local university cities indicates that there was an Imperial Austrian public sphere that transgressed national boundaries and linguistic divisions. Conflicts over contested topics, like the long-heated relationship between Church, science and higher education, were charged events that brought this public sphere to the fore. This translingual, imperial public sphere remained, however, hierarchically structured. A conflict in Innsbruck had more weight than one in Cracow, both within political discussions and in local presses.