Towards a New Cultural History of Eastern and Central Europe. Critical Issues and Reappraisals

June, 2011 to May, 2013

The aim of the Project is to discuss new teaching and research agendas in humanities that have been opened due to the progress of a cultural history in recent decades and their application to the historical studies on the region of Eastern and Central Europe. During the period of 1980s and 1990s a new cultural history has developed as one of the most dynamic fields of historical studies. A rise of the cultural history is usually considered as a sort of epistemological response to the dominance of the social history in the 1960s and 1970s. It is argued that a new cultural history has challenged a dominant social history paradigm with its strong emphasis on the investigation of big social structures and long-time processes, the application of social scientist and especially quantitative techniques and the search for the general causes, laws and trends in historical development. By concentrating on the macro-social processes and by seeking for the nomological explanatory models a traditional social history mostly failed to account for the contingency, raptures, fragmentations and contradictions, which are so central to the human experience. This is exactly all what the proponents of a new cultural history have sought to bring back by emphasizing the crucial role of discursive and symbolic elements in the constitution of the culture and society. One of the main tasks of a new cultural history is thus to explain how cultural symbols and discursive formations framed and mediated human behavior and social process. It would be a mistake however to present the expansion of a cultural history in terms of the new dominant paradigm in historical studies. From the very beginning, a new cultural history has grown into a highly de-centered academic field which has encompassed a wide range of different and often incompatible epistemologies, research practices and experiences.