SOCIAL TIME AND SPACE

Project’s Description
 
 
RATIONALE AND GOALS OF THE PROJECT
 
There is a growing sense that the national narratives accepting nations as natural and primary frame of the contemporary world are no longer tenable as the main interpretative framework in humanities and social sciences while undergraduate university curriculum is still mostly structured along these lines. Although the national normative approach used to be traditionally strong in the disciplines classifying their object-matter spatially – history, literature, political science, study of culture, – the national paradigm is currently crucially challenged by the new trans-disciplinary approaches and new fields of study – such as gender, cultural, post-colonial and other studies, and in those parts of more traditional disciplines that have been affected by these new academic concepts. Besides, and sometimes outside of the national frame, region and place emerge as foci of scholarly research, collective memory (often suppressed), intellectual projects and common people’s experiences. Questioning of the legitimacy of spatial framework is accompanied by the similar distrust of the linear chronological and developmental time as progress of the national narratives. This rethinking of the basic operational categories of humanities and social sciences has turned into a common ground for the convergence of various disciplines in terms of both theory and collaborative projects either of scholarly or public nature.
As far as now, these changes have touched upon the university curricula in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe only to some extent with those most susceptible to them being younger scholars whose attempts to change the situation are limited institutionally. Younger scholars lack networks that will help to establish cross-institutional connections, trans-disciplinary alliances, concerted motions to introduce curricula changes, and help rethinking and defending new theoretical frameworks that have to be introduced in the university courses’ content with adequate teaching methodology being developed.
This project aims at the convergence of agendas from various disciplines represented by younger faculty members into projects animated by the shared concerns. Taking history as the traditionally strong and well entrenched in university discipline through which categories of social time and space are usually assimilated by the students, we shall open multidisciplinary dialogue about these concepts basic for any interpretive framework in sociology, political science, cultural studies and anthropology. This convergence has to materialize in the networks working on the translation of new theoretical frameworks and perspectives from their research into their teaching, in collaborative research projects, public appeals and sustained cooperation between younger faculty members sharing some basic ideas about what social world is like.
            New thematic foci – region, place, non-linear time – provide a viable alternative to the nationally-confined research frameworks and narratives, indicating how things could have happened differently and serving as focal point for alternative visions of political and cultural organization of the world. These new foci are difficult to reify, their boundaries and structures are more flexible, their shapes are fluid and characteristics – deceiving. Precisely because of this they have attracted dissenting voices of those trying to transgress the boundaries of their respective disciplines and to create broader, more inclusive, socially more relevant and appealing to the broader audience academic projects.
            On the other hand it is important to remember that all these new thematic foci are also suitable for “essentialization” and should not be taken as objective and granted. Similarly to nations, regions, places and social time were created and reinvented through the history, frameworks built on their basis can be confining and misleading, serving the political needs and discriminating the other (as, for example, exclusive Central European discourse), if not critically rethought with the help of new methodological tools of humanities and social sciences. Therefore, it is indispensable to analyze all these categories in comparative perspective, transgressing the borders of traditional disciplines of teaching and research.
            The main goal of this project is
  • to take constructed character of social space and time as a promising and potentially explosive concept, to explore research potential of national/regional/(g)local cognitive frameworks providing to seminar’s participants sound alternatives that have potential to challenge the dominance of nation-centered paradigm and to devise adequate teaching methods and techniques facilitating this.
Instead of seeing East-Central Europe as a coherent macro-region or perennial political and cultural borderland, in this project both Eastern and Central parts of Europe (including Russian/Soviet post-imperial space) are conceptualized as a flexible multitude of fluctuating micro-regions with no developmental path being predetermined and predestined, with their specific and common features becoming apparent only in comparison. Therefore the next goal of this project is
  • to promote comparative analytic framework in social sciences and humanities in the region, inculcating comparative research optics among the seminar’s participants and developing methods for integration of this framework into their teaching.
Believing that the only way in inter-disciplinarity to go beyond declarations of intent and superfluous knowledge of secondary literature is real collaboration of various disciplines in work on a concrete empiric case, something that is better defined as trans-disciplinarity (which instead of staying in-between the disciplines implies projects drawing on a range of approaches to reach the desired goal), we see our next goal as
  • the emergence of trans-disciplinary for course development and research projects focusing on the regions and run by the seminar’s participants in collaboration with seminar’s faculty.
It is also our conviction that serious empirical work cannot be detached from the serious engagement with theoretical debates in the disciplines. Moreover, nowadays humanities and social sciences share the common body of theory, acquaintance with which is a precondition of active participation in the life of world academia. National/regional/(g)local paradigms will be reconsidered in the context of contemporary theoretical debates and different methodologies by moving from empirical studies utilizing them to the works of theory themselves. Therefore one of this project’s goals is
  • to acquaint project’s participants with the range of theoretical approaches and methodologies which would be helpful for their development as scholars, to realize these methodologies’ potential and relevance to their own scholarly interests and teaching obligations.
 
THEME JUSTIFICATION
To reach the above-stated goals we shall use the three-tier structure mentioned in the seminar’s title – national, regional and (g)local, each with its temporal dimensions and implications. Nations, regions and places of Central and Eastern Europe provide a perfect empirical ground for testing this theoretical framework, with plenty of intellectually challenging cases to be used in research and teaching. These parts of Europe have been recently in the focus of intensive and highly productive research of a large international and multidisciplinary team of scholars, to which researchers of the world caliber belong. They have produced rich scholarship incorporating different methodological and geographical perspectives that still have to be translated into teaching agendas of the region’s universities. Collaboration with some of these scholars within the opportunities offered by the seminar will be beneficial for the seminar participants’ own teaching and research. Hopefully, new directions along which this scholarship could be revised and improved will be produced by our project’s participants while the more theoretical thematic focus of the seminar will allow for broad mobilization of the individual participants’ experience, fields of expertise and disciplinary knowledge.
It is not accidental that the seminar’s sessions will be hosted by the Lviv National University, which is located in Western Ukraine, eastern part of the historical region of Galicia. First, national narrative is a particularly prominent feature of the academic environment here, it is used and abused with such an intensity that could be hardly seen in other places and regions. On the other hand, this is the region where the local academic milieus have been intensively exposed to western scholarship, where vibrant networks of young scholars and new academic institutions well integrated into the larger global academic community have been created and already contributed to the critical reshaping of the dominant national narrative. The organizers and core faculty members themselves are part of this effort exemplified by the journals such as Ab Imperio, Krytyka, Ukraïna Moderna, Spaces of Identity, Kritika: Explorations in Eurasian History, institutions such as Central European University, Institute of Historical Research and Center for MA Programs in Cultural Studies and Sociology at Lviv National University, Academic Fellowship Program (OSI HESP), academic forums and seminars permanently working on site.
Second, the former Habsburg crownland of Galicia can serve as a perfect training ground for the exploration of Eastern and Central Europe’s many micro-regions in comparative perspective within the framework of the project. The current political division of the historical region of Galicia on its Polish and Ukrainian parts by itself stimulates comparative thinking and bringing in different national intellectual traditions for critical examination. Being based mostly in Galicia this project will fully use the opportunities of site-visits to various places of memory (museums, exhibitions, memorials etc), traces of old and physical presence of new borders, multiple symbolic layers of the local cityscapes and arm project’s participants with an adequate toolbox for their analysis and pedagogical use.
 
            With this general thematic focus the following topics have been developed to reach Seminar’s goals:

 

·                    Constructing Social Space: Drawing Boundaries, Imagining Histories, Producing Knowledge. This topic will serve as a useful umbrella introduction to both larger theoretical debates in humanities and social sciences and region’s complex past and present. It will problematize spatial divisions disciplines and scholars conventionally use, and analyze the constructed character of our mental geographies. Region’s nations, micro-regions and places will serve as a perfect introduction to these debates. The region (Eastern and Central Europe) itself, its shifting and constantly redefined boundaries have been in the focus of our resource faculty members’ own research. We shall investigate how similar processes work on different levels – in the case of nations, micro-regions and even separate places.
 
·                    Region, Nation and Empire
This theme will focus on the relation of a region to other paramount research categories in history, social and political sciences, such as nation and empire. Collective national and imperial identities as macrostructures will be confronted with the convergence of multiple loyalties and changing flow of personal identifications in the micro-regional and even smaller local scale. The role of Eastern and Central European regions in imperial contest before the 20th century, crucial change of their spatial and defining characteristics through the world wars, and their significance in current political developments will be demonstrated in comparative perspective. The regional dimension of electoral geography and political culture, and the importance of regional differences in the functioning of public spaces will be studied by comparing recent political changes in Poland, Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova, particularly the “Orange revolution” and the (im-) possibility of its spread over the other pot-Soviet countries.

 

·                    Memory, History and Today
This topic provides a possibility to consider the regionalized character of collective memories and the various “places of memory” in contemporary society. Eastern and Central Europe, and in particular micro-region of Galicia, offer many examples of competing historical narratives (national, imperial, religious etc), of the resistance and adaptation of local memories to the meta-narratives imposed from above, and of (mis-)use of history for political purposes. Special attention will be devoted to the changing normative historical narration of places: e.g., attempt at the reconsideration of the cultural identity of the town of Drohobych: from a town of classical Ukrainian intellectual Ivan Franko to a town of world-acknowledged Jewish-Polish writer Bruno Schulz and the nationalist opposition to this. The Seminar’s participants will discuss in detail and compare places of memory of the other regions that they study or represent.
 
·                    From Multicultural Past to Monocultural Present?
This theme will explore issues of multiculturalism and of cultural difference in both region’s past and present. These issues are much discussed today and highly relevant to our contemporary politics and struggles. In particular we shall look at how inter-ethnic interaction and mutual influences had been working in past, what were the attitude and role of various political and social structures in this interaction, why and how the plurality of cultures have been eliminated and more or less homogenous cultural landscape appeared. The history of region’s voluntary migrations and forced resettlements, from transoceanic migration at the end of the 19th century, to post-war migrations and resettlements and to present-day emigration and immigration trends will be discussed here. Seminar’s participants will share their own experiences with this issue in current intellectual and political contexts, establish where the new dividing lines are being drawn and how they should be approached in our teaching practice.

 

·                    Places, Microstructures and Experiences of Resistance
Here we shall analyze places and local experiences as an alternative to the generalizing abstractions of modern social science. From this perspective places are not just sites localized by the disciplines and their practitioners and utilized for their own research needs, not just examples to be used in larger schemes and models but localities with the dynamic of their own and layers of the experience offering an alternative to the imagination of those entangled by their knowledge-production function into the optics of power-holders. We shall use places to excavate the experiences of disempowered, including (but not limited to) women, peasants, homosexuals, domestic servants, young people, to analyze tactics employed by them and to think about translatability of this experience.
 
·                    Teaching Difficult Subjects
This topic will confront Seminar’s participants with the issues that are often missing in national curricula and that deal with the problems of discrimination, genocide and collective trauma. It will allow discussion on the following questions: How to approach atrocities in teaching history of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath? How to challenge the usage of regional framework for stereotyping and “orientalization” of the “other”, e.g. the politics of excluding eastern neighbors from the imagined European space? How to provoke critical thinking on collective amnesia and myth-making? The troublesome history of Galicia and other Eastern and Central European regions in the 19th and 20th centuries can provide a starting point for exchange of opinions on subjects of profound public significance.
 
PROJECT OUTCOMES
 
·        Creation of a strong and sustainable network of teachers and scholars that involves both western and local (from the target countries) participants. This network will also be established between the project and other leading institutions in the region and in the west;
  • A number of departmental curricula currently used in participant’s home institutions will be revised and improved throughout the project duration;
·        New optional or mandatory courses be designed and taught by the participants of the project in cooperation with resource faculty and peers. In some institutions, where strictly defined curricula does not allow to introduce new courses or possibilities for this is strictly limited, we would propose our participants to design some modules within defined courses, specializations or disciplines that would introduce students to the concepts of social time and space.
·        On-line resource center will be established to serve needs not only target group (participants), but also much wider circle of interested in a topic faculty;
·        Participants will receive necessary professional training in new teaching and research techniques, as well as needed skills development;
  • Participants will acquire crucial resources (including reading packets, books, digital materials (CDs), etc) to cover existing resource gaps at their institutions, which will enable them to establish mini-resource centers in their home institutions and continue development of the field and curricula revision process in a future;
  • In addition to above-listed resources a CD will be produced by the end of the project. This CD is envisaged as a result of collaborative effort of resource faculty and project participants to produce a teaching device that would include research-based articles of the participants, selected readings on the subject (to be used as student reading materials), collection of revised or newly designed courses/modules, handouts, visual materials from site visits or team-work, photo collections, electronic documents, data bases, and other materials.
  • An advanced group of trained university teachers in humanities and social sciences will be established by the end of the project, who will become resource persons themselves skilled to spread knowledge, new theoretical approaches and innovative teaching practices in this field beyond the network.
·        Research interests of both students and junior faculty will be activated and organized through a number of forms of cooperation (e.g. small team projects, Internet publication, forums and other activities).
In a long term perspective established alumni’s teams will be able to contribute significantly to the creation of a new research, teaching environment and educational reforms at their home institutions and throughout the region.