REPORTS

Title:Summer Session in Slavske (July 2011)
Description:
Taking into account that a new cultural history has grown into a highly de-centered academic field, which has encompassed a wide range of different epistemologies and research practices, the aim of the first session (Lviv-Slavske, 10-23 July 2011) was to delineate the general contours of what is understood by “cultural history” in post-Soviet and “Western” history scholarship today, to search for a common conceptual ground for the new agenda of a cultural history, and to explore how a cultural historian can innovatively deal with traditional topics of political, intellectual, social or art history. Therefore, during the first summer session, project participants focused on guiding ideas, conceptual premises, major achievements, theoretical dilemmas and debates of various schools of cultural history in the Western academia, and also critically reflected on the practices of studying and teaching cultural history in the post-Soviet countries.
 
Before the session started participants were acquainted via e-mail with the summer session program, logistics and technical details. Starting from April faculty members worked on their seminars. All suggested by faculty or participants materials were gathered and photocopied for the participants to use during the summer sessions or later at their departments. In particular, selected introductory reading (historiographical and conceptual overviews by historians and sociologists P.Burke, V.Bonnell, L.Hunt, W.Sewell Jr, and others) on the various scholarly practices of cultural history and changing understanding of “culture” was offered to project participants in advance and often served for references during the session.
 
Three discussions in the round table format, “Place and meaning of cultural history in the university curricula”, “Cultural history and post-modernism” and “Cultural History versus Memory Politics” (based on the path-breaking and/or provocative texts by A.Gurevich, J.Scherrer, A.Miller, and K.Jenkins), allowed project participants to introduce their scholarly experiences and exchange the opinions. All project participants had to sign in advance for at least one of roundtables and to prepare an informal 5-10 minutes talk with her/his reflections of the problem. These discussions were especially important for further facilitating of the interdisciplinary collaboration of the project participants, since there were two sociologists and one art historian in the group.
 
In planning the thematic structure of the session our intention was to concentrate on the main challenges that the new cultural history poses to more traditional historiography. In fact, the new cultural history developed in the 1980s and 90s as a sort of epistemological response to the dominance of the social history in the 1960s and 70s, challenging a dominant social history paradigm with its strong emphasis on the investigation of big social structures and long-time processes. New cultural history also poses significant challenge to the dominance of national paradigm in historiography of the countries of the region. Therefore, the first session began with a seminar conducted by A.Zayarnyuk “Shifting fields of the historical inquiry. From social to cultural and back” that dealt with multiple origins of English-speaking social and cultural history. It was followed by broad historiographical overview of the foundations of nowadays cultural history by M.Janowski, and introduction to the transnational paradigm of historiography by Ph.Ther. Several seminars exposed project participants to selected conceptual problems of cultural history, such as integration of urban cultural history and nationalism studies (O.Sereda), role of studies on belles-lettres and social space for historical enquiry (A.Zayarnyuk), and transnational memory (M.Steer). A number of seminars demonstrated through particular case studies how the study on cultural symbols and discursive formations can be applied in both macro- and micro-historical analysis (series of seminars by Y.Hrytsak on individual, urban and global levels of cultural historical analysis, and a seminar on the cultural history of the Carpathian mountains by M.Janowski). A special attention was paid to the cultural history of Soviet-ruled post-war societies of Eastern Europe (seminar by T.Lindenberger), since a big part of the project participants specialize in the post-war history, an area of research which is still predominantly studied in very traditional ways (of political or social history) in the post-Soviet academia. In order to increase the activity of participants they were asked in advance to prepare a short contribution based on their  research/teaching experience (up to 10 minutes), or to act as a discussant at least at two seminars. As a rule, each seminar begin with an introductory lecture-type talk of a faculty member (45 minutes) followed by additional 90 minutes of questions, comments, co-presentations of two-four project participants, and a general discussion moderated by project co-director. The readings for the seminars were uploaded in advance on the web-page.
 
Three smaller thematic groups were organized at the summer session organized for course syllabi development and for designing intra-group cooperation: “Early modern cultural history”; “Urban cultural history”; “Cultural history of Soviet society” (each of them received “moderators” from among the faculty members). They hold several meetings during which research and teaching interests were presented and the plans for future cooperation discussed.
 
The general aim and strategy of the project were constantly put in the centre of general considerations of project participants and faculty. It was decided by the end of the summer session that besides individual course syllabi and research texts project participants will engage into a collective work on a mega-syllabus that would cover three main areas of participants’ interest (corresponding to three smaller thematic groups) and include extensive bibliographies in English and languages of the region, selected visual and textual sources, examples of student research projects etc.
 
To be able to modify summer session’s program and follow group’s dynamics, concerns and attitudes in general two feedbacks were organized – in the middle of the session and the final one. The results were communicated to the participants and first feedback was responded immediately with all the problems discussed through and solutions found. All project members were provided with e-mail and internet access, they were able to photocopy, scan and print-out, which was very useful for sharing various materials. We also had a functioning mini-library of books and print-outs with academic articles and materials relating to the university teaching.



Added Files:
group photo
Session program