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The Wrocław Seminars project started

Relocating Central Europe in Early Modern and Modern Communication Networks

The borders of the EU and NATO have been shifted eastward since the end of the Cold War, but this has not yet been reflected sufficiently in international research in the humanities. The old borders between Eastern and Western Europe are still tacitly assumed. Even when revisionist historians and cultural critics aim at a correction of traditional views in which Western Europe forms the supposed centre of Modernity, the shifts remain within the borders of the ‘old’ EU, giving Southern Europe a more prominent place, or pertain to former imperial space. Central Europe in most cases remains an empty border space. To quote one example, Charles Withers, in his recent Placing the Enlightenment: Thinking Geographically about the Age of Reason (2007) gives due attention to the Enlightenment in southern Europe, but he mentions Poland, for instance, only once in its role of the great vanishing act of the Eighteenth Century.

The proposed symposia aim at relocating Central Europe in international humanities research by way of focussing on international communication networks since Gutenberg. The focus on communication networks not only makes it possible to counter familiar conceptions of the supposed cultural isolation of Central Europe from the West, but it also prevents the creation of new essentialised geopolitical identities. Instead, all relations are to be considered within the same analytical framework, in which they should preferably be studied beyond familiar conceptions of territories and borders, fixed centres and margins. These relations are always stretched in contingent and non-deterministic ways, across space to prevent privileging either Central or Western Europe in a particular investigation. In all three symposia special attention will be given to the role of communication technologies – correspondence networks, the printing press, digital media – and their consequences for the dissemination of knowledge. The objective is to pinpoint places in Central Europe in these knowledge networks, both on a European scale (the first two symposia) and globally during the period of European expansion (the third symposium).

The intention is to develop a working model for future expansion into recognised “AE Summer Schools”. The establishment of a clear annual programme of high-level learning programmes, bring to Wroclaw the very best scholars from across Europe to mentor and present topics to groups of younger scholars and the pre and post doctoral levels. Over-time the AE wishes to make these annual events recognisable at the European level – ‘a must have’ for higher level education and for emerging scholars. The humanities are under threat from erosion of specialist areas of scholarship. These summer schools would provide a means to safeguard European expertise into the future.

Topics of the three symposia

  • Early Modern Print Culture in Central Europe
  • Literary Margins and Digital Media
  • Central European Representations of Colonial Worlds