Challenges of Modernity

The Challenges of Modernity research area covers the broad field of social, economic, and cultural developments in East Central Europe in the twentieth century. The main emphasis lies in how contemporaries experience modernity, what aspects pertain specifically to East Central Europe, and who are the primary movers in their development. Other issues include how to explain the region's difficulties in following the Western path to modernity, and how modernization discourse has been broached in the region's public spheres.
The research project focuses on lifestyle changes, the development of urban and rural areas, transportation and communications, as well as changes in labor and education, gender relations, the changing discourses on health and the body, and intellectual discourses on modernity. One major question will be whether the state in general, and the socialist state in particular, supported or was an obstacle to modernization.
The Challenges of Modernity research area also pursues a transnational and comparative approach, attempting to break down the prevailing traditional national perspectives. The goal is to work out common lines of development in the region as well as key, important differences.
Main areas are the interwar era as a period marking a failed effort to emulate the Western path to modernity, on the one hand, and the period of state socialism as a time in which a radically different path than that of the West was taken, on the other.
The analysis of the Challenges of Modernity research project will not be conducted solely at a macro level, but will also consider the micro level through exemplary case studies on specific aspects of modernity (new cities, new technologies, etc.). A further accent will be placed on the crisis facing industrial modernity (e.g., environmental destruction) and the transition to the post-industrial modern age. The project offers an opportunity to grasp the social and economic histories of the region as a highly specific phenomenon, which in turn will promote differentiating reflections on patterns of Western development.