The objective are theoretical and methodological analyses and interpretations of the present status of research practice in the disciplines of history, the history of art and other related and cooperating disciplines. The fundamental theoretical hypothesis of the research centre is that at present we can follow three main, historically established methodological groups of approaches to cultural historical phenomena. While one of these is at its heart predominantly art-historical, the other two find their application principally in the historical sciences. The project is not however considering that there might be some kind of possible methodological drawing together of the individual disciplines; its aim is a cross-disciplinary, comprehensive examination of the boundaries of certain systems of methodological initiatives in the present day. We define the three main methodological directions according to the research concepts they adopt, as an image – communication – behaviour series.
Image: We meet with investigation of this topic in extensive innovations particularly in art history and visual studies. For this reason the centre will monitor the traditions and possible application of
these approaches. The team will especially focus on elaborating the scientific inheritance of Jacob Burckhardt, Johan Huizinga and Aby M. Warburg, chiefly on the basis of an analysis of their collected works, which are presently being published from their hitherto unprocessed estate.
Communication: This term we take to mean the collective and general designation of cultural historical interpretations, which understand culture primarily as a text, in which we adhere to the contemporary theoretical proposal of Andreas Reckwitz. Different textuological interpretations in the historical and cultural historical sciences are based mainly on the legacy of Michel Foucault and his concept of cultural practices as a discourse or on Clifford Geertz’s anthropological examinations of the textual nature of culture. In connection with the centre’s research programme one may assume a clarification of the textual significance of cultural representations and emphasis on the role of mental and psychological accents in examples from European history.
Behaviour: In opposition to the preceding “non-material” definition, is linked by contrast to a certain element of “physicality” in cultural history. Here the emphasis is much more on the historical sociological theme (e.g. along the lines of Pierre Bourdieu) and develops the traditions of the French school of history. It is this line, which has a now discernible tradition in Brno within a scientific programme whose symbol is Josef Válka, professor of Czech History at Masaryk University.
Within the scope of this methodological definition those working on the first module will examine problems in the historical development of cultural history and its current state. For this reason attention will paid to two directions: 1) the mapping of “paradigm shifts” in the historical development of cultural disciplines as a prerequisite for the 2) systematic classification of the main methodological and theoretical directions of the present day (which will be presented in the Centre’s final publication). These paradigm shifts are linked to the work of personalities who cannot be shackled by the boundaries of disciplines. J. Burckhardt, A. M. Warburg and J. Huizinga left indelible marks of their thoughts both in art history and in historical thought, but nevertheless we still have insufficient knowledge of their work (in the case of the first two) or it has not been so far thoroughly interpreted. At the same time, these – and not just the three named – are authors who in the time they lived did not have particular influence on the development of their fields, but who were referred to by researchers in later years and taken to be the founders of the direction of art history. We will attempt a systematic analysis of their work and its place in the thought context of the time in monograph, to be preceded by several workshops. Thought transfers did not take place only in the form of the receipt of scientific work and in disputes, but also in the more covert form of personal contacts, correspondence, university lectures and so on. Here we will bring attention to bear on the narrower Czech and Moravian milieu and we will focus on study of the institutional background and contacts between historians and art historians, and the gradual freeing of art history – taken by many historians to be a supporting historical science – and of an analysis of the connections between historical and art historical thought and methodology. In addition to a monograph summarising the main information obtained, a further output will be a selected edition of correspondence between major Czech and Moravian historians and art historians.
The second fault period in the development of cultural historical disciplines is the period of the great opening-up of fields in the 1960s and 1970s. In a situation where cultural history draws on a number of inputs and theories from other fields, the clear outlines of development are easily lost from view. For this reason the main task of the research team will be to capture the most important directions which laid the foundation for the so-called new cultural history, with priority focus on philosophical, sociological and linguistic inspirations, and an analysis of cultural history practice, i.e. of works which attempt to bring these inspirations into living research into the past.
This study of the important moments in the development of the cultural disciplines will serve as the basis for preparing a final monograph, which in a systematic and organised form will present a critical interpretation of the main methodological and theoretical trends of cultural historical thought at the start of the 21st century.
In contrast to discussion in the German theoretical milieu, where the debate is mainly conducted between “textuological and practise-based” methodological approaches as two mutually exclusive alternatives, in addition to both of these, the Brno Centre project sets up independent “image” approaches. The aim will not be to favour some of these approaches against others. All three will be studied in respect of their ability to interpret and define the main cultural historical phenomena from a cross-disciplinary point of view.