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«January 2020»

The History of the Social: Social Laboratories and Networks of Reform in Europe

Against the background of the already long crisis of both the welfare state and neoliberalism, the social has been proclaimed as either dead, or as undergoing some kind of renaissance through social economy, civil society projects, and community (re)building and development. I propose, in this course, as a way of creating a meaningful "history of the present", a history of the social, focused on Central and Eastern Europe, but part of a larger European comparative and transnational approach. The social I plan to explore is not an essence, present whenever individuals gather and miraculously subsisting in their absence, but a project, instituted in various ways, with different tonalities, shapes, and histories.

In Central and Eastern Europe, a number of inter-mingled modern entities – nation, state, science, and the “social” – emerged, in new configurations, at the end of the nineteenth century. These modern looking beings travelled through various transnational networks: as discourses; political, financial, and scientific elites; diplomas and certificates; technologies, practices, habits, and fashions. All these fragments were reassembled in local contexts by elites anxious to solve their local problems but also to retain enough resemblance with how these entities were deemed to look in their original places of origin.

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