The CHCSC (Center for the Cultural History of Contemporary Societies) is the only history laboratory in France exclusively devoted to research in contemporary cultural history (late 18th century to the present day).
The CHCSC researchers consider culture as the "sum of collective representations of a given society" while cultural history is the "social history of its representations".
A young host team in 1992, the center was granted the status of research laboratory EA 2448) in 1994 by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research. In February 2013, the research center SUDS d'Amériques, created in 1996, merged with CHCSC which has thus become one of the two research centers attached to the IECI (Institute for Cultural and International Studies) at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin.
The CHCSC counts 40 statutory researchers and 70 doctoral students. It monitors 3 ANR programs and takes part in the prestigious PatriMa research group monitored by the Fondation des Sciences du Patrimoine. In the wake of its 2014 visit to the laboratory, the expert committee (AERES) evaluated CHCSC as "one of the most important research centers on history in France and the foremost one in cultural history."
The CHCSC is intent on advancing the epistemology of concepts and methods used in cultural history in relation with other historical approaches (political, economic, social and religious history) as well as other disciplines concerned with culture in contemporary societies (civilization, literature, sociology, communication, art history, ethnology, anthropology, political science, etc.). The CHCSC also organizes collective research activities around strategic questions and helps, both in theory and in practice, the advancement of individual research. It brings together, within a homogeneous ensemble, French and foreign researchers working in the above mentioned disciplines, with strict respect for the specific demands of research.
The CHCSC studies the evolution of forms and objects of culture in contemporary societies as well as the various factors which determine the development of mass culture and media. "The social history of representations" is to be understood as the study of usages, of cultural practices and habits but also of sensibilities and values, of common beliefs and imaginaries, of symbolic forms and norms, etc., i. e., every aspect that illuminates the collective behavior of societies.
Four thematic fields
The CHCSC is structured around four thematic fields:
- Cultural productions, expressions, media cultures
- Books, publishing, writing and reading
- Media, images and communication
- Artistic expressions and spectacles
- Construction of collective representations and social imaginary
- Power and norms, practices and sensibilities
- Culture, space, environment
- Creation, mediation and circulation of knowledge
- Exchanges and circulations, cultural contact and globalization
- International cultural relations and transfers
- Unity and diversity within the European aera
- Forging an Atlantic aera: Europe / the Americas
- Cultural patrimonies: trans-disciplinary field
An interdisciplinary laboratory
Since the foundation of the CHCSC, the domains of cultural history have become wider and more diversified. The laboratory does not pretend to cover them all, it is steadfastly consolidating the research areas for which its valuable scientific competence has long been recognized, even as it is opening up new perspectives. Given the particular nature of its scientific object, the CHCSC comprises researchers from different areas of humanities and social sciences and even, for some of its scientific activities, exact sciences (eleven sections of the CNU are represented)Within the laboratory, history holds a central place as it constitutes the reference for our entire collective work while the various other disciplines are seen as the dynamics meant to advance our reflections. The CHCSC entertains regular relations with research teams in about thirty countries.
An acknowledged expertise
The CHCSC is recognized for its expertise in the founding domains of cultural history:
- Books, libraries, publishing
- Media: press, radio, television, cinema, still and moving images
- Spectacles and artistic expressions
- Cultural mediations
- International cultural relations (exchanges, circulations, transfers)
- Creation, circulation and valorization of cultural objects
- Cultural policies
- Cultural practices and consumption
- Given the growth of the laboratory in the past few years, we have developed a new set of themes:
- Atlantic aera (Europe/the Americas)
- Digital culture