Genealogies of Modernity

The Genealogies of Modernity Project (GenMod) was founded in 2017 by an interdisciplinary cohort of faculty and graduate students at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania, sponsored by the Collegium Institute for Catholic Thought & Culture. Through a series of summer graduate seminars, faculty working groups, group blog, podcast, and a collaboratively written book, the project aims to consider how different disciplines narrate the passage to modernity.

The main questions the project seeks to answer are: “What stories do we tell about how we become modern?” and “how does that matter for life today?”  For its inaugural year, GenMod hosted a summer seminar at the University of Pennsylvania that interrogated the role of the Reformation (1350 – 1600) in influential genealogical accounts of the modern world, and also to explore movements within that same period that both might challenge these accounts and might expand our imagination for how to live well in our own age. For its second summer seminar, GenMod extended its investigation into accounts of the Enlightenment (1685 – 1815), connecting them back to the “age of reform” and ahead to the present era.

Now, for its third consecutive year, the GenMod Summer Seminar will investigate Global Genealogies of Early Modernity, to develop a more thorough understanding of how different disciplines define “modernity,” particularly as the historically-oriented humanities fields reimagine passages to modernity in global perspective. Our method of inquiry will take a comparative form, encouraging scholars studying outside the Anglo-European system to bring forward alternative and local formulations of genealogy and heritability. We will also place special focus on the role of public discourse in genealogy by incorporating indigenous models from around the globe.

Overall, the GenMod Summer Seminar proposes to investigate cross-disciplinary narratives of when, where, and how “modernity” took shape as a way to reveal how the past has helped to shape the present and to understand better how these various approaches can provide resources to shape the future ahead of us.