Research Cluster 2: History of the Social Sciences and the Humanities

The Center encourages the development of projects exploring the history of the social sciences and the humanities, understood broadly. Such projects could include, but are not limited to, the history of specific disciplines or disciplinary clusters, international comparisons of disciplinary constellations, the circulation of academic knowledge across national borders, the evolving forms of interdisciplinarity, intellectual migrations, transatlantic exchanges, etc.

The history of the disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities has become a thriving field of research and has considerably renewed our understanding of the disciplines in the 19th and 20th century. This renewal has not yet generated a reflexive discussion about the objects, methods, tools, sources and issues involved in this field. Nor has this historical research informed current discussions about the future of the traditional disciplines, which are today confronted with new challenges. The Center intends to foster systematic research and promote the importance of historical vision in current discussions about the disciplines.

By developing a coherent research concentration around this theme, the Center also intends to overcome the disciplinary fragmentation still characterizing the history of the social sciences and the humanities. The different histories of our disciplines are written by practitioners (sociologists, political scientists, demographers, economists, etc. reflecting upon their own field), or by historians belonging to different specializations (intellectual history, history of science and technology, history of concepts, etc.), often with little communication between them. This fragmentation is reflected in a methodological divide between sociological approaches that focus on the social and institutional structures of disciplines, and a variety of historical perspectives often placing greater emphasis on cross-­-cutting epistemic, intellectual, or ideological formations.

As a joint initiative between the CNRS and NYU, the Center is uniquely positioned to overcome these divisions and put these different approaches in conversation with each other, in order to strengthen the history of the social sciences and the humanities as an autonomous field of research. We seek to attract researchers representing a variety of perspectives and to encourage collaborations allowing researchers to reflect upon their research strategies and their methodologies in a comparative perspective. One way of bringing together different approaches to disciplinary history will consist in having a dialogue about the sources upon which disciplinary historians rely, and in particular the archival ones. The proximity of the Rockefeller Archive Center, which holds the archives of the Rockefeller and Ford foundations as well as those of the Social Science Research Council, and the many other archival collections found in New York are some of the resources that make the Center a unique institution for exploring the international history of the disciplines.