The Intellectual and Cultural History cluster comprises faculty who take as their primary concern the historical production and function of culture itself, from popular culture to the history of ideas, and who are excited by the challenge of developing and exploring new ways to understand and think about culture historically – from visual and material culture, to the ways in which cultures and members of them interact across boundaries of class, race, nation, and gender. Intellectual and cultural formations (e.g., science, medicine, technology, law, art, and religion) regularly travel and migrate across geographical boundaries. We ask how they develop - concurrently, cooperatively, and sometimes contentiously - in multiple locations and through multilateral channels of communication and transmission over uneven terrain.
Michigan's cultural and intellectual historians study virtually every region of the globe, and they approach their subject from a variety of perspectives. Some understand culture in a broadly anthropological sense; others study more self-consciously institutionalized traditions of formal ideas, theories, techniques, and arguments; still others examine and analyze artifacts of material culture and mass media; and some concern themselves with the rules and regulations that guide particular institutions. Central is the conviction that ideas, beliefs, symbols, cultural objects and the arts are not epiphenomenal but rather integral to human history; they are means both for interpreting the past and explaining why things happened as they did. By studying them we aim to foster a dialogue about culture across cultures to understand the construction of boundaries and the limits of meaning and understanding, even as we bring cultural and intellectual history into dialogue with politics, society, and the economy.