European Communication History II: An Introduction to Theoretical Perspectives

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This issue of Medien & Zeit follows up a range of case studies aimed at revealing communication histories that were analyzed in Part I, studies conducted in light of geographical and cultural borders. They highlighted historical artifacts; examined their availability in university curricula and research centers; addressed for different countries the status and history of communication history as an academic profession; and highlighted strengths, limitations, and prospects awaiting a distinctly European account of the historical record. Such scholarship seeks to uncover history. Part II aims to turn the matter around, showing how history might inform scholarship. Here, four essays examine theoretical shifts as appropriate to historical shifts that produce rereadings of communication history. Specifically, shifts in historiography from the national to the transnational address the thematic question, "What is European Communication History?", with theoretical issues and recommendations that take note of the recursive, EU-era problem of the nation in a transnational milieu. Essays in Part II trace this recursiveness to earlier times, preceding the formation of today’s Europe, and locate it along lines — theoretical and material — of communication and media history. Each essay offers ontological and material reasons to reconceptualize European communication history as a transnational project. Three of the four authors make distinctly different cases for communication history as transnational history, suggesting, at the very least, that "the national" cannot and, in fact, has not developed within the geographical borders of the nation. A fourth essay offers reflections on the conduct of European communication history beyond the shift from national to transnational frameworks for theory.

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