Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für die Erforschung der Europäischen Aufklärung

Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg Siegel

Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies

The IZEA was founded in 1990 as a central scientific institution of the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. As a research institution for the history of culture and ideas, it explores the foundation of modern Western societies through the study of ideas and cultural patterns developed in the 18th century.

18th century studies

The research program includes research and publishing projects dedicated to a wide variety of themes, such as the history of universities, societies and communication; anthropology, aesthetics, culture and knowledge transfer, scholarly culture and literary forms of representation in the 18th century; the development of cultural patterns; the Enlightenment in global networks; and the Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Wörlitz.

Connected with the region's research institutions

The IZEA is located in the Red School, built in 1896, which was formerly the Higher School for Girls of the Francke Foundations. The IZEA houses a public library containing primary sources and research literature related to the Enlightenment in regional and European contexts. The Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Modern Written Culture and European Knowledge Transfer and the Immanuel-Kant-Forum also have their offices in the building.

Enlightenment studies in international networks

Thanks to its outstanding library, its publishing projects, its geographic proximity to important historic sites related to the Enlightenment (including extensive archives, libraries and art collections), and its partnerships with major cultural and scientific institutions,  the IZEA is now one of the most important international research institutes dedicated to the study of the Enlightenment, and is an essential meeting point for scientists from around the world.

A. Ideas, Practices, Institutions

1. Cultural Patterns of the Enlightenment

Enlightenment studies in the last decades have taken an either very critical or very favourable stance towards their object of study. The project “cultural patterns of the Enlightenment” seeks to overcome these biases and to ask anew the question of the legacy of the Enlightenment and of its significance for the present. It does not situate the debate in favour or against the principles of the Enlightenment, but rather seeks to reconstruct its long-terms ideals and its practical impact.

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2. Enlightenment Thought: Concepts, Arguments, Systems

The era of the Enlightenment is considered as the century of philosophers. The research field “the thought of the Enlightenment” offers projects that focus on philosophical concepts, arguments, and systems (all in the broadest possible sense) in the “Age of reason” from a historical and systematic perspective. The emphasis lies on the investigation of the reception and effects of the Enlightenment within Europe, as well as on the current relevance of its emancipatory project.

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3. Enlightenment between the Conflicting Priorities of Critique and Power

The Enlightenment was by nature a critical project. Its goal was to challenge traditional powers and hegemonic structures, goal which found varying expressions depending on the area and culture. Authority was no longer self-evident, but had to be accounted for and legitimated in response to new demands for rationality.

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