Our Mission

The Potomac Center for the Study of Modernity promotes the scholarly understanding of human experience since about 1850. Based in Washington, DC and founded in 2012, the Center aims specifically to build a robust conversation across the boundaries separating scholars in history, the humanities, and the social sciences. Center events bring together people from the area’s many universities, museums, and research institutions, putting them in conversation with each other and with visitors from around the United States and abroad. Not simply a warehouse for all scholarly topics in the time period, the Center is dedicated specifically to promoting hybrid ways of thinking about the history of individual and collective experience worldwide since industrialization. It supports new, broad-minded lines of research and publication.

The Center understands modernity as a broad set of historical conditions, obtaining differently in various times and places.

The forces of modernity include, among others, the following:

– Industrialization 
– The rise and development of corporate capitalism
– Evolving forms of empire
– The increasing diversity of societies
– Urbanization and suburbanization
– Rising speeds of mobility and of communication
– The rising role of technology in everyday life
– The transformation of gender roles and of family structures
– The growth of mass culture and the changing relationships between culture and power
– Changing perceptions of time and of the global whole

The Center considers the set of cultural practices known as modernism to offer a particularly helpful lens, although hardly the only one, for perceiving modernity. While the Center also welcomes discussion about the existence and characteristics of postmodernity, it understands modernity broadly as encompassing these conditions.