The Introduction provides an overview of the methodological and interpretative perspectives of the book. It argues that it is impossible to construct a narration of East Central European intellectual history without the necessary layer of—often asymmetric—comparative references to the broader European context, as well as to the various imperial (Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, and Hohenzollern) and post-imperial frameworks. At the same time, rather than projecting Western European historical narratives and analytical categories onto the whole continent, it pleads for developing a regional interpretative framework, without, however, turning it into a “regionalist” narrative, that is, essentializing East Central Europe as a self-containing and self-explanatory historical entity. Avoiding such an essentialist view is important, since even within the region in different cultural configurations the processes of ideological reception and appropriation unfolded according to markedly different rhythms. Along these lines, the introduction formulates the program of a context-sensitive and flexible understanding of “political modernity,” formed as a result of multi-directional transfers and transcultural “negotiations.
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