During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, village cultural centres appeared across numerous countries in Europe and beyond. Known under a wide range of names – for example the village or community hall (UK), rural civic centre (US), foyer culturel (France), Volksheim (Austria), Halkevleri (Turkey), and cămin cultural (Romania) – these new institutions of village life were part of a global process of rural transformation aimed at integrating peasants into the modern world whilst preserving local cultures and traditions. Often founded by urban or rural elites, the state, voluntary associations or religious organisations, these institutions aimed to re-centre rural life around new practices and moral values that were often exogenous to the rural community itself. Despite their different uses and agendas, the presence these institutions in so many counties indicates both an international interest in the development of the rural world through culture and wider transformations in leisure practices in the countryside. This panel invites papers that look at houses of culture or cultural centres at the meeting points of local, regional, national and global history in different geographical and political contexts. Papers are invited on, but not limited to, questions such as: Who founded village cultural centres and what agenda or ideological underpinning did they have (social, political, religious, or economic)? How they were used and by whom? What role did they play in various types of 'civilising missions' (for example state-driven, religious, rural development, etc)? What role they played in processes of social or demographic change? How were village cultural centres places in which folk cultures or other identities were preserved, revived or transformed? What definitions of rural culture arose from the establishment of village cultural centres? Participants are also invited to discuss not only the content, but also the form and aesthetics of village cultural centres, as new additions to the rural built environment, as part of rural planning schemes, but also as ways of re-organising existing buildings or spaces. Finally, we invite papers that explore the international and transnational dimension of this phenomenon, possibly engaging with as the role of these institutions in rural development, hygiene and modernisation from the point of view of international or global organisations.
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