The Department of Sociology at Masaryk University was established in 1921 and it is one of the oldest sociological institutes in Europe. Under the long-time leadership of Inocenc Arnošt Bláha – the founder of the department, but also one of the founders of Czech sociology and student of Emile Durkheim, sociology at Masaryk University garnered its distinctive professional profile and status. In the history of Czech sociology, the interwar “Brno school of sociology” became a thriving movement. For example, in 1926, Emanuel Chalupný received a professorship, and J.L. Fischer and others engaged in the development of sociology as a discipline. The publication of the prestigious journal Sociological Revue, which was considered one of the European best journals, represented another important milestone for the department.
After 1948, the department was eliminated by the government. It was restored in the mid-1960s, but after a short period of re-development, the activity of department was severely limited. During the period of “normalization” in the 1970s and 1980s, the atmosphere at the department was nevertheless relatively liberal, especially when it was chaired by Jaroslav Střítecký. In the Czechoslovakian context, the department represented a unique arena for the professional development of novice sociologists (Jan Keller, Ladislav Rabušic, etc.) or for politically undesirable sociologists (Ivo Možný, Lubomír Nový, etc.). For colleagues outside of Brno, the department played an important role by hosting regular symposia about social issues.
After 1990, the department went through significant organizational changes under the leadership of Ivo Možný: radical reformation of teaching methods, opening of international cooperation and competition and a strong emphasis on research activities. The number of students grew rapidly. The department became not only a place where new disciplines were developing, like social politics, social work, media studies and environmental humanities. It also significantly participated in the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation of social sciences in the Czech Republic. In 1998, the department of sociology became part, and at the same time, the main driving force, of the newly established Faculty of Social Studies.
The department of sociology is an academic institution with a longstanding tradition of social academic research. At the same time, it focuses on interconnecting research activities with educational ones. Inocenc Arnošt Bláha, the founder of the “Brno school of sociology,” established enduring research projects focusing on issues of social cohesion, social inequalities and social stratification. From the 1960s on, research in the family (Ivo Možný) was also well established at the department, followed by research in population development (Ladislav Rabušic) and investigation into the areas of sociological theory (Jaroslav Střítecký) and historical sociology (Jan Keller). In the 1990s, the research orientation of the department broadened significantly; new research teams were established to develop both urban and migration studies.
The professional profile of Department of sociology currently boasts a wide range research interests:
- social integration and problems of social exclusion or marginalization
- social stratification and social inequalities
- family, relationships in family, transformations in family patterns
- population development – life course, aging
- children, youth, intergenerational relationships, generational conflict
- creation of sociocultural identities, ethnicity, ethnic relationships
- citizenship and civil society, public activism, non-profit sector
- gender studies, relations between sexes
- religion and its transformations in modern societies
- globalization, migration, civil integration of migrants, transnationalism
- urban studies
- sociological theory
- cultural sociology
The department systematically promotes international cooperation. There are a number of cooperative research projects and activities with important academic institutions in Europe and the United States, for example, with the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University, Central European University in Budapest, University of East London, and the Institut für Soziologie at Universität Wien, Karl-Franzens Universität Graz, University of Trento, University of Zadar, among many others.
The department offers lectures and seminars by leading international sociologists that are experts in their fields. Courses taught in English by foreign colleagues are a regular part of educational programs. Students and staff at the department regularly engage in exchange programs at a number of universities in Europe and North America (e.g. University of Toronto, New School for Social Research in New York, and universities in Bergen, Tilburg, Freiburg, Nottingham, Porto, Warsaw or Istanbul, among others).
The department of sociology organizes and participates in numerous international conferences. Every autumn, for more than a decade, it has hosted the conference Conflict in Identities, Identities in Conflict. Besides, an international summer school on Memory, Cultural & Identity has been organized for the last couple of years, and many other events have attracted academics from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as international scholars from all over the world.