British Humour and Global Politics
Beginning with the 2016-2017 academic year, the undergraduate programme in Political Science at HSE St Petersburg is changing its focus by not only updating the content of the curriculum but also changing the name to Political Science and World Politics, which reflects these substantial changes, but also becoming a truly international in the sense of its teaching staff. Dr Ian Ferguson, a Scottish expert on international relations, will be joining the team of political scientists at HSE St. Petersburg.
— Tell us a bit about yourself. Where do you come from and what did you bring along in your luggage?
— I don't go anywhere without a towel. As it says in Douglas Adam's The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (and I am paraphrasing a little here): ‘A towel is about the most massively useful thing an International Relations hitchhiker can have’. Second only to a towel is a laptop. I have the standard issue Macbook Air. Standard issue for all International Relations hitchhikers. And I also come with a matching, jet-black luggage set. As for where I am coming from - Glasgow, Scotland, which by the time you are reading this may or may not still be part of the United Kingdom.
— Why St. Petersburg?
— I'll drop the funny stuff, for now. I am in this fair city for two reasons. One, because there is nowhere better to understand Russia's complex relationship with Europe. That is the main subject of my research. The second reason is that I have managed to get to know several researchers here, and through these associations I found out about an opportunity to come to St. Petersburg and support the development of a first-class International Relations and World Politics, English language programmes at the Bachelor's and Master's levels. This is an exciting project to be part of.
— What will you teach?
— My expertise is in International Relations and World Politics. And I shall be teaching two courses in this area - one on international political theory, which looks at some of the key concepts in world politics (like anarchy, intervention, identity, order, and so on); the other on security studies, which is a more policy-oriented course that looks at the issues surrounding the use of force in world politics. I will also be teaching research seminars, with a focus on the do's and don'ts of academic writing.
— What do you expect from HSE?
— Do you mean apart from international fame and pots of cash? The main thing that I expect is a very stimulating academic environment. The Higher School of Economics has an international reputation for being the best university for the social sciences in Russia. I've had the good fortune to be educated at some of the best universities for the social sciences in Europe, including the London School of Economics and the University of St. Andrews. What I've prized most about these places is the conversation with other scholars, not just political scientists, but also philosophers, economists, sociologists, lawyers and historians. So I'll be looking to stimulate and take part in as much intelligent and interdisciplinary conversation as I can at HSE.
— Do you think it is important to be international?
— I really don't think there is an alternative in today's age. If you are ambitious and want to do something interesting and new, you've got to go international. We live in a highly interdependent world. Financial flows, social movements, epidemics, terrorism, and political ideas - none of these things know of any national boundaries. And, while it is true that we are seeing, in places like my home country the United Kingdom, an attempt to restrict some of these international flows, especially with respect to the flows of people, most observers of world politics would say this attempt to retreat from globalisation in the twenty-first century is futile and quite dangerous. But I am basically an optimistic person. I think the message coming from Britain is not that immigration has to be stopped, or the world has to become more nationalist and less internationalist. Rather, it is a wakeup call for those who understand the unavoidably international / global character of today's politics. The challenge is to try to address the local concerns and disruptions that come with intensified, international and cross-border links between societies. And of course, that includes Russia, which has one of the highest immigration flows in the world.
— What do you wish for our prospective students?
— I wish you to have a very pleasant, relaxing, fun summer holidays. Take some time out. Enjoy yourselves. I want you to come back fresh and ready to learn. Oh, and don't forget your towels!