Berlin Scholar to Return to HSE for Series of Lectures on Literature
From September 25 till October 5 2016, Professor Dr Joachim Küpper of the Free University of Berlin will deliver a series of lectures on ‘Humanities and Conceptualization of Time at HSE Moscow.
Joachim Küpper’s travel to HSE follows the university’s decision this past summer to join a key project run by the Dahlem Humanities Center at the Free University of Berlin called ‘The Thematic Network Principles of Cultural Dynamics’.
The PCD (Principles of Cultural Dynamics) network initially comprised the following institutions: Free University of Berlin, Harvard University, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Johns Hopkins University, although organizers knew that they needed to expand.
‘Right from the start, we were aware of the fact that we needed a partner institution in Eastern Europe’, said Küpper in a recent interview with the HSE news service. ‘Since we are trying to investigate our research questions from many diverse perspectives, we thought that the academic culture of Russia might be best suited for our purposes. As to international renown, HSE Moscow is an outstanding institution in present-day Russia, in particular in the humanities. Its main strengths are a student body that is highly qualified and proficient in several languages, a professorship that has since long systematically worked in view of establishing international research contacts, and a steering committee that is committed to internationalization and that enables faculty to travel abroad as well as invites colleagues from foreign countries’.
Funding for the PCD network has just been renewed through the end of 2019. HSE Moscow will be integrated on all levels of the network. In addition, a major joint conference between HSE and the Free University of Berlin is planned on the topic of History and Drama for October 25-27, 2016 during which representatives from the two universities will explore opportunities for further cooperation.
‘As a next and separate step, we are thinking about an international cooperative research project lasting three to five years, mainly based at the Free University of Berlin and HSE Moscow, but integrating the other partner institutions of the network as well, on the topic of “The Dialectics of Text and Commentary as a Catalyst of Cultural Dynamics”’, said Küpper.
Küpper has visited HSE only once so far, but he came away with excellent impressions of the students. ‘They were very well prepared; in the question and answer section after my talk, they put numerous questions which demonstrated that they had got my main ideas and were able to critically scrutinize them. I’d very much wish to have such an outstanding student body on the occasion of my other trips around universities worldwide’, he said.
During Küpper’s upcoming visit to HSE, he will combine provisional results from his current research projects, including a network theory of cultural production, and of more basic insights gained from his four decades of scholarly work. ‘As I consider students in Moscow a part of global academia, my presentations at HSE Moscow are pretty much similar to what I do when I'm lecturing in China, in the US, or in France’, he says.
During his interview, Küpper touched on a number of other topics, including what it takes to be a good humanist, what he likes to read, his thoughts on digital technology, and how he plans to spend his free time during his visit to Moscow.
On being a good scholar
‘It takes a lot of experience, and a lot of learning to become a good humanist. Hard work is a prerequisite for a scholar; and it is essential to have an open mind, to be ready to learn continuously, also beyond the borders of one's own discipline, and to engage in scholarly conversations with students and colleagues who have a cultural background differing from one's own’.
‘For my birthday and Christmas, my students typically give me books (recently published fiction in Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and English). Their intention is in most cases pedagogical: they want to detach me from what they consider my "old-fashioned" fixation on canonical texts. I read these books with great delight (while not at all giving up my fixation on "old stuff"), and having read them helps me a lot with conversations over dinner, etc., when I'm travelling to other countries. In addition to books, I read a foreign newspaper once per week (The New York Times, Le Monde, The Times, and The Wall Street Journal); it's good to learn what people in other countries think about international politics’.
On digital technology
‘I'm a digital alien, and a happy one! Of course, I constantly use the internet, but I avoid iPhones, e-books, etc. As for books, I just need a nice print in order to read the text with delight, I need to touch it; and I need the margins in order to write down spontaneous comments’.
On his visit to Moscow
‘During my last visit, there was not enough time to explore Moscow's immensely rich music life; I am a fan of classical music, and I look forward to going to a concert. In addition, I intend to travel by metro to some neighbourhood far away from the centre to learn a little bit more about the daily life of the common people’.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, especially for HSE News service
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