United by goals and ambitions
Interview with Professor Egie Axer, Head of the Warsaw University Institute for Interdisciplinary Research "Artes Liberales", one of the international partners of the HSE Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities (ITHSH).
Recently, HSE Professor Irina Savelyeva and senior research fellow Julia Ivanova attended the international conference "Elites, social debates and the higher education reform" held by the Warsaw University Institute for Interdisciplinary Research "Artes Liberales" under the supervision of Professor E.Axer.
The SU HSE and "Artes Liberales" partnership started two years ago. In 2008 Irina Savelyeva became a Warsaw University Professor. "Artes Liberales" and the ITHSH undertake joint research projects and conferences on the problems of research and development in the humanities.
In addition to these joint research projects, the ITHSH and "Artes Liberales" are united by the desire to promote talented young researchers. Fellows of the Institute have twice held lectures as part of the Summer and Winter Schools organized by Warsaw University while HSE students participated in the schools' activities. Today a unique project for young researchers, "Classical tradition and authority in the social dimension", is being conducted. Young researchers from Moscow-based universities will work in Warsaw and Krakow under the supervision of Russian and Polish scientists. This will lead to participation in the joint ITSH monograph "The birth of the classics: the self-consciousness of science in the pre-classical epoch".
"Artes Liberales" and the ITHSH are also connected by a common approach to the organization of humanitarian education. "Artes Liberales" educational projects and the ITSH selective courses are not for the "back-bench" students. It may sound pompous, but their target audience are those searching for a comprehensive humanitarian education, i.e. future elite.
During the conference Julia Ivanova interviewed Professor Egie Axer.
— How did your partnership with ITHSH begin? Why did you get interested in the Institute?
— I discovered the ITHSH for myself when I first got to know Irina Savelyeva. I think this contact may be considered crucial for my interest in the ITHSH. As far as I understand, this institute has a dual role. On one side, it provides HSE students with an opportunity to receive a strong humanitarian education and thus achieve personal and professional development. On the other side, the community of researchers in the humanities uses the HSE as a "false front" or "cover" for activities and thus gains more influence on humanitarian studies than would be possible within a traditional educational or academic department.
It seems to me that there are some common features between the HSE ITHSH and the academic community we've built up in Warsaw over the last 18 years. We have similar goals and ways of achieving those goals. Our ambitions are also the same: to become famous both nationally and internationally, within our universities and outside. Teaching and research experience along with successful international cooperation make the ITHSH a relevant partner for the Warsaw University Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies.
— Now it is a good time for symmetrical question. What is the reason for the ITHSH to get interested in scientific and teaching units you had established?
— There are a number of precedents, such as cooperation as part of our conferences and debates as well as participation in the "Presence and absence: humanities in Poland and Russia through contemporary international discourse" project. Throughout this interaction the ITHSH researchers could see our willingness to collaborate with liberal intellectuals from Russia. Shyness is not one of my characteristics. I can say without any hesitation that it is rather difficult to find an academic community equal to the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies "Artes Librales" of the Warsaw University in Europe, since it doesn't depend on bureaucracy, has a high level of professional knowledge and builds its affairs with Eastern Europe on a purely scientific basis.
— What is the ITHSH place within international activity of your institution?
— The "Artes Liberales" mission is to be the lab for reciprocal enrichment of different and, in some cases, alienated intellectual and academic trends. We are ready to be responsible for the enterprise since we treat ourselves not as the outskirts, but rather as an outpost of Europe. We are a living multicultural space. This contributes to the interchange of ideas and a creative approach to a variety of current issues. Russian culture and science has a great role here. We treat the ITHSH as a partner with a "strong voice" from Russia. It supports high standards in academic research and international educational projects.
Julia Ivanova, senior superior research-fellow