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University as a Corporation: Evolution of Institutional Characteristics in 19th-21st Centuries

2011
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

This project’s research objects were such cultural practices as generation and decay of various forms of solidarity in the academic milieu.

The aim of this project was to identify the specific properties of the corporate culture that existed in Russian universities.

In this project, a discursive anthropological approach was first developed and applied as a method of analyzing a vast complex of historical sources. This approach combines an anthropologically oriented study of academic culture (after Michel de Certeau) with the theory of archeology of knowledge (after Michel Foucault). Using this method meant that the academic communities under study were contextualized to the maximum possible extent in specific place and time, while the researcher’s focus was constantly shifting from anthropological macro-perspective to minute biographical reconstructions and back, the structure of archives was analyzed as well as their contents, and both formal practices of record keeping and less formal historical self-description essays at universities were regarded as a cultural mechanism of control and self-organization. This framework allowed us to see how connections and conventions were established within the academic community, and how self-regulation mechanisms evolved that shaped the boundaries of university autonomy.

This research model appeared to be universal and relevant to the study of almost any institutionalized (and therefore obliged to keep records and archives) intellectuals’ community in Russia. This assumption was confirmed during international seminars (‘debates’) on academic culture conducted in Warsaw in April and May 2011 by a foreign partner of the project, Professor Jerzy Axer, Head of the ‘Artes Liberales’ Institute for Interdisciplinary Research at the Warsaw University (Poland). The wide range of uses that can be made of the new research method will be demonstrated in a monograph to be written by IGITI  members based on data provided by university historians from Russia and abroad.

The research model developed in the project was tested on sources from the archives of the universities of Kazan, Moscow and Kharkov (the three oldest universities in Russia) and the Education Ministry archive. In addition, texts from professors’ and politicians’ document collections, from scientific publications and from university periodicals of the first half of the nineteenth century were analyzed. The discursive anthropological approach revealed latent mechanisms and  provided an analysis of the forms of solidarity and self-identification and the corporate culture that were characteristic of the Russian academic people in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The main findings of the project are described in articles published in scientific journals, in HSE preprints in Russian and English, in two collective monographs, and in papers project participants presented in Russian and international conferences. They are also included in bachelor curricula at the HSE Department of History and in lecture courses for the joint master curriculum "History of knowledge in comparative perspective" of IGITI and Department of History.

The scientific significance of the project’s results is that they may be stimulating and pioneering for further study of intellectual communities. Their political significance is that they can be used in reforming the higher education system as a research-based counterargument against the apology of universal corporatism, and as a historical deconstruction of the typical post-Soviet ranking of Russian universities based on the ‘birthright’ rather than on their respective scientific and academic reputation. In research management practice, the findings can be used to design a scientifically well-founded corporate culture.

Publications:


Савельева И. М. "Уроки Истории" ученой корпорации // В кн.: Мир историка. Историографический сборник Вып. 7. Омск : Омский государственный университет им. Ф.М. Достоевского, 2011. С. 63-80.