The Humanities and Social Sciences (H&SS) in France are now in a phase of reconstruction after a period of decline which began in the early 1980s.
Too frequently, a distinction is made between the institutional issues at stake and the scientific dimensions of this reconstruction. The managers and directors of establishments for higher education and research have the task of re-thinking the organization of the H&SS, their financing, location and the requisite institutional and territorial re-grouping, while the task of academics and researchers is to invent new paradigms, to turn their attention to objects which have been insufficiently studied to date, to implement methods which have been updated, to suggest pluridisciplinary approaches and to be ever more open to the international dimension.
The Collège d’études mondiales – or the College – intends to combine these two dimensions by developing an ambitious scientific project in an original institutional framework.
It is a question of analyzing the major transformations in the contemporary world, but also in the past, in the light of updated intellectual tools, of moving away from ‘methodological nationalism’ towards ‘thinking globally’ while bearing in mind the subjectivity of the actors and their cultural orientations. It is also a question of reformulating the issues at stake of some of the major issues which the H&SS must tackle today, by considering cultural change and its dynamics on one hand, and social justice on the other and, finally, the manner in which these two registers are opposed, linked or articulated with one another. In other words, it is a question of setting up and implementing new modes of thinking and working, in keeping with the changes which are occurring in the present-day world.
Three structuring axes
The College will be structured around three major axes: ‘living together’ and democracy; human rights, the government of life and global risks; and finally, the production of norms and frontiers in a world which is reorganizing. The project is resolutely international, backed by four Nobel Prize Winners (Herta Müller, Yuan Tseh Lee, Joseph Eugene Stiglitz and Wole Soyinka) and aims to create in Paris a new, dense and vibrant scientific environment which will establish in France paradigms, modes of approach, working methods and lines of research focusing on issues which have been insufficiently explored in this country.
Approximately twenty Chairs
When fully functional the College will comprise approximately twenty Chairs, each of which will be held by a French or a foreign incumbent for a period of three to five years; their task will be to develop around them a series of activities involving research, training and distribution of knowledge (research specifically, invitations to postdocs and researchers, organization of international seminars, work groups, colloquia, workshops, etc.).
The first fifteen occupants of these Chairs are academic figures of international repute including Ulrich Beck, Craig Calhoun, Manuel Castells, Marc Fleurbaey, Michel Foucher, Nancy Fraser, René Frydman, François Jullien, Hervé Le Bras, Dominique Méda, Vin-Kim Nguyen, Ernesto Ottone, Jean-Daniel Rainhorn, Ibrahima Thioub and Imma Tubella.
Transdisciplinarity and opening up
The College will extend its conception of inter- and pluri-disciplinarity to the natural sciences, in particular where questions of global health and its risks are concerned with the aim of getting researchers and practitioners to work together. It is a genuine intellectual community, whose members know one another, read each others’ work and discuss, with peak periods at which the focus is on people meeting (annual colloquium, monthly general seminar) in a spirit of opening up towards both the international and the French students.
The College will function in partnership with institutions from three circles, the first consisting of the EHESS, the EPHE, the ESCP-Europe and the Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, the second of some ten other French partners from higher education and research and the third composed of foreign institutions.
The seminars offered by the College, some of which will be given jointly with a Grande Ecole or a University will be open as from the academic year 2012-2013 to students enrolled in a doctorate and in Master 2 in the partner institutions; they will be able to validate the courses taken. Furthermore, the professors and members of the Chairs will take part in the academic life and training activities in the partner institutions. Generally speaking, the activities of the College will be open to the students, in order to initiate them into research at international level and to contribute to their training through research.
The College has contacts with a network of businesses and foundations which it is preparing to develop, in particular in its Club de la Maison Suger, where meetings will be held with directors, managers or trade unionists, and researchers, articulating high level research with practice and action.
Distribution of work
In order to circulate the findings of the research systematically, the College has signed a convention with the Open University in Catalonia (UOC); by means of its networks, the UOC will ensure the international circulation of some of the activities, training courses, seminars, etc. of the College and will provide it with assistance in digital matters. Even prior to the definitive publication of their findings by researchers in journals and books, the College will publish Working Papers and Position Papers.
The governance of the College will be ensured mainly by three instances. The High Council is presided over by the sociologist Alain Touraine and comprising outstanding figures, internationally recognized: (Fernando Henrique Cardoso (former president of Brazil, former president of the Sociological Association), Amy Colin (president of the Foundation on the Cultures of Peace), Maryse Condé (writer, former professor at Columbia University), Leonel Fernandez (acting president of the Dominican Republic), Yuan Tseh Lee (Nobel prize for chemistry, president of the International Council of Science, former president of the Academia Sinica in Taïwan), Wolf Lepenies (historian, former rector of the Wissenschaftkolleg zu Berlin), Javier Solana (a minister on several occasions in Spain, former General Secretary of NATO and of the Council of the European Union). The High Council gives its opinion on the general policy of the College and on the nomination of its director.
A Scientific Council will monitor the definition of the content of the Chairs and the principal axes of work, as well as the recruiting of the holders of the Chairs.
Finally, a Governing Board comprising representatives of the various partners of the College will ensure respect of the guide lines and will consider institutional and financial strategy.
The director will be appointed by the administrator of the FMSH. At the moment, the academic responsibility for the project is entrusted to its author, Michel Wieviorka, a sociologist of international reputation and the administrator of the FMSH, of which the College is the flagship project.