Research

The research program aims to position the SAS as an institution with its own academic identity and internationally recognized expertise in a number of key research areas of global significance.

Research teams

SAS relies on multidisciplinary research teams integrated into global academic networks; structurally, these teams replace traditional disciplinary departments and ensure intensive communication among faculty members within and across disciplines.

About Project

Most of the problems challenging contemporary forms of citizenship — including statelessness, political apathy, the commodification of passports, civil conflicts, the citizenry’s superficial understanding of “public affairs,” and the exclusion of minorities — are inherently multidimensional and require multidisciplinary perspectives. However, scholarship on citizenship has largely been narrow in focus and lacking in contributions from fields beyond political science, sociology and history. Three founders of contemporary research on citizenship (T.H. Marshall, H. Arendt, and R. Bendix) saw citizenship mostly in terms of the rights and membership status offered by nation-states. The “Citizenship Reframed” project seeks to overcome this gravitation toward a nation-state model of citizenship in terms of rights and status and the concomitant bias towards these social science disciplines. Paying due respect to the fundamental theory of citizenship in the social sciences, our research project offers a reconceptualization of different aspects of political belonging by incorporating such dimensions as ethno-cultural identity, political reasoning and participation, space and the environment, and visual representation. The work of our research team is organized around both individual discipline-based inquiries of particular aspects of citizenship and several interdisciplinary collaborative projects: on political behavior, visual propaganda, and environmental sustainability. Collectively, our case studies seek to reveal the limitations of the modern liberal conception of citizenship based on the nation-state.

Research Team

art history
media studies, sociology

About Project

The very framing of education today (to achieve economic success in an increasingly competitive and unstable labor market, to attain growingly unattainable normative standards of happiness and well-being, to develop adequate skills of civic participation to prop up fragile democratic cultures, etc.) seems to be one giant generator of anxiety for students, teachers, and society at large. We believe that these framings are in urgent need of interrogation, both from an empirical and an ideological standpoint. To this end we propose three streams of research converging around these issues of pedagogy, anxiety, and crisis.

The first is a conceptual analysis of the language by which we describe learning processes today. We want to develop a descriptive language that is more precise than prevailing attempts to name the current condition of learning. To this end, we are interested in critically interrogating conceptions of students, teachers, parents, and educational reformers of all stripes that overinflate a sense of agency and efficacy.

The second stream of research is empirical, drawing on methodologies in neurobiology and psychology to study existing cultures of learning. We would like to affirm the perceptions of students in our research, and thereby aim to incorporate students at SAS in both research design and as research subjects.

The third is an attempt at concept formation, in the philosophical and sociological tradition, wherein we try to develop more normative conceptions of learning processes in times of “crisis and anxiety.” A major part of this work will be to bring into conversation literature on tragedy, crisis, anxiety, and education, with education providing the primary domain in which we want to develop these normative concepts.

Research Team

philosophy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience
social neuroscience
philosophy, pedagogy

About Project

The “problem of free will” (What is free will ? Do we really have free will ?) is a classic of philosophy; a staggering number of “great minds” have expressed their opinion on this topic, virtually from all disciplines and arts, including Aristotle, Aquinas, Hume, Kant, Spinoza, Tolstoy, and Einstein. While philosophy was the mother discipline from which the topic sprang, in recent times several other disciplines have joined the debate, in particular psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, computer science and physics. Both in professional and broad-public texts the link between free will, consciousness and (in)determinism is often immediately made. For instance, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy starts its entry on free will thus1: “Most of us are certain that we have free will, though what exactly this amounts to is much less certain. According to David Hume, the question of the nature of free will is ‘the most contentious question of metaphysics.’ If this is correct, then figuring out what free will is will be no small task indeed. Minimally, to say that an agent has free will is to say that the agent has the capacity to choose his or her course of action. But animals seem to satisfy this criterion, and we typically think that only persons, and not animals, have free will. […] This article considers why we should care about free will and how freedom of will relates to freedom of action. It canvasses a number of the dominant accounts of what the will is, and then explores the persistent question of the relationship between free will and causal determinism […].” The typical human capacity referred to in this passage, not shared by animals, is usually considered to be consciousness or (other) cognitive capacities.

In recent years, a strong impetus has been given to the theoretical philosophical research by experimental advances in neurobiology, and by an increasing interest in humanoid functions and capacities that could be realized by robots, in general systems steered by artificial intelligence (AI). For instance, in 2008 neuroscientists have reported, based on the measurement of brain activity by fMRI, that ‘free’ choices of test persons (namely the choice to lift their left or right hand) could be predicted up to 10 seconds (!) before the test person consciously made the decision to pick one or the other hand2. To many researchers, especially neurobiologists, scientific results as these put free will in question. As another example among the many, in 2017 cognitive neuroscientists published an article in Science entitled “What is consciousness, and could machines have it?”3 – an example of the exponentially rising interest in machine-based forms of consciousness. In physics too, the question of free will has been discussed in 2018 and linked to one of the key problems of physics, i.e. the unification of quantum mechanics and relativity theory – namely by Nobel laureate Gerard ‘t Hooft4.

In this project, we start from the assumption that there is a clear case for studying free will and its link with consciousness and (in)determinism by a resolutely interdisciplinary approach. In particular, we intend to scrutinize the topic from the angle of philosophy, computer science / IT, psychology, history and physics. Let us here present a succinct description of some of the lines of research we will explore in this project.

While the philosophical literature assumes that a close link exists between free will and consciousness, the philosophers of the team (Prof. Louis Vervoort and Prof. Julie Reshe) will spell out this link in more detail. The question of whether humans really have a free will or, rather, are entirely determined by their past experiences and the laws and determinants of psychology, sociology, biology, physics etc., hinges on the dichotomy determinism versus indeterminism. Indeed, one may wonder whether all the influences, regularities, “laws”, determinants to which humans are subject, are ultimately deterministic or indeterministic (probabilistic) in nature. This relates to such fundamental physical questions as whether the universe is ultimately deterministic or probabilistic, a topic at the interface of physics and philosophy of science investigated by the physicist of the team (Prof. Louis Vervoort). Determinism and free will / consciousness will also be at the heart of the psychologist’s (Prof. Julie Reshe) contribution to the project. Julie is interested in investigating hidden causal factors which influence human behavior, in other words hidden deterministic mechanisms that shape human consciousness. Following Zapffe's philosophical tradition, Julie tends to discuss consciousness in a tragic key, as a hurtful evolutionary impasse, which creates the illusion of free will. She may furthermore be interested in general psychological questions related to free will, as well as in the therapeutic practices that the present research might inspire.

The computer scientists of the team (Prof. Munesh Chauhan and Prof. Vitaly Nikolaev) will investigate computational models that are relevant for better understanding free will and consciousness from an information-theoretic point of view. Their research will address questions as: Can computer codes emulate forms of consciousness, cognition, free will? What are the main hurdles in developing more advanced AI mimicking consciousness? Can philosophy, psychology, physics trigger ideas that can be translated in computer code? Thus the computer scientists’ work will have a high degree of technicality and involve the study and mastering of computational techniques and sub-disciplines as ANN (artificial neural networks), deep learning, data mining, physical model simulation etc. Their skills may also intervene in a potential collaboration with experimental neuroscientists for interpretation of numerical data, in particular brain-imaging data. The interface of their research with physics, philosophy and psychology will be an active field of research shared with all team members.

In the team’s historian’s (Prof. Tomasz Blusiewicz) core discipline, free will is an implicit assumption of the field: key historical figures are in the vast majority of cases depicted as history-makers rather than as products of history, and even less as products of underlying and necessitating sociological, psychological, medical, neurological etc. infra-mechanisms. However, some historians have made the courageous move to delve into a different form of history writing, taking these largely hidden or unknown deterministic factors much more seriously, and engaging in interdisciplinary investigations involving psychology, medicine, pharmacology, sociology, neuroscience etc. After a literature review of paradigmatic examples of historians who have theorized this type of research, our historian plans to contribute to this debate on the basis of the team’s insights.

We anticipate that numerous surprising and relevant cross-disciplinary collaborations between team members will emerge in the research process, and look forward to collaborations with human and social scientists, neuroscientists, computer scientists and physicists from Russia and abroad!

1 Cf. internet website https://www.iep.utm.edu/freewill/, retrieved 14.10.2019.

2 Chun Siong Soon et al., Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain, Nature Neuroscience 11, 543 - 545 (2008)

3 Stanislas Dehaene et. al, What is consciousness, and could machines have it?, Science 27, Vol. 358, Issue 6362, pp. 486-492 (2017).

4 Gerard ‘t Hooft, Free Will in the Theory of Everything, arXiv:1709.02874 [quant-ph] (2018), cf. https://arxiv.org/abs/1709.02874

Research Team

philosophy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience
philosophy, physics
history, international relations, economics
IT, computer science

About Project

As liberal democracies around the world face the challenges of populism, constitutional crisis, and data-engineering, the rhetoric of “democracy in danger” is ever-present. Recent critiques have perceived democracy to be either under attack (Howard 2019; Mounk 2018), weakened and in need of care (Honig 2016), or requiring urgent renewal (Hooker 2017). Within this climate, existing definitions of democracy — as a system in which community members take collective actions, or as a mode for securing common interests through direct or indirect participation in community decision-making — no longer seem fit for purpose (Laclau & Mouffe 1985; Cohen 1989; Dahl 2000; Crick 2003). Increasingly we find ourselves asking: Do we still know what democracy is? Moreover, would we necessarily recognize it if we saw it?

Laboratories of Democracy proposes starting off “on the ground,” investigating a set of case studies that may help us reframe debates about democracy’s nature, orientation, and capacities in the twenty-first century. Connecting research in political theory, environmental anthropology, pre-modern history, and cultural studies, the project will focus on a series of marginal experiments in autonomous communal living. Each separated from the “outside world,” either geographically or ideologically, these cases will include: a set of intentional communities in the contemporary US; a commune of authors and activists in late-twentieth-century France; multispecies households, shared between humans, animals, and spirits, in present-day Southern Siberia; hunting communities in seventeenth-century Russia; and a constellation of monastic communities in twelfth-century England and Italy. While occupying disparate points in time and space, these experiments articulate an intriguing set of parallels in their vision of what communal living should be, and what it might do. As “laboratories of democracy,” they test the limits of an anti-political autonomy in isolation, simultaneously exposing potential fault-lines for mapping the democratic challenges of the century ahead.

We propose to analyze each case study as a “nexus of intentionalities” (Gell 1996: 29), or as “architectures of relationships/socialities,” where shared living spaces act as contact zones between community members. Our aim is to investigate how community members sustain their collective living through mutual entanglements and adjustments, and how — through these practices — they correspond to the outside world. We are also interested in analyzing how these entanglements of interests and intentionalities transform the shared living spaces we focus on. While not attempting to offer a solution for today’s challenges or to suggest a unifying model of communal living, we do seek to provide empirical material for thinking about the connections formed between community members as they adjust to each other’s practices, or as they unite their interests and, in doing so, build a shared space together.

Blog: https://labsofdemo.hypotheses.org/

Research Team

environmental anthropology
cultural studies, comparative literature, critical theory
history, religious studies
history, cultural studies
political theory, law and culture

About Project

What are the social and individual implications of the manipulation of human natural characteristics and abilities related to sensory perception? The construct of society is determined by what members of that society perceive and how they interact in both competitive and cooperative manners. While nature and evolution selected a certain range of capabilities that imposed limits to the human capacity to perceive and perform, culture and technology have modified such abilities and changed the way we understand and interact with the environment.

Sensory perception evolved biologically as a network of neuro-mechanisms ensuring the survival and reproductive success of Homo sapiens. The sensitivity of the sensory systems was selected to favor the range of interactions that humans could physiologically respond to through autonomic and cognitive reactions. The evolution of advanced cognitive capabilities and the consequential evolution of culture propelled humanity into an area of sensory perception beyond that of those derived through genetic evolution. Humanity began hence to seek ways to manipulate sensory perception through conscious intervention in all steps along the operational chain of sensing—from stimuli to reception to neural processing, to obtain desired behavioral outputs.

The continuous pattern of such interventions through history suggests an innate desire to expand the boundaries of human neurobiology. By examining the history of modification, enhancement, compensation, and control of human physiological and psychological capabilities, this project will evaluate the impact of these manipulations so that causal relationships and predictive models can be conceptualized and studied.

Read more about the project

Research Team

film and media studies
anthropology, GIS

Project Design Sessions

Faculty Search: Multidisciplinary Research Project Design Session. Faculty candidates from 14 countries. 7–11 March, 2019. Online broadcast.

SAS research program relies on multidisciplinary research teams integrated into global academic networks; these teams replace traditional disciplinary departments and ensure intensive communication among faculty members within and across disciplines.

Research teams are formed through an innovative faculty search procedure thereby finalists get together in Tyumen for a project design session where they self-organize into multidisciplinary teams and propose research projects. Core members of the best project teams receive full-time faculty positions at SAS.

Online broadcast with synchronous Russian translation here.

Faculty Candidates

film studies
environmental anthropology
sociology, economics
anthropology, history
sociology, media studies
media and cultural studies
philosophy, ethics
philosophy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience
political science
social neuroscience
insect chemical ecology
anthropology
neuroscience
computer science
biomedicine
computer science

Faculty Search: Multidisciplinary Research Project Design Session. Faculty candidates from 10 countries. 8–11 March, 2018. Video, Selected Episodes.

SAS research program relies on multidisciplinary research teams integrated into global academic networks; these teams replace traditional disciplinary departments and ensure intensive communication among faculty members within and across disciplines.

Research teams are formed through an innovative faculty search procedure thereby finalists get together in Tyumen for a project design session where they self-organize into multidisciplinary teams and propose research projects. Core members of the best project teams receive full-time faculty positions at SAS.

Faculty Candidates

sociology
sociology
political science
international affairs
political science
art history
anthropology, GIS
political science
philosophy, environmental humanities
philosophy, art
anthropology
comparative literature
comparative literature
political science & political economy
comparative literature

Faculty Search. Multidisciplinary Research Project Design Session. 28 faculty candidates, 21 universities, 9 countries. 3,4,5 March. Video, Selected Episodes.

In September 2017, teaching and research at SAS will commence with our first faculty starting their tenure. After reviewing over 300 applications and conducting many dozens of preliminary interviews, we invited shortlisted candidates to Tyumen to take part in an intensive 3-day project design session.

During the session, which took place on March 3-5, our candidates self-organized into multidisciplinary teams and proposed collective research projects to be realized at SAS. All the candidates, along with invited external experts, SAS staff and other stakeholders discussed the proposed projects thoroughly in order to find and help outline those most promising for the formation of SAS research agenda.

Conferences

13–15.06.2020

About forum

On June 13–15, 2020 SAS will hold its annual Disciplinary Landscape forum on the topic Dare to Experiment: Higher Education Between Safety and Danger.

Education is a risky business. We gain new experience through trying new things, essentially, through experimenting on ourselves. A learner seeks to be altered, and many things can go wrong in the process. Even tried and true educational models put one in danger. Too many risks can jeopardize learning, but the fear of risk can paralyze it completely.

Experimentation has shaped higher education as we know it. From project-based learning to seminars and the research university itself, widely accepted models and approaches have once been viewed as chancy, potentially dangerous ventures. To address the multiple controversial issues in the way universities operate today, we still need a willingness to risk. But at what cost?

The forum invites scholars and practitioners to look at the educational process from the position of experimenters:

  • What are the inherent intellectual, physiological, ethical, and other tolls of higher learning?
  • How to demarcate the border that separates generative risks from destructive risks?
  • What are the limits of progressive experimentation in higher education?

The forum will be held in English and involve teamwork and plenary discussions.  During the event, we will officially present the new Master’s program Experimental Higher Education. The Experimental Party with a surprise activity will close the event.

Expressions of interest in the form of a CV and one paragraph about a higher education experiment that you care about — real or hypothetical — no later than March 1st, 2020 to sas@utmn.ru.

8–9.06.2019

About forum

The value of traditional 3-4-year BA programs is increasingly contested, as more and more services, both online and offline, become available to teach all kinds of competences faster, cheaper, and, arguably, better. It appears less and less self-evident why lifelong learning, with its short and often part-time modules, should only begin upon the completion of a full-time BA and not right after high school. The argument in defense of full-time on-campus BA programs may focus on its greater efficiency in teaching more complex and fundamental competences or it may try to go beyond the very logic of competence model for education. In the latter case, one must specify what it is that students should be learning at university — or, as some business schools argue, during long full-emersion programs for mid-career adults — which cannot be learned by other means.
17–18.05.2019

About symposium

Love is revolting. It both inspires revulsion and has revolutionary potential. From its sticky, intimate moments of boundary-crossing and home-making to its revolutionary potential in the arguments of Charles Fourier, Alexandra Kollontai, Martin Luther King Jr., and the ecosexuals, love strikes us as an ambivalent concept of pivotal importance to humans. In recent years, a growing number of thinkers have suggested that love be critically reinvigorated in both social and political thought and action. And yet, it continues to revolt (us), and this reinvigorating has yet to be done robustly and systematically.

Love is Revolting is a two-day multidisciplinary symposium at the School of Advanced Studies (SAS), University of Tyumen that invites scholars across the disciplines to engage in discussions about love. Among other topics, we encourage discussion about love and its connection to matter and bodies; its revolutionary potential for imagining new futures and modes of belonging; its ambivalence, slipperiness and grotesqueness as both a practice and concept; its relationship to power and subject-formation; and the emergence of new forms of loving in our techno-ecological age.

16–17.06.2018

About forum

The forum will bring together scholars, teachers and administrators from leading colleges and universities in different countries to discuss the following issues:
  • How does the notion of critical thinking evolve historically, what is its (changing) relationship with the notions of critique, critical thought and disinterested scientific enquiry?
  • Can critical thinking thrive in the era of political polarization?
  • What does critical thinking involve beyond a set of analytic techniques, such as logic and argument analysis?
  • Is developing critical thinking still the major goal of liberal arts education and, if so, how can it be taught effectively to contemporary students? Does AI and digital technologies challenge us to change the way we conceptualize critical thinking?
  • Which lessons from psychology and cognitive science could give us some insights for teaching critical thinking?
30.09–01.10.2017

About forum

The second annual Disciplinary Landscape forum will be devoted to the notion of truth in its historical and disciplinary dimensions. We will discuss the philosophical foundations of the notion of truth, including the opposition of modernist truth and “post-truth”, the various functions of the concept of truth in different political, social and cultural frameworks, and the permutations of the idea of truth effected by the Russian Revolution. On the second day of the forum we will group paper presenters and SAS faculty into disciplinary teams and invite them to reflect on the different notions of truth used in the contemporary disciplines of philosophy, history, cultural studies, and sociology.