The Paris IAS was conceived in 2007 as an initiative of Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme (FMSH), École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) and École Normale Supérieure (ENS), which joined together to create an Institute for Advanced Studies to host high-level humanities and social science researchers in Paris. From the outset, this project benefited from the French Ministry of Research’s creation of RFIEA (the French network of institutes for advanced studies in humanities and the social sciences), which is one of thirteen thematic networks for advanced research (RTRA) approved by the French State in 2006. RFIEA includes the Institutes for Advanced Study in Lyon, Marseille and Nantes.
Under the impetus of Yves Duroux, the Paris IAS welcomed its first fellows in March 2008. From 2008 until 2010, the Institute was managed by a scientific executive committee made up of Jean-Luc Racine (FMSH), Michael Werner (EHESS) and Frédéric Worms (ENS), assisted by Jean-Luc Lory (FMSH) as Secretary General. Fifty-two researchers from all corners of the globe became involved in multidisciplinary research, while others took part in the Institute’s scientific activities: colloquia, seminars and meetings. Twenty-one new fellows have already received invitations to the Paris IAS for the academic year 2011-2012 and twenty-five researchers are expected for 2012-2013.
However, the history of the Paris IAS cannot be reduced to its institutional antecedents. The Institute is an extension of an older initiative undertaken by Fernand Braudel and Clemens Heller, successive Administrators of FMSH, at a time when humanities and social science research suffered from averred isolation. Beginning with the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme’s creation in 1962, international action was one focus of an intellectual adventure aimed at opening the humanities and social sciences in France up to the various research currents in the world. In this context, FMSH’s international programmes have helped bring researchers to Paris from every continent – especially central and eastern Europe, North and South America, and soon India, China and Africa. This policy, with support from EHESS, CNRS and the universities of Paris, has been a great success.
Nevertheless, to develop these measures, a venue was needed in order to provide the proper conditions for welcoming researchers. Thus, Fernand Braudel launched the restoration of the Hôtel de Moissy (now known as "Maison Suger") in 1985 with support from Jean-Pierre Chevènement, the Minister of Research. Maison Suger, located in the heart of Paris, became a residence for humanities and social science researchers welcomed by FMSH, EHESS and various other Parisian institutions. The building itself underwent a daring restoration thanks to the talents of architect and city planner Antoine Grumbach. Maison Suger’s immediate success prompted Maurice Aymard and Alain d’Iribarne, the following Administrators of FMSH, to imagine creating an Institute for Advanced Studies. The objective was to expand on the international efforts of FMSH and other Paris ian institutions for higher education, by offering facilities to accommodate humanities and social science researchers of all origins for stays lasting several months. This initiative, with support from EHESS and ENS, became reality in 2007.
The very concept of an Institute for Advanced Study was invented by Abraham Flexner (1866-1959), the famous reformer of the US medical and university systems. In 1930, Louis Bamberger (1855-1944), philanthropist and the leading citizen of Newark, New Jersey, wanted to create a foundation for the public interest, and therefore asked Flexner for advice. Flexner suggested setting up an institute dedicated to pure science and intended to welcome researchers in all disciplines who had been dispensed of their university duties for a period of time. The result was the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study. The Princeton Institute played a decisive role in welcoming scientists fleeing Nazi Germany, including Albert Einstein, Kurt Gödel, John von Neumann and Erwin Panofsky. Over time, it became a universal model that inspired the creation of IHES (Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques) in Bures-sur-Yvette, France (founded by Léon Motchane in 1958) and many similar institutions in most European countries and the United States. These institutions are of very different sizes and structures; some are public whereas others are private; some have a permanent research staff and others do not. However, they all share one thing: they invite experienced researchers from academic institutions around the world, so that they can continue their research, in an open, friendly atmosphere, free from all teaching or administrative tasks.
The current Institute, following restructuring in January 2011, has become a tool for international action, serving all research institutions in the Paris region. With support from FMSH, the RFIEA and most universities in the Paris region, it will welcome researchers as from September 2011. Most of these researchers will spend an academic year in Paris. In close collaboration with the City of Paris, which has decided to support this project, and with aid from the Île-de-France regional authorities, the Paris IAS is laying the groundwork for its next transformation, with a planned move to the Hôtel de Lauzun, a prestigious seventeenth century building on Île Saint-Louis, to be renovated by the City of Paris.
Director of Paris IAS
Professor at University of Paris 1