Photo credits:
Stewen Quigley

SCAS News - 4 May, 2020

A Message from SCAS Principal Christina Garsten

The Principal's Note
May 1st, 2020

With the spread of the pandemic we at SCAS, as everyone else around the world, have been hit by
a number of new challenges. We are very fortunate to have a strong, vibrant academic community
of Fellows, as well as persistent and inventive staff, who all try to make the best out of the situation.
What is usually a socially tight-knit community of ideas, with close everyday interaction and exchange,
is now mostly a dispersed and mediated community. Most of our Fellows are now reunited with their
families and friends in different parts of the world. We are hearing stories of the impact of the pandemic
from all across the globe, and are experiencing the manifold ways in which the virus is threatening us
and impeding our ability to live the lives we wish to live. From our sister institutes, i.e. other members
of our transnational networks of Institutes for Advanced Study, we are learning about the many organi-
zational difficulties in the wake of the pandemic. These are, indeed, challenging times.

Yet, we are also seeing positive and promising happenings around us. The use of digital means to broad-
en our audience and participation in seminars – a mission that was already underway before the outbreak
of the pandemic – has been accelerated. We are now becoming well accustomed to using digital media for
our weekly staff meetings, seminars, and other kinds of events. We are becoming more curious as to what
we can do to make the best possible use of digital media to assist us in maintaining a lively academic com-
munity as well as reaching new interested participants.

At SCAS, we are eagerly taking steps to create new platforms to discuss the new predicaments of life
through our different fellowship programmes. For example, in the new Global Horizons Fellowship Pro-
gramme, upcoming panels will address the challenges of global governance; the competing regimes of
knowledge; and the novel forms of projections and scenario-making that are emerging. We are using this
critical junction in time to discuss, in a digitally supported seminar, what globalization theory may look like
in the wake of the pandemic. We will also use our interdisciplinary constellation of Fellows to reflect on,
across faculty lines, what the viral threat means for future collaborations between scholars from different
faculties. Though dispersed themselves, our current Fellows are keeping their spirits high and taking initia-
tives to stay in touch, discuss research topics, or just enjoy each other’s company on screen. In our IAS
networks, we are meeting virtually to discuss new ideas and forms of collaboration. There are plenty of
inventive suggestions and exciting initiatives emerging from these meetings in digital space. In many ways,
the very idea of an Institute for Advanced Study – as a place for curio¬si¬ty-driven research and inter-
disciplinary engagement – may even in the long run be strengthened by the initiatives taken and experiences
learnt in these difficult times.

The future remains partly unknown and we need to stay flexible, agile, and inventive with respect to the
developments. While planning for the arrival of our next generation of incoming Fellows (see Fellows 2020-
21 here
), we are prepared for a variety of scenarios that will become more clearly articulated in the coming
weeks and months. Our intention is to keep SCAS in operation, hopefully returning by the next semester to
the socially dense and lively academic community it is known to be, but also by way of the various techno-
logical means available to us.

These difficult and challenging times also open up windows of opportunity and reflection as to how we can
most innovatively make use of the creative powers and resources at our disposal to deal with – and to over-
come – the social, societal, and global challenges we are now facing. This is a time to make creative use of
the momentum of an Institute for Advanced Study!