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... to the sixth issue of Transformations, the newsletter of Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. 

A Word from the IAS Director

Welcome to our sixth issue of Transformations. Since our last newsletter I’m delighted to have been appointed to the role of Director of the Institute for the next three years. It’s been a wonderful two terms settling into the role as Acting Director and I now look forward to all our plans for the coming years. It’s been a challenging academic year with the impact of COVID on visiting Fellows, and disruption to our normal way of working. Nonetheless, it’s been an exciting year of fascinating projects and new ways of working (hybrid talks, development projects and more). It is critical, therefore, that I acknowledge the enormous efforts of all the staff in the IAS this year. There are many things I look forward to in my new role here, but continuing to work with this energetic and creative team is absolutely top of the list. Connected to this, I would like to offer a warm welcome to Julia Angel, our new IAS Administrator who has hit the ground running and will be a wonderful point of contact for our new Fellows when they arrive next term. 

We have our Fellowship call for Fellows arriving in Michaelmas 2023 or Epiphany 2024 open now. We would, as always, appreciate the word being spread to researchers across the world who would benefit from a term here in Durham. We have FAQs and all the information needed online, and this year are running additional online FAQ sessions for Durham colleagues who wish to nominate collaborators for a Fellowship. 

As well as our Fellowship call, we are now able to announce the projects we will run in 2023/24. ‘Understanding Offence’ is an exciting, hugely interdisciplinary project which aims to deepen our understanding of offence, and elucidate what is involved in giving and taking offence. ‘Justice and AI’ aims to understand how to provide genuine justice using AI decision making systems. ‘Abusing Antiquity’ will investigate how the classical world has been used to polarise us in the present day. ‘In Absence of Others’ will explore the relationship between loneliness and leadership, especially under a time of COVID and working from home. Together this is a very exciting collection of projects, and we look forward to working closely with them as they shape their project activities over the coming year.  

Finally, we are already beginning to make preparations for our projects and Fellows that start in October. We hope by then that most of our disruption from COVID will be behind us, and look forward to another exciting term of interdisciplinary exchange. 


Where are they now?: Professor Tiziana de Rogatis

Friendship and Scholarship at the IAS (October-December 2017)

My experience at the IAS has been foundational from several points of view. In 2017, the year in which I held the fellowship, the selected topic was Structure. I entered an incredible dimension of shared experience with colleagues from radically different disciplines, such as chemistry, or relatively close subjects including law and geography. I am a scholar of comparative literature and I teach at the University for Foreigners of Siena. Only one of my fellowship companions shared a similar critical-literary orientation, in a more specific sense, but the exchange was no less intense with the other fellows. We managed to create a climate of listening and rigor, but also a climate of harmony and solidarity, born from the daily sharing of many aspects of our evolving lives. A great contribution to this dimension came also from the cultural direction of Professor Veronica Strang, Professor Robert Barton and Professor Nicholas Saul, who solicited the potential of this group in many ways. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the important role played by the Institute’s Manager Linda Crowe, who was such a decisive point of reference for all of us.

Experiencing the interaction between IAS and St Mary's College, where I was hosted, was another decisive and completely new aspect for me. Thanks to the Principal of St Mary's, Professor Simon Hackett, and thanks also to his extraordinary wife who unfortunately passed away two years ago, Helen Hackett, I came to understand what it means to live an all-round education: to see students from all over the world grow and evolve and to see how a protected and open context can teach them to practice culture concretely as a system of relationships and exchanges that shapes the whole day, from breakfast to official dinner, from lecture to country music evening. Dr Katrin Wehling-Giorgi, who teaches Contemporary Italian Literature at the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and who was my generous host and my buddy, and Professor Stefano Cracolici, who splendidly assisted her, played a decisive role before, during and after this experience. The experience at the IAS, and in particular the reflection on narrative structures, allowed me to write a book on the writer Elena Ferrante that came out in 2018 for the same Italian publishing house of the author (e/o, Rome). The book was translated into English the following year, this time for the American branch of the author’s publishing house (Elena Ferrante's Key Words, translated by W. Schutt, Europa Editions, New York 2019). Dr Wehling-Giorgi and I have established an uninterrupted collaborative relationship, which led us to organize an international conference on Elena Ferrante at Durham in 2019, entitled Elena Ferrante in a Global Context (co-organized with Dr Stiliana Milkova), also thanks to the support of the IAS, whom I would like to thank again on this opportunity.

Keep reading

Featured project 2022/23: The Politics of Credibility

Dr Elisabeth Kirtsoglou (Anthropology) and Dr Olga Demetriou (Government and International Affairs)

Last month (March 2022), Greek media reported on the support of a local school community to a refugee from Guinea who, having arrived as an unaccompanied minor to the country in 2019, was facing deportation, as he was soon to turn 18 and his asylum application had been refused. The story hit the media because the boy had been chosen by his school to carry the Greek flag during the annual parade that takes place around the country on Independence Day (25 March). Traditionally, this is an honour bestowed on graduating students to recognise their moral conduct and exceptional work at school. Flagbearers are held to be ‘model citizens’ in the making. So, when Saidou Kamara’s teachers, schoolmates, and principal, rallied the media against his deportation, they not only questioned the correctness of the decision of the asylum board to reject his application and order his deportation. They put into question the credibility of the criteria being used to make that decision. They offered a different set of credible criteria on which Saidou’s stay in Greece as a ‘model refugee’ should be judged: his conduct, his successful integration, his social capital.  

When we set out to explore credibility in asylum decisions, we had in mind a plethora of cases, in Greece and Cyprus mainly, where refugees have been refused protection, forced into irregularity, or returned to countries of origin, and sometimes of transit too. We had in mind an increasingly hostile environment to refugees and migrants at European entry points, which we saw being exemplified through the legal system. Since then, this hostility appears to have extended, indeed shifted, to processes that precede the judicial procedure. They include pushbacks, the outsourcing of asylum process to third countries, refusals to accept applications, prolonged and indiscriminate detention, guards firing live ammunition at borders, and brute force. What we hope to achieve through the project is a critical examination of the ways in which judicial and non-judicial processes and logics interact to undermine credibility in asylum decisions in ways that authorise and reproduce the hostile environment beyond the law.

The Politics of Credibility is a scoping research project of the reported ineffectiveness of legal structures of refugee protection. Our objectives are:
[1] to retrace the process of asylum claim assessments in order to map how pathways of credibility are being constructed and to identify key sites in this process where (in)credibility is being produced;
[2] to investigate how credibility is connected to and affected by (a) existing legal and policy categories, (b) processes of knowledge production that form the basis of the ‘country of origin information’, (c) notions of what constitutes ‘evidence’ and patterns of evidence interpretation.

Keep reading

Featured project 2022/23: Risks to Youth and Studenthood in Digital Spaces: commodification, transitions and digital identities

Dr Rille Raaper (Education) and Dr Mariann Hardey (Business School)

This project emerged from a number of exciting digital coffee (very apt) conversations where we discussed issues related to digital spaces and how they are used and navigated by students as young people. We both were surprised how little we knew about students’ use of social media platforms. We also realised that Mariann’s interest and expertise in digital platforms and participation, and Rille’s work on youth and studenthood were an ideal match to put together a timely and ambitious project. Over time, we involved further Durham academics from Sociology (Prof Vikki Boliver), Anthropology (Dr Elisabeth Kirtsoglou), Computer Science (Prof Alexandra I. Cristea), Philosophy (Dr Clare Mac Cumhaill), and Psychology (Dr Thuy-vy T. Nguyen) to give the project a real interdisciplinary lens.
The research team’s incredible synergy directed us towards wanting to particularly understand undergraduate student participation in image-rich and real-time digital spaces such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. We all know that students as young people inhabit digital spaces, but what is less clear is how such social media platforms shape their identity development throughout their so-called ‘student lifecycle’ which would involve transitions to/from studenthood and identity-based belonging. From the start of their studies to the end of three years, students go through various transitions in their identity formation, and it is likely that their engagement with social media platforms differs depending on the transitions they are going through, e.g. from searching for a community to increasing one’s employability. Similarly, there is a limited understanding of the role of social media in forming student identities, especially with how various identity markers (e.g., gender, ethnicity, sexuality) intersect with digital platforms used. We feel that an emphasis on space, time, and identities is critical in a world where digital spaces are always evolving with new and more visible methods to express oneself. While we are now laying the groundwork for this initiative, which will begin in Epiphany 2023, there are a few lessons to be learned.
As we have fine-tuned our approach to theory in this project, we have started to critique the rather traditional ideas of digital nativism that present contemporary youth as holding an authoritative role in digital technologies. Instead, we draw on several contemporary theorists from French, German and American sociological-philosophical tradition, e.g. Bernard Stiegler, Byung-Chul Han and Judith Butler, and explore their relationship with earlier works of Baudrillard, Goffman, Mead and Foucault. This approach will let us question the issues of self-actualisation and surveillance in the context of cultural capitalism at the borders of burnout and depression. We draw on anthropological and philosophical works about space, performance, and visual representation. This project, it is fair to say, is the final catalyst for intriguing theory work that will contribute to our scholarly understandings of adolescent participation in digital environments.

Keep reading

Featured project 2022/23: Opportunities in Pollution

Dr Kimberley Jamie (Sociology) and Dr Margarita Staykova (Physics)

The ‘Opportunities in Pollution’ project is borne out of two previous IAS projects which both ran in the academic year 2019-20 – ‘Material Imagination’ and ‘Antibacterial Clay Therapy’. The ‘Material Imagination’ project focused on the design and exploration of new class of ‘biohybrid’ materials, which contain living cells and with that, their capacity to adapt, evolve and respond to the external environment. The ‘Antibacterial Clay’ project looked at the therapeutic and detoxifying use of clay minerals across time, and space (in the global south and in ‘Western’ scientific practice). 

Running through both of these projects were the themes of materiality and human and non-human interactions. We wanted to extend these themes into offering a broader discussion and experience of pollution, and this is how our project 'Opportunities in Pollution' came about.  Pollution is predominantly understood as human behaviours, actions and materials which inflict harm on the natural world and threatens how people live. We want to unpack and question this human-centred understanding, and the established differentiation between ‘pollutant’ and ‘polluted’. Our starting point is that pollution involves relationships and entanglements of human and non-human actors across a range of spaces and systems. The entrance of pollutants into an eco-system can provide a new opportunity or impetus for evolution, the emergence of new materials, technologies and human activities, and for the reconfiguration of balances and relationships. We want to understand these complex and often hidden relations and opportunities.

The objective of the project is to bring together a multidisciplinary collective of academics with expertise on pollution, ecology and evolution, material science, multispecies anthropology and sociology. We want to investigate the physical and social dimensions of pollution and more importantly, the possibilities it offers for new technological, social and economic assemblages. To anchor our investigations in specific ecosystems and habitats, species, and stakeholders, we will focus on the Northeast of England, where the heavy industrial past and the subsequent deindustrialization has not only left a legacy of pollution on the physical landscape but also shaped how individual lives have been, and are, lived in the area.

Keep reading


IAS Fellowship Recruitment 2023/24

Applications for Fellowships in 2023/24 are now being accepted, with a closing date of Friday 17 June 2022 (midday GMT). Some of our Fellowships are reserved for Fellows nominated to participate in projects funded by the IAS in 2023/24 (see here). However, additional Fellowships are also available for applicants to collaborate with these projects, or who want come to the University for a term to work on collaborative interdisciplinary research projects with academics at Durham. Full application details are available here

College of Fellows

As we head towards the end of Easter term and another academic year,  we look forward to the start of three projects showcased above and welcoming two full cohorts of Fellows in person in 2022/23. Our Fellowship continues to grow with a College of Former IAS Fellows numbering more than 280, and our new Associate Fellows touching almost 30.  

News from our Former IAS Fellows and current IAS Associate Fellows

Dr David Chivers (Associate Fellow)
... paperback edition of his 2021 book How to Read Numbers: a guide to statistics in the news (and knowing when to trust them) is now available.

Dr Marco Bernini  (Associate Fellow)
... has published a new book with Oxford University Press, Beckett and the Cognitive Method: mind, models and exploratory narratives.

Dr Marco Bernini and Dr Ben Alderson Day (Associate Fellows)
... Oxford University Press will publish an edited collection, Dreams, Narratives, and Liminal Cognition: an interdisciplinary framework (expected mid-late 2023) which comes out of their IMH and IAS project Threshold Worlds. 

Professor Simon James and Dr Mariann Hardey (Associate Fellows)
... have co-written a paper 'Digital Seriality and Narrative Branching: season one, the podcast serial' in Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, 19, pp. 74-90.

Professor Chris Brown (Associate Fellow)
... has co-written and published 'Achieving the ‘ideas-informed’ Society: results from a structural equation model using survey data from England, Emerald Open Research (see:

Professor Willard Bohn (2007/08 Fellow)
... is editing a forthcoming issue of the Forum for Modern Language Studies which is devoted to Surrealist poetry.

Professor Nirmalangshu Mukherji (2008/09  Fellow)
... forthcoming book The Human Mind through the Lens of Language: generative exploration (Bloomsbury Academic). 

Professor Stewart Clegg (2010/11 Fellow)
... has joined the School of Project Management and the John Grill Institute for Project Leadership at the University of Sydney.

Professor Pier Paolo Saviotti (2011/12 Fellow)
... has undertaken several guest professorships including in Eindhoven Technological University (2012-2014), in Copernicus Institute, Utrecht University (2015-2017), in Enna University (Italy) (2015-2016). He is currently working on a book project, Innovation, Complexity and Economic Evolution: From Theory to Policy.

Professor Lesley Chamberlain (2013/14 Fellow)
...  her edition of Vita and Eddy Sackville-West's 1931 translation of The Duino Elegies was published in the UK in November 2021 and in February 2022 in the US. She is co-convening an exhibition at Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst Castle, in Kent  which opens in September 2022. She has also published two monographs with Pushkin Press,  Rilke: the last inward man and Nietzsche in Turin

Professor Richard Read (2014/15 Fellow) 
... recent contribution to the Cambridge Elements, The History of Emotions and the Senses Series (See below). 

Professor Sara Cousins (2016/17 Fellow) 
... the grassland winter warming experiment in Teesdale concludes this month. This PhD-student project was a direct result from her Fellowship in collaboration with IAS Associate Fellow, Professor Bob Baxter. Sara also has  a newly funded project, ECSTATIC, which will work on biodiversity on different scales (in collaboration with CEH Lancaster.

Professor Massimo Leone (2016/17 Fellow)
... has been appointed Research Director of the Center for Religious Studies, at the Bruno Kessler Foundation, Trento, Italy.

Professor Kathryn Yusoff (2017/18 Fellow)
... has been awarded the 2022 Association of American Geographers Stanley Brunn Award for Creativity in Geography. 


IAS Websites  
Keep up to date with the IAS via its websites at and

Follow us also on Twitter at @DurhamIAS. 
PGR Event Changes
Autonomous and Decolonial Pedagogies, Social Movements and Education in Brazil and the UK. Symposium will now take place on 24 June. Details will be published online soon.


Firing Up the Epistemological Engine: Workshop 5 - Reflections and Growth

The fifth and final workshop will focus on the experience and learning of the earlier four workshops, revisiting research papers as necessary, and expanding the circle of researchers in light of the progress that has been made.

18 May 2022 |  10.00AM - 2.00PM  | 


Fellowship Nomination: online guidance session

A short online guidance session to support Durham colleagues in nominating Fellows for a 2023/24 Fellowship. 

19 May 2022 |  12.00 PM - 1.00PM  | 


Beckett and the Cognitive Method by Marco Bernini

Does literature merely represent cognitive processes, or can it enhance, parallel, or reassess the scientific study of the mind? Beckett and the Cognitive Method argues that Samuel Beckett's narrative work, rather than just expressing or rendering mental states, inaugurates an exploratory use of narrative as an introspective modeling technology. Through a detailed analysis of Beckett's entire corpus and published volumes of letters, this book argues that Beckett pioneered a new method of writing to construct (in a mode analogous to scientific inquiry) models for the exploration of core laws, processes, and dynamics in the human mind.

Keep reading

Other recent publications

IAS supported projects and Fellows continue to generate exciting new insights and important publications. Recent highlights include:
  • Chamberlain, L (2022) Rilke: the last inward man. London: Pushkin Press. 
  • Chamberlain, L (2022)  Nietzsche in Turin: the end of the future. London: Pushkin Press. 
  • Read, R (2022) Sensory Perception, History and Geology: the Afterlife of Molyneux’s question in British, American and Australian landscape painting and cultural thought. Cambridge Elements, The History of Emotions and the Senses Series. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mukherji, N (2022) The Human Mind through the Lens of Language: generative exploration. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 


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