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... to the second issue of Transformations, the newsletter of Durham University’s Institute of Advanced Study. In Transformations 2 readers will find our usual array of news and features, from an encounter with former Fellow John Dupré, to features on a current IAS project Mediation (with a video interview), our Director’s report, an introduction by the Director to the concept of meta-reflection on interdisciplinary research, news from the Fellowship and their most recent publications, and, last but not least, the chance to meet our new Director from the Science Faculty, Alex Easton. Those who find items in Transformations of particular interest can click for further information on the new link: Enjoy reading.

A word from the director...


As the New Year of 2021 unfolds, we have all become accustomed to virtual life. Along with many departments and institutes at other Universities, we have been discovering that, although online lectures and seminars cannot truly replace being able to see and interact with each other properly, it is a huge plus to be able to include people, located in far flung geographic locations, who would otherwise not be able to attend these events. We are therefore planning to continue to host many such online activities, even when – we hope – the Covid vaccination programme allows academic lives to return to something approaching normality.

The virtual lectures from the IAS Fellows last term included topics as diverse as land reform and sustainable communities; the common ground between dreams and psychosis, the politics of language in world literature; and extreme states of physical matter. The recorded lectures – and details of upcoming events – are all available on the IAS website, as are the live lectures offered by IAS Fellows prior to the pandemic. To listen to any of these fascinating and diverse offerings, go to

Keep reading

Where are they now?
John Dupré

Professor John Dupré of Exeter University had a powerful impact on the intellectual life of Durham University in the inaugural year of the IAS, 2006-2007. The 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species was imminent, and John Dupré’s big small book, Darwin’s Legacy. What Evolution Means Today (Oxford: OUP 2003), was changing the thinking of many Durham scholars, particularly those in the humanities who had difficulties with the then dominant paradgm of the ‘two cultures’ culture (C.P. Snow). Was Richard Dawkins right in his popular argument for the selfish gene? Did genes determine everything? And their cultural-evolutionary equivalent, the memes? It was decided in honour of the anniversary to select Legacies of Darwin as the IAS inaugural theme. John Dupré was one of the leading Fellows. Among other events, Professor Patricia N. Waugh (English Studies) and I organised a lecture series on the framework theme The Legacies of Charles Darwin, where many authorities on evolution engaged in debate, and Professor Dupré gave the keynote. Later, Professor Simon J. James (English Studies) and I organised a conference on cultural evolution in European literatures, and edited the proceedings.

This was a little of John Dupré’s legacy to Durham, and it is now time to find out the rest of the story. We contacted Professor Dupré in Exeter to find out where he is now, and what his journey there was like.

Keep reading

Meet the team:
New Co-Director Alex Easton

As one door closes, another door opens. With Professor Chris Greenwell’s move to pastures new, the IAS has moved to appoint his successor in the post of Co-Director responsible for the Science Faculty. Professor Alex Easton will take up his post from the start of Epiphany Term 2020-2021. We welcome him warmly, and look forward to new creative opportunities.

Professor Easton graduated with a degree in Physiology from Oxford in 1996 and a PhD in Psychology, also from Oxford in 1999. After post-doctoral positions in Oxford and then Nottingham University, he became Lecturer in the Psychology Department at Nottingham in 2001. He moved to the Psychology Department at Durham in 2004, where he is Director of the University’s Learning and Memory Processes Research Centre. Here he talks about his work, and his involvement with the IAS.

Keep reading

Current project profile:

Mediation for the Twenty First Century

In a world where globalisation and nationalism glare suspiciously at each other across a seeming void, and conflict resolution walks a thin tightrope between dialogue and violence, effective mediation has become ever more necessary. But is there a theory of mediation? And is mediation always, as this might suggest, a negotiation solely between polar opposites, excluding other, more complex vectors in the field of tension? The project team of Mediation for the 21st Century did not think so, and set out to create an innovate scholar-practitioner exchange both to identify core sticking points in a move towards inclusive mediation, and to explore how interdisciplinary dialogue might help to advance thinking in the field. With support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, as well as the Crisis Management Initiative in Helsinki and the Instituto di Affari Internazionali in Rome, we used the case study of women’s inclusion in peace talks as a lens though which to examine the increasingly professionalised, but ever more fragmented, field of peace mediation.

To fully understand the nature of peace mediation, and as a result how it might evolve, we needed to start with the seismic shifts that have happened in international affairs since the end of the Cold War. As the world moved away from the then dominant bipolar balance of power, so too nations embraced the promise of a new, liberal, multilateral international order. The recent evolution of peace mediation as an international activity is a product of both the move towards a system based on the values of the international community and the normative commitments made by states in respect of conflict and its aftermath. This is best captured in the 2012 UN Guidance for Effective Mediation which created for the first time a normative structure for peace mediation. With this guidance, mediation became institutionalised, with norms generalised and diffused by professional practitioners in the new, expanding field of mediation support.

Inclusion and Exclusion in Mediation

One of the most successful examples of normative development in peace mediation has been the concept of inclusion. Initially referring to the representation of women in peace talks, inclusion in its basic sense in fact requires the presence – or the representation – of all diverse stakeholders in peace talks. These can of course be women, but the same reasoning applies also to youth, religious actors, and other identity-based groups which reflect the divisions in society, as generated by class or urban/rural barriers.

These photos show an IAS workshop which considered how women participants in high-level peace processes might be better supported

That said, anyone familiar with the dialectic of Adorno’s and Horkheimer’s Critical Theory (1947, Stanford University Press)[1] will will immediately recognise that this institutionalisation of mediation in normative form inevitably creates its own exclusions. 

Keep reading

Video: Interview with Johanna Poutanen

Listen as Nicholas Saul, IAS Director for Arts and Humanities, interviews Dr Catherine Turner and IAS Fellow Johanna Poutanen about their Mediation for the Twenty First Century: Connecting the Local and the Global project.

Watch the interview here.

The Meta Question

One of the key challenges in interdisciplinary research is to define an overarching ‘meta question’ that can unite the more specific questions generated within disciplines to meet common goals. This comes hand-in-hand with a need for a mutually comprehensible theoretical approach that will support a meta-analysis. Articulating these things may also encourage the use of ‘meta-methods’ that provide common intellectual ground, such as the use of GPS mapping to record layers of, geological, ecological, cultural and historical information.

A search for larger unifying questions, overarching theories and forms of meta-analysis pertains within disciplines too. Thus former IAS Fellow Howard Morphy observed that

Archaeologists and anthropologists are inevitably involved in the process of developing an analytic meta-language that is used in the analysis of data and the interpretation of culture. (Morphy 2005: 51)


2020/21 IAS Fellowship

The Institute's programme for visiting Fellows continues this term in virtual form. Our Fellows' lectures and seminars will continue in this form across the term, as well as the development of collaborative research projects with Durham colleagues. We remain hopeful that Fellows may be able to join us in Durham later in the academic year.  Details of our current Fellows can be found here.

Two major interdisciplinary projects are taking place during Epiphany: Quantifying the Global Risk of Volcanic Eruptions to the Airline Industry will consider the problem of volcanic eruptions in the context of global flight paths; and Negotiating Landscapes of Rights will examine the negotiation of rights around common resources through a series of case studies from around the world.

News from our Former Fellows

Professor Stewart Clegg (2010/11 Fellow)
... now emeritus Professor at the University of Technology Sydney. 

Linda France (2012/13 Fellow)
... received a 2020 Society of Authors Cholmondley Award.  Her collection Reading the Flowers, which she worked on during her IAS Fellowship, was longlisted for the inaugural Laurel Prize for poetry books that raises awareness of the environment.  

Dr Francesca Fulminante (2017/18 Fellow)
... recently published open access edited volume Where do Cities Come from and Where are they going to? Special Research Topic. Frontiers Digital Humanities 2018-21,  and a book forthcoming in 2021 entitled The Rise of Early Rome: transportation networks and domination in central Italy, 1050-500 BC (Cambridge University Press).

Professor John Heil (2014/15 Fellow)
... elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
Professor Janet Hoek (2019/20 Fellow)
... elected a Fellow of the Society for Research into Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT) in late 2020. 

Professor Boris Malomed (2017/18 Fellow)
... a new world ranking of scientists was published by the Stanford University in December 2020. It includes the top 2% of researchers in particular fields. The publishers of ranking state that an essential achievement is to take the 50 highest positions in the list in the respective fields. Professor Malomed has been ranked 29th in the field of "fluids and plasmas".
Professor Mary Manjikan (2012/13 Fellow)
... edited volume forthcoming later this month, Routledge Companion to Global Cyber-Security Strategy
Andy Martin (2017/18 Fellow)
... promoted to full professor at the University of Melbourne at the end of 2020.

Professor Tim May (2015/16 Fellow)
... appointed a Professorial Research Fellow in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield. He has a forthcoming fifth edition of Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process (McGraw-Hill, 2021).

Professor Richard Read (2014/15 Fellow) edited collection (with K. Haltman) published in September 2020, Colonization, Wilderness, and Spaces Between: nineteenth-century landscape painting in Australia and the United States (Chicago: Terra Foundation for American Art).
Professor David Sutton (2018/19 Fellow)
... forthcoming book this year, provisionally entitled Bigger Fish to Fry: a theory of cooking as everyday risk to be published by Berghahn Press.

Visit our blog for exciting updates from the IAS alumni community.

The virtual IAS: Public lectures

Over the course of last term and continuing into this, we have adapted our Public Lecture programme and seminar series to the pandemic. Our events are currently held via Zoom. Each of our IAS Directors will introduce each lecture or paper, and Fellows will either give a live  or pre-recorded lecture will after which the Fellow will then take part in a live question & answer session. We will put the recorded lectures on our website for people to stream whenever they like, and hope to include a comments section to allow discussion of the subject to continue. Hopefully, not only will this allow us to continue though these unusual circumstances, but will mean that an even wider audience can attend our Public Lectures.

Catch up

All of this years' Zoom lectures are available to watch again, along with a library of previous lectures from many of our previous Fellowship years. 


Watch again here

The Role of Catalogues of Threats and Security Controls in Security Risk Assessment 

This paper by Professor Fabio Massacci, from the University of Trento and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, will discuss how catalogues contribute into the risk assessment process. In a soundbite, if security experts are hard to get, a domain specific catalogue is the second best bet.

08 March 2021 | 5.00PM-6.00PM | Virtual

Flourishing in the Anthropocene: property, community and climate change

In this talk, Dr Nicole Graham (University of Sydney) discusses how the rise of global greenhouse gas emissions above pre-industrial levels is transforming the climate of the planet – presenting an existential crisis on a scale far greater than the individual, society or species.  The arrival of the Anthropocene calls for a planetary understanding of ‘community’ that encompasses its disowned human and more-than-human members, whose work in capital’s shadow lands provide the conditions of modern Western proprietorship. ‘Living well’ through the 21st century will involve reframing social obligation as existential imperative in modelling a viable property regime.

10 March 2021 | 9.00AM-10.00AM | Virtual

De-urbanising rural spaces: the words we use and the interpretation of the past

Dr Anna Stagno (University of Genoa) specialises in the study of rural spaces, combining archaeological historical ecology and social micro-history, and is interested in the possibility opened by the constant contamination between disciplines and approaches. In this talk, she will discuss how concepts define research, and she will reflect on the way in which the words influence the interpretation of those evidences and narratives by exploring similarities and the different trajectories of two phenomena which share the same roots: the colonial perspective and the urban dominant consideration of rural areas.

15 March 2021 | 8.00AM-9.00AM | Virtual

Interrogations of Evolutionism in German Literature 1859-2011 by Nicholas Saul

Darwin’s idea has been called the best idea anyone ever had. In Interrogations of Evolutionism in German Literature 1859-2011 Nicholas Saul offers the first representative account of German literary responses to Darwinian evolutionism from Raabe and Jensen via Ernst Jünger and Botho Strauß to Dietmar Dath.

Solid State Materials Chemistry by Tom Vogt (and Woodward, P.M., Pavel, K., Evans, J.S.O) 

Published by Cambridge University Press, Professor Tom Vogt used his IAS Fellowship in early 2018 to focus on this graduate teaching publication with Durham's Professor John Evans (Chemistry), and Professor Patrick Woodward from Ohio State University, who also took up a sabbatical at Durham during 2018.

The book emphasizes the links between structure, defects, bonding, and properties throughout, and provides an integrated treatment of a wide range of materials, including crystalline, amorphous, organic and nano- materials.

Recent articles

IAS supported projects and Fellows continue to generate exciting new insights and important publications. Recent highlights include:
  • Snopok, B., Laroussi, A., Cafolla, C., Voïtchovsky, K., Snopok, T., Mirsky, V.M  (2021) ‘Gold Surface Cleaning by Etching Polishing: optimization of polycrystalline film topography and surface functionality for biosensing’, Surfaces and Interfaces, 22(100818), pp.2468-0230.
  • Greenspon, E. B., Pfordresher, P. Q., & Halpern, A. R (2020) 'The Role of Long-Term Memory in Mental Transformations of Pitch', Auditory Perception and Cognition, 3, pp. 76-93.
  • Centanni, T.M., Halpern, A.R., Seisler, A.R., & Wenger, M.J. (2020) 'Context-dependent Neural Responses to Minor Notes in Frontal and Temporal Regions Distinguish Musicians from Nonmusicians', Cognitive, Affective, and Behavioral Neuroscience, 20(3), pp. 551-564.
  • Hendry, R. F (2020) 'Trusting Atoms’ in Ugo Zilioli (ed.) Atomism in Philosophy: a history from antiquity to the present. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 470-488.
  • Hoek, J., Glendall, P., Eckert, C., Louviere, J., Ling, P., Popova, L (2021) 'Analysis of On-pack Messages for e-liquids: a discrete choice study', Tobacco Control.
  • Nie, J.B. (2020) 'The Summit of a Moral Pilgrimage: Confucianism on healthy ageing and social eldercare', Nursing Ethics.

Keep up to date with the latest Institute Reports 
Institute of Advanced Study, Durham University, Cosin’s Hall, Palace Green, Durham, DH1 3RL
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