The Nantes Institute for Advanced Study is a state-approved public benefit foundation that invites every academic year about thirty Fellows selected for the quality and originality of their work.
Drawing inspiration from the model of Princeton (1930) and Berlin (1980), the IAS-Nantes provides an inspirational setting for intellectual innovation. In a world in which research is increasingly hampered by the fragmentation of academic work, by budgetary constraints and programmatic research activity, the policy of the Institute is to enable the best researchers (Fellows) to leave behind their usual national, institutional and disciplinary contexts for a while in order to pursue research which they themselves have conceived, and to do so as part of a community of researchers from different geographical and disciplinary horizons in a serendipitous environment
Challenging the intellectual habits of their members, the IAS-Nantes is first and foremost conceived as breeding-ground for new and long-lasting networks of academic collaboration. The distinctive ambition of the Nantes Institute for Advanced Study is to create a new type of intellectual relationships between Western scholars and those from the rest of the world. By encouraging the latter to offer their viewpoints we hope to achieve a true diversity of approaches to current problems posed by globalization.
Dialogue is considered as a fundamental element of a scientific policy. The Nantes IAS’s premise is that in the human sciences researcher and object are never wholly separable. Due to this particular epistemological status, comparative study and the other’s vision of our own culture and modes of thought are considered an indispensable ingredient of something like objectivity in our knowledge of the human being.
Instead of considering other major civilisations as mere subject of study or objectives for missionaries, the Institute aspires to create a new style of intellectual relationship between the countries of the ‘north’ and ‘south’. The so-called ‘developed’ countries have until recently dominated the social sciences, treating ‘the rest’ of the world more as objects of inquiry or as students than as real partners .
Even today the vast majority of researchers invited to ‘Northern’ conferences or universities come from the ‘developed countries’, while ‘Southern’ academics are welcomed in significant numbers only in the context of area studies. This tendency will ultimately lock the social sciences into a self-referential loop with the illusory belief that their categories of thought are universal and timeless.
For this reason, the goal of IAS-Nantes is to gather every year at the institute a small academic community composed of scholars with widely differing intellectual and cultural baggage but who share the same type of perplexity and whose projects have enough elements in common to trigger mutually beneficial dialogues. Living and working under the same roof for several months enables the residents of the Institute to confront the way they perceive specific issues.
The epistemological premise of the Institute put into light a second aim of the scientific policy namely that it privileges research into the dogmatic underpinnings of human societies, that is, into what in the meaning which a society assigns to human life lies beyond proof.
Neither man nor society would be able to maintain themselves without resorting to some founding beliefs that escape all attempts to experimental demonstration and sustain their manners and actions. The scientific policy of the IEA aims at helping scientists from all continents to consider dogmatic systems from a totally different angle. Indeed, those systems should not be considered as the remains of a former, irrational age in a world doomed to becoming transparent and manageable but as a framework that is necessary to the establishment of reason in a world that is bound to remain diverse and unpredictable.
This dogmatic dimension of human life is particularly seen at work in languages, law, religion and aesthetics, whose common feature is to establish meaning - meaning that exists per se and cannot be demonstrated. It also includes philosophy and sociology of sciences as well as medicine, as it is a human science and not only an area study of veterinary sciences. The belief that there would not be anything to know about human that cannot be explained through physics or chemistry is a product from the occidental dogma and needs to be analysed as such. Therefore, in addition to human sciences researchers, the invitation policy of the Institute also includes doctors and biologists as well as artists (musicians, visual artist, writers and film directors).