Facing global world challenges; building a model and projects, representative of the mobilisation of the École Normale Supérieure and its partners
New Understandings of the World
Interdisciplinary and international, the Suds [Souths] programme and the Interdisciplinary Centre for European Studies are emblematic of the changes taking place at the Rue d’Ulm: the transition in which the flagship of French training and research takes on a more global, open and engaged dimension.
Faced with a changing world, building global, open and committed projects
These two projects are fully in accordance with the spirit of ENS. Deeply rooted in research and the Université PSL, they bear all the hallmarks of this institution of excellence, i.e.: interdisciplinarity; fertile crossroads between the Sciences and Humanities, explored at the highest level; intellectually rigorous and open-minded.
They also testify of the École’s new will. They give concrete expression to its choice of impact research, and, facing world emergencies, the social commitment of a research-oriented community. These projects, as well as the forthcoming projects that the École will announce this autumn, draw on the strength of participatory approaches and the power of decentring. They are open to new audiences and partners. They respond to the global challenges of a world in profound transformation. Suds, the first concretisation of changes of methods and scale
Why launch, as Achille Mbembe had proposed in his report to the French President, a “nomadic campus” between France, Europe and Africa? Why begin with an interdisciplinary and international set of lectures, hybrid and mobile, organised by the École Normale Supérieure with its African partners and the support of the Campus AFD [French Development Agency] and entitled New World Understandings? Why include it in the Suds programme, in a major partnership with African universities, and with the support of the Fondation de l’ENS and the AFD?
As Frédéric Worms, Director of the École Normale Supérieure, puts it:
“There is a major scientific and political need for not talking “about” Africa, but “with” Africa and its researchers both male and female, and to do this we need to build an ambitious programme of invitations and dialogue. With the Suds programme, the ENS-PSL intends to contribute to the breaking down of barriers within our comprehension of the African continent by insisting on the transnational movements of people and ideas as well as the conversations between the various branches of knowledge. It also intends to decentre our perspectives to question the relationships between France, Europe and Africa as well as to present a fresh look at contemporary Africa and the dynamics that run through the Continent’s societies.”
Involving all the disciplines of the École in the Sciences and Humanities, based on the mobility and the scientific and training partnerships with African universities, and by building an international and mobile teaching staff, the Suds programme will offer:
• A soon as January 2023, an interdisciplinary and international set of lectures, hybrid and mobile, open to a wider public beyond the usual audience of the École Normale Supérieure.
• In September of the same year, a Euro-African master’s course entitled New Understandings of the World, in partnership with the Campus AFD and an African consortium, will be launched. As an international and interdisciplinary course between the “Norths” and the “Souths”, this course will be intended for all those who seek to challenge and deepen their perceptions and visions of a complex and changing world, to acquire knowledge and techniques at the heart of the new understandings of the world in order to reflect, decide and act.
• Finally, from February 2023 and for 4 months, Souleymane Bachir Diagne will be the first visiting professor for the Suds programme at the ENS.
The Suds programme will be directed by the geographer Leïla Vignal. As a Professor and Director of the Geography Department of the École Normale Supérieure, her research focuses on the Middle East and in particular on Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and the Gulf. She works on the mutations of urban societies in the context of globalisation, on the transnational processes operating in the Middle East, and on the geographical transformations in Syria and the Levant during the war.
In addition to the scientific community of the Université PSL, the partners of this programme are the following: the French Development Agency (AFD) and its campus, the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), an African consortium of universities that already includes the University of Witwatersrand, the University of Cape Town, and the University Iba Der Thiam in Thiès, as well as the Fondation de l’ENS [ENS Foundation]. Other partners from the African continent will be announced soon.
Europe, thinking beyond national paradigms
Beyond national paradigms, thinking and considering the space of the European continent as a connected history, here is the contribution that the École Normale Supérieure and its partners intend to bring to the construction of the scientific knowledges necessary for the Europe of tomorrow. This Interdisciplinary Centre for European Studies is the first centre ranging from literature to the social sciences. It offers a renewed way of thinking about the European continent, not around a national paradigm, but around data and concrete issues and from the notion of cultural transfers.
Recent events, such as the fight against Covid or the war in Ukraine, show that Europe is, more than ever, the right scale for addressing the current challenges. Recalling that Europe cannot be reduced to the current state of this project, that its common history is set in the very long-term and that its future affects all fields of human activities is a way of responding to the doubts and challenges to which the European Union project may sometimes give rise.
This Centre is part of a partnership with the Institut Jacques Delors for European Anthropology and with the Groupe d’Études Géopolitiques [Geopolitical Study Group], founded at the ENS. It is co-directed by two historians, who are teachers-researchers respectively at the History Department and the Social Sciences Department of the ENS: Stéphane Van Damme et Blaise Wilfert.