New Opportunity for PhD Students
The first national interdisciplinary research school in Norway is now arranging seminars for PhD students from the faculties in humanities, law and theology. The research school, called ATTR (Authoritative Texts and Their Reception), held its inaugural summer school in June at the University of Oslo. The next seminar is in October at the Norwegian Institute at Athens.
The PhD students Magnus Halsnes, Henriette Tøssebro and Kari Zakariassen look forward to the next seminar in Athens.
The first ATTR summer school took place in the historic university buildings in downtown Oslo. It consisted of a mixture of research seminars, student seminars and lectures on interdisciplinary method and academic skills, as well as a field trip on the theme of «Reception of Authoritative Texts in Art», all designed to facilitate fruitful discussions and exchange of knowledge and methods across disciplinary boundaries.
"I believe ATTR contributes something truly new to academic education in our respective fields," says Professor Anders Runesson, the Scientific Director of ATTR, and adds: "I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to be part of this project".
All research seminars and lectures are held by experts on authoritative texts and interdisciplinary research. The international guest speaker in June, Dr. H. Jefferson Powell, is professor of law at Duke University and also has a degree in theology. Like Runesson, he emphasizes the unique idea that ATTR embodies.
"One of the great problems that the academy faces in the twenty-first century is created by disciplinary boundaries and specialization", Powell says. "In themselves, the clear separation of distinct areas of inquiry, and the development of particular and specialized tools of research and analysis, are unavoidable and largely positive aspects of the growth of Western university culture. But they can all too easily produce overly specialized scholars and teachers."
Powell thinks that the problem of specialization calls for more than individual effort: "The problem requires institutional structures that facilitate exchange among scholars across disciplinary boundaries and provide support, particularly for young scholars, to enable a deeper engagement with other areas of study and methods of analysis. ATTR is designed to do exactly this," says Powell.
Around 20 PhD students from Norwegian and international universities participated, and had the opportunity to present and discuss their research in an interdisciplinary context. One of them, Magnus Halsnes, writes his PhD thesis on the boarders that were established in The Syrian Desert during the Mandate Period between the two world wars. Halsnes is a PhD student in history at the University of Bergen.
Halsnes tells us that some of his research material is border agreements that might be regarded as authoritative texts. "The reception and implementation of these agreements is an important focus in my work. The focus on text reception in ATTR makes this research school relevant for me", he explains.
Halsnes hopes that ATTR will give him a better understanding of how to interpret authoritative texts and understand their use. In his thesis, he will also focus on legal aspects. This makes the interdisciplinary profile of the research school valuable for him. "Collaborating with PhD students from law will hopefully give me important perspectives from that field", he says.
Henriette Tøssebro is a PhD student at the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo, and she too attended the summer school.
For her, the interdisciplinary profile of ATTR was an important reason for joining the research school.
"The feedback I get here gives me other perspectives on my research. That is always useful", she says.
She hopes the research school will give her better knowledge about text interpretation, and thinks the lecturers at the first summer school were very good. Coming from the field of law, she finds the lecturers from other fields most interesting.
Kari Zakariassen is a PhD student at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oslo. For her, ATTR was a natural choice since her thesis mainly deals with Old Testament texts. Her main focus is on texts were trees are somehow connected to knowledge.
"I think that a research school which focuses on text interpretation will have a lot to offer, and fit well with my project", she tells us.
In addition to the interdisciplinary input, she looks forward to networking with fellow PhD students from different institutions and fields of Research.
Zakariassen was very pleased with the first summer School. "It was a great atmosphere, and both presentations and responses went well. The professors from the different institutions have been very accommodating."
Tøssebro agrees. "It is a nice group of people from all over the country, and a good combination of research fields. It is interesting to get to know other faculties and institutions", she says.
"I’m very pleased with how the June summer school turned out", says Runesson. "Not only graduate students but also professors have told me they enjoyed participating in and learning from these discussions across disciplinary boundaries, boundaries that are otherwise rarely crossed."
Powell is one of the Professors Runesson is referring to. Powell says: "I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the ATTR summer school", and explains: "The lectures were uniformly excellent, and I learned a great deal. I thought the conversations generated by the papers and responses presented by the graduate students showed the value of encouraging young scholars to take an interdisciplinary approach to their work at a very early point in their careers."
Runesson looks forward to the next meeting in Athens, and to continue to develop the program.
The main topic of the seminar in Athens is reception of authoritative texts, and the international guest speaker will be Dr. Kyriakos Demetriou, Professor of Political Thought at the University of Cyprus. Professor Demetriou will give a research seminar on the topic: "Plato redivivus: Ideology and politics in the Interpretation of Plato".
Among the other speakers are Professor Jorunn Økland, The Norwegian Institute at Athens, and Professor Liv Ingeborg Lied, The Norwegian School of Theology.
"Interested PhD students can apply for membership and register for the upcoming events", says ATTR’s administrative leader Leonora Onarheim Bergsjø. She notes that ATTR has running admission and that there is still time to join the seminar in Athens, October 10-14 2016.
"The registration deadline is September 1st, but we practice the first-come-first-served principle", Bergsjø says, and urges PhD students and their advisors to read about ATTR and contact her if they have any questions about Athens in October 2016 or upcoming seminars in 2017.