History of IASC
The Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture began in 1995 at the University of Virginia as a research initiative called “The Postmodernity Project” under the direction of James Davison Hunter. At that time, there were no full-time employees, only one doctoral fellowship, and support for a small colloquium series. Now, the Institute has a professional staff, a permanent faculty, a senior fellow in residence, over a dozen faculty fellows, and numerous doctoral, postdoctoral, and research fellows. Instead of a small colloquium series, the Institute hosts numerous public events, research projects, book manuscript workshops, a regular fellows seminar, working groups, and major surveys—to mention just a few of our activities. Much has been accomplished in these years.
A timeline of a few of our major accomplishments and turning points helps to chart our progress:
- In 1999, the Institute launched its journal, The Hedgehog Review, which soon won the Best New Journal Award from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ).
- In 2002, with a grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Postmodernity Project expanded, changed its name to the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, and founded a sister organization, the Center on Religion and Democracy, which was folded into the Institute as a key research program in 2006.
- Over the following years, the Institute was able to expand its public profile through a series of major public lectures, bringing such public figures as Lionel Jospin, Samuel Huntington, Robert Kaplan, Khaled Abou El Fadl, René Girard, Danièle Hervieu-Léger, Mark Juergensmeyer, David Brooks, Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Todd Gitlin, and John Searle to the University of Virginia.
- In 2008, the Institute moved from a small suite of offices to its permanent home, the historic Watson Manor on University Circle, just down the road from UVa's central grounds.
Among its accomplishments since 1995, the Institute has provided funding for close to 200 graduate and postdoctoral fellowships; provided critical support for over 80 major works of scholarship; hosted over 50 public events, lectures, conferences, and symposiums; hosted over 80 prominent scholars from the U.S. and Europe; conducted three national public opinion surveys; and collaborated on two films, made in partnership with an academy award-winning film-maker.
While much has changed, one thing has remained constant. The same core question has animated the Institute from the beginning: How are we to understand contemporary cultural change and its individual and social consequences? Since the beginning, the Institute has been committed to a model of interdisciplinary academic community that is rare in the academy. The core programs of the Institute have been and remain funding key research in the humanities and social sciences focused on contemporary cultural change, supporting and mentoring the next generation of scholars, and, through various outreach initiatives, providing intellectual leadership in service to the common good.