UCL's Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences was founded in 2015. It is based at the heart of UCL's Bloomsbury Campus in a suite of rooms in the Wilkins Building South Wing. The IAS is a research-based community of scholars comprising colleagues and doctoral students from across UCL as well as visiting fellows and research collaborators/interlocutors from the UK and internationally. The IAS is committed to critical thinking and engaged enquiry both within and across conventional disciplinary and institutional boundaries, and aims to provide a creative and generative context in which to question and dislodge habitual practices and modes of thought. In particular, in the context of a major multi-disciplinary university, the IAS harnesses UCL's extensive expertise across the humanities and social sciences, to investigate received wisdom, to bring the aesthetic and the political into dialogue with one another, to foster collaborative cutting-edge research, to identify and address the urgent ethical and intellectual challenges that face us today, and to confront our responsibilities as citizens of an increasingly contracting and inter-connected world, exploring our place (historically as well as spatially) within it.
The IAS fosters and develops a range of themes and research priorities. It provides a home to the collective 'area studies' research groupings at UCL but at the same time opens the historical configurations of region and place to question under the rubric Area Studies Re-Mapped or 'Area Studies without Borders'. It also houses a number of specialist Research Centres. These include UCL's newly established Health Humanities Centre, enabling the formulation of research questions that incorporate but also move beyond reigning medical priorities to explore human health in the broadest terms, bringing historical, literary, legal, technological, material, philosophical, anthropological and aesthetic issues into debates around what constitutes the 'human' and how 'health' may be broadly conceived. The IAS similarly hosts the new UCL Centre for Collective Violence and Genocide Studies, a multi-disciplinary research initiative investigating historical and contemporary instances of collective violence and their legacies as well as building relevant archives (oral and physical) that enable research on perpetrators, victims and processes of collective violence and conflict resolution in different geo-political contexts, and the FRINGE Centre for the Study of Social & Cultural Complexity. UCL's Centre for Multidisciplinary and Intercultural Inquiry (CMII) also has its new home in the IAS, and cross-disciplinary initiatives such as teaching and research networks on gender and LGBTQ issues are provided with a base from which to operate and interact.
Each year the IAS identifies specific themes for the organisation of research-led events and encounters. For 2017-18, these are Lies and Vulnerability, whereas in 2016-17, they were Planetary Futures and Sense and Sensation. Through collaboration with colleagues and dialogue among researchers both within and beyond UCL, future themes will be developed and research-orientated initiatives will shift and adapt in a spirit of collective and collaborative endeavour. Visiting members of the IAS will be invited to participate in our deliberations and designs so that together we create a dynamic and responsive framework in which to speak, to write and to act.