Natalia Tikhonov Sigrist

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2011/2012
discipline History

Research project

On the Roads of Knowledge : Academic Migrations and European Training of American, Russian and Japanese University-Educated Elites, 1870-1939

 

As old as the universities themselves, academic migrations are a result of the interaction of cultural, social, political and economic forces. In the Western world, from the foundation of the first medieval universities onwards, the hosting of students and faculty coming from other European regions has become an established function in higher learning institutions. This freedom of movement has gone together with the free choice of studies and subjects taught. From the Middle Ages to the 16th century, then again in 19th-20th centuries, these migrations, directed towards Europe, were a massive phenomenon. However, their development was neither linear nor uniform. Depending on the places, periods, fields of study, social and national groups or even individuals involved, this large movement was determined by very different sets of motivations. 

 

The study of academic migration is symptomatic of the new major paradigms in the history of social and cultural relations in Europe, going beyond the frame of single States to multicultural and multi-societal social constructs. This theme, uncovered by historians about two decades ago, is currently undergoing a dynamic expansion. However it frequently remains limited to narrow case studies because of the lack of well-established networks. The result is a lack of comparative research carried out on a continental scale. But this theme is par excellence European : it involves all the countries and likewise concerns the host countries—generally in Western Europe—and the countries of origin, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, but also in America and in Asia. The subject of this research cuts across several disciplines, such as the social history of student populations and elites, cultural history (e.g. study of intellectual networks), historical sociology (study of professions), the history of science and the history of universities.

 

My research project aims at linking a wide academic migration phenomenon to the consolidation of modernity, at the turn of the 20th century and in relation to Western Europe, in three politico-cultural spheres with rather different university systems, political regimes and professional structures: the United States, the Russian Empire and Japan. My intention is to analyze, for a period spanning 70 years, student mobility and knowledge-transfer which happened in the context of continuity (US), of rupture (Russia before and after the October revolution) or sporadic attendance of European universities in the beginning of the 20th century (Japan). This research will survey (1) study abroad of students originating from these countries; (2) impacts of the training received abroad on the professional careers and cultural orientation of the former students; (3) ways of producing and circulating knowledge between those parts of the world most keen on modernization in the early 20th century.

 

I anticipate that this research will cast further light on the logic underlying the creation of scientific and intellectual networks in Europeas well as the dissemination and transfer of knowledge. Viewed through this lens, academic migrations will certainly appear as an important part of cultural, scientific and political exchange. The protagonists could be considered as mediators between the age-old Western academic culture and the spaces of higher education still under construction. Making an individual oeuvre in a more or less national frame, they bear witness to the universality of modern knowledge and its concomitant values.

Biography

 

Natalia Tikhonov Sigrist holds a PhD in History and civilization from the University of Geneva / Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. She has recently completed a 3-year fellowship awarded by Swiss National Science Foundation for a research stay at Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris). 

Selected publications

 

'Les Femmes et l’université en France, 1860-1914. Pour une historiographie comparée', Histoire de l’éducation, numéro spécial L’enseignement supérieur : bilan et perspectives historiographiques, vol. 122, 2009, pp. 53-70.

 

'Academic migrations to Switzerland, 1870.1914. The networks behind the numbers', in J. Barkhoff and H. Eberhart (eds), Networking across Borders and Frontiers, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 2009, pp. 67-76.

 

'Das weibliche Gesicht einer „wissenschaftlichen und friedlichen Invasion“ Die ausländerischen Professorinnen an den Schweizer Universitäten vom Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts bis 1939', Jahrbuch für Europaïsche Geschichte, vol. 6, 2005, pp.99-116.

 

Universitäten als Brücken in Europa. Studien zur Geschichte der studentische Migration / Les universités : des ponts à travers l’Europe. Etudes sur l’histoire des migrations étudiantes, with H. Rüdiger Peter (eds), Frankfurt am Main, Peter Lang, 2003.

institut

senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
discipline Literature
2011
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
discipline Literature
2012
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
discipline Anthropology
2012
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
discipline Sociology
2013