What is the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization and how was it created?

Institutes of Advanced Study (ISAs) are institutions that aim for excellence in science, in culture and/or in education. They are self-constituted structures, often at the initiative of a great person or of a select group of high-achieving specialists, internationally renowned in their respective fields. The aim of the founders is to expand the results of the field of excellence thus crated so that its benefits may be shared with the broader society. In this endeavour, the ISA’s creators are aware of the fact that the scientific environment in universities and research centres, highly dependent on institutionalized norms and conditions, cannot support the liberal system promoted by Institutes of Advanced Study in which originality and innovation are fundamental principles. Through their very creation, ISAs are non-accredited structures, and thus unbowed to a formal system of evaluation. This gives rise to the responsibility which an Institute for Advanced Study must necessarily take on,  that to the select group of representatives from the speciality field which it, in turn, represents before the broader community.

The first Institute of Advanced Study was formed in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1930 by American pedagogue Abraham Flexner, with the support of philanthropists Louis and Caroline Bamberger. The Institute at Princeton is to this day considered referential for intellectual excellence and creativity, with Albert Einstein himself among those who represented the prestigious institution. Its Act of Constitution states that “The Institute of Advanced Study shall not be a typical University, which struggles with various problems and many students, nor a research institute, devoted to tackling certain issues. It can be described as a wedge driven between the two...” Princeton’s innovative organizational and operational model was, over the following decades, adopted by a series of institutes worldwide. The “European Network of Institutes of Advanced Study”, created in 2004 and headquartered in Paris, brings together 24 Institutes for Advanced Study in various countries.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization shares similarities with other like institutions across the world, but maintains some particularities with regard to its organizational and operational model. The main similarity lies in the model to follow: as the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study was formed at the personal initiative of Abraham Flexner, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization sprang from the altruistic idea of Emil Constantinescu. Another shared aspect with Princeton is the aspiration to excellence, while maintaining proportions from the outset: where Princeton’s excellence was confirmed from the very beginning by way of a scientific elite fostered under the auspices of the world’s most prosperous state, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization maintains an ardent aspiration to create such an elite in a field dedicated to the beginnings of both monotheistic religions and the sciences, both tracing their origins to the historical space of the Levant. It is apparent that the messages on the two beginnings that have underpinned mankind’s evolution today must be permanently reconsidered, since their continuous update in line with groundbreaking scientific, technical and societal breakthroughs brings about new solutions for a deeper understanding, for peace and for cooperation.

Entirely different, however, is the financial model: where, for Princeton, the philanthropist magnates of the Bamberger dynasty have provided for the Institute’s optimal functioning from the very outset, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization’s efforts to provide the minimum financial requirement to commence operations have and continue to prove laborious, yet fortunately supported when they stumbled by some individuals in positions of power that were convinced they were getting involved in am endeavour useful to science and society at large. A brief history is therefore necessary in order to understand the steps taken and the tremendous effort required for the creation of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization. It bears mentioning from the outset that the main support factor for the establishment of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization has been international. Through his membership of the World Academy of Art and Science since 2010 (and, since 2011, acting on the international organization’s Board of Trustees) Emil Constantinescu garnered the full support of this prestigious academic forum. He then used this support, over successive steps, driven by a desire to beneficially disseminate unto Romanian society the breadth of amassed knowledge and personal achievements persevered through during his life’s activity. His proposal that Bucharest become the home of a permanent Centre of Excellence of the World Academy of Art and Science was promptly approved by the leadership of the above-mentioned academic forum. Internally, arguments in favour of the utility of an institutional structure for Levantine research were voiced by the leadership of the Romanian Academy, the rectors of Romania’s largest Humanities universities, and the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration. The Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization was inaugurated by way of its first international event, the international conference titled “The Levant Initiative for global peace: through cultural diplomacy towards a sustainable peace”, held between November 20th–21st 2017 at the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest. A number of leading figures of the World Academy of Art and Science were among the participants to the event: Ivo Šlaus, honorary president of the WAAS; Heitor Gurgulino de Souza, president of the WAAS: Garry Jacobs, CEO; and Alberto Zucconi, WAAS co-chair.

From there, further developments in the dense activity of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization’s activity can be found on the Institute’s webpage: national and international conferences, annual summer schools, field research, exhibitions… all painting an image of an institute willing to honour its status.

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