A room of one’s own

Published in Issue #01 — Globalized Nature

During her stay at HIAS Dana started posting a blog about Hamburg—the Hanseatic Di- ary. In this blog, Dana shares her impressions of her Hamburg surroundings—sometimes the sporty side of Hamburgers on the nearby Alster, sometimes the island of flowers in front of the house in the changing seasons. In her latest post, Dana gets to the bottom of the HIAS secret. What makes this institution so special?

As my stay here draws to a close, I find myself looking around more and more to understand what makes HIAS so good—what creates the atmosphere of peace, well-being, light and enthusiasm that has made me feel so at home these past few months.

HIAS is a newly founded Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in an increasingly crowded marketplace—there are no less than 25 such institutes in Germany. There is a European network of IAS. And then, of course, there is the American market. This market is highly competitive and difficult to compete with. You have to attract scholars with strong research careers every year, preferably in a successful combination. Because interdisciplinarity is not easy. It is complicated to bring together mathematicians and art historians, philosophers from the continental tradition with philosophers from the analytic tradition, historians of science with medical doctors and epidemiologists, sociologists and music historians, artists in residence, literary scholars, anthropologists, legal scholars. How are all these people going to talk to each other?

In recent months, I have often thought of Virginia Woolf and her central demand — the manifesto of feminism in the early 20th century — «a room of one’s own»

The secret of HIAS is space: each fellow has a spacious office with large windows, a computer screen, bookshelves, and comfortable chairs and armchairs. Each fellow has two seminar rooms where he or she can hold events, with everything needed for hybrid or zoom meetings. The staff is very professional and discreet and will help you get things done elegantly and efficiently. There are common areas—garden, terrace, kitchen—and a communal meal. Of course, there are also seminars, lectures and workshops. But the secret is the space.

In recent months, I have often thought of Virginia Woolf and her central demand—the manifesto of feminism in the early 20th century—«a room of one’s own». Today it sounds old-fashioned. And yet, how many of you have your own office? How many of today’s researchers can close the door behind them, stack books on the table until the pile topples over, how many can shut themselves off to work undisturbed—for a day, a week, four months? A year? I have been to many research institutes. And in most of them I have shared an office. I like working in the library. I’m happy in the old book room in the British Library.

But for the last few months I have been happy in this office. Many ideas have been born here—and when I write the articles and books that will come out of them, I will always mention in the footer of the first note that they all came about as a result of that almost forgotten luxury of intellectual life: having a «room of one’s own».

Dana Jalobeanu

Dana Jalobeanu is Associate Professor in Philosophy and Director of the Humanities Division of the Institute of Research (ICUB) of University of Bucharest. She is the co-founder of the Princeton Bucharest Seminar in Early Modern Philosophy and member of the Oxford Francis Bacon editorial project. Her HIAS Fellowship 2022/2023 was provided by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the federal and state funds acquired by Universität Hamburg in the framework of its Excellence Strategy.

All posts by this attentive observer can be read here:

Image Information

Virginia Woolf at Monk’s house, File:Virginia Woolf at Monk’s house.jpg—Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.