Moving to Germany!


Image of the young Hegel in 1806 observing Napoleon through a pair of locally manufactured Carl Zeiss binoculars

Starting in April 2016 I’m taking up a two-year research fellowship at the new Max Planck Institute in Jena. I will be working within the Minds and Traditions group under Olivier Morin, looking at the evolution of writing and graphic codes. This is a question that hasn’t been addressed in any serious or sustained way for a long time and I really can’t wait to be involved.

Fittingly, the Max-Planck-Institut für Menschheitsgeschichte or the Max Planck Institute for Human History was established in the very same town in which the end of history was declared by Hegel when he was a professor at the University of Jena.

(And it’s also where Hegel famously spied Napoleon riding through town and declared “It is indeed a wonderful feeling to see such an individual who, here concentrated in a single point, sitting on a horse, reaches out over the world and dominates it” —a remark that has been much anthologised and mythologised, most recently in one of Slavoj Žižek’s letters to Nadia Tolokonnikova during her recent imprisonment.)

Beyond Hegel, Jena is famous for aggressive cyclists, relatively expensive accommodation, and for manufacturing high-end binoculars and camera lenses. And if you type “Why is Jena … ” into Google, it auto-completes to “Why is Jena called student paradise?” We will report our findings! It’s certainly a charming town in a very charming part of the world, and its strangely quiet despite its population of 400,000.


Looking forward to doing full time research again, learning German, going on weekend family jaunts to France and the Czech Republic, and of catching up with my lovely friends and colleagues in Halle, Cologne, Potsdam and Berlin.

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