27th CEU Summer University Concludes

CEU’s Summer University (SUN) program is the extension of the university’s mission of promoting research, teaching and social engagement. This is achieved through hosting high-level, research-oriented, interdisciplinary and innovative academic courses as well as workshops on policy issues for professional development in the social sciences and the humanities. The curriculum is delivered annually by a team of distinguished international faculty (including CEU professors) and is advertised worldwide to attract the attention of graduate students, junior or post-doctoral researchers, teachers and professionals. Consequently, participants are overwhelmingly made up of, but not limited to, these afore mentioned groups.

The Summer University also serves as a laboratory for CEU to experiment with fresh themes and approaches. Furthermore, over the years, the summer school has become a well-known short and intensive study and outreach opportunity for our university. The summer courses supplement and multiply CEU's academic and civic mission and similarly to CEU’s student composition and curriculum, it attracts a highly diverse participant body. It also offers interdisciplinary training, with special focus on exploring emerging fields and topics from both theoretical and applied perspectives, training academics as well as practitioners such as human rights activists, litigators, educators, mediators, government officials, NGO workers, and others.

Summer University Workshop in progress
Global Scholars Academy, Harvard Law School/The Graduate Institute, Geneva hosted by CEU Photo credits: CEU/Tamas Kovacs

One of the most attractive features of SUN courses is that they are not taught by a single instructor, but a team of faculty presenting a wider than usual range of perspectives and disciplines. The teaching may take the form of several faculty members running a session jointly or sitting in on each other's classes and actively participating in the discussion. In addition, they offer individual consultations and after the day has ended frequently go out with participants in the evening so they can continue the academic discourses in a more informal setting. It is no wonder that participants highly appreciate receiving this much access to faculty during the summer months and vice versa, faculty also enjoy exchanging ideas with colleagues and the multitude of participants. “The point of [the Summer University] is that you’re picking up so much information in a few hours as you would pick up in weeks if you were sitting in a library reading, because you’re picking it up from the best people,” said Professor Jozsef Laszlovszky, one of the course directors of the CEU Medieval Studies Department.

The Summer University has also become an exciting opportunity for both scholars and practitioners to meet and discuss their ongoing research and practical experience, which brings leading experts in their fields to CEU, who, in turn, also attract an inspiring audience of advanced graduate students and senior researchers and professionals to the summer courses.

CEU initiated its 27th annual Summer University (SUN) on June 27 with 14 courses and approximately 300 participants from 72 countries, selected from nearly 700 applicants. The titles of the courses were the following:

In order to best illustrate the experience of CEU summer courses, we chose to highlight the following topics.

The History and Philosophy of the Concepts of Scientific Law and Probability

Professor Tim Crane from CEU’s Philosophy Department said of the course that “it revisited Barry Loewer’s 2018 course on the same subject, which was a huge success. Barry Loewer is a frequent visitor to CEU and a long-time friend and intellectual supporter of the Philosophy Department. The topic of his course is central to the philosophy and history of science, and the course combines high-caliber participants in both the history and the philosophy of science.

Professor Barry Loewer
Professor Barry Loewer

The purpose of the course was to acquaint course participants with recent works on the history and metaphysics of the concept of scientific law and related concepts that are central to the development and understanding of science. These concepts are important to philosophical accounts of both science and metaphysics. While there has been a great deal of active research on writing on the metaphysics of laws and regarding the history of the concept of laws there has been little interaction between researchers involved in each project. Such interaction should greatly enhance work on both projects. Director of the course Professor Barry Loewer started off in the realm of physics but gradually developed an interest specifically in the philosophy of physics. “I still had an interest in things connected to kinds of logic, for example, modal logic in causation. Interestingly, I started to figure out how to connect all those things,” he said.

As to how he became involved with CEU he added “My wife is Hungarian and so in the summers we ended up going back to Hungary. This happened around 31 or 32 years ago. And since I knew we would end up coming here every summer, I started looking for something to do. One of the teachers at CEU was an old family friend, so I had known a couple of people. So, 15 years ago was the first time I ran a summer course at CEU. It was about quantum mechanics, and it was very small, not as big as this. A number of people who were students during the first summer university course I taught, have become faculty members since, from all around the world, from the US to Australia. And some of them are also here, teaching in this course.”

Regarding the number and composition of participants Professor Loewer informed us that “there were some 40 students in the course. Most of them graduate students from all around the globe ranging from the EU, Japan, Iran, Russia and the United States. But it is a very colorful group with very different backgrounds and focuses.”

One amazing perk for participants during the course was exclusive access to Professor Loewer’s pre-published book titled What breathes fire into the equation? The title itself is a quote from Stephen Hawking and offers an unparalleled opportunity for students to read about the cutting-edge debate that is being fought in the front-line of current philosophy, for example, what brings an equation alive or what is that essentially makes a probability a probability?

The medieval period was a recurring theme within the 2022 program of the CEU Summer University, considering that 4 out of the 14 courses were created in close cooperation with the Medieval Studies Department at CEU. Despite the common time period, the courses covered a large variety of topics ranging from the urbanization of Central Europe, through the rivalry between Empire and Church, all the way to beliefs in witchcraft.

Urban governance and civic participation in words and stone. Urbanism in Central Europe 1200-1600

This course concentrated on the legal and administrative background of urban autonomy and civic participation, as well as sacred and secular architecture. The course aimed to provide a critical examination of civic participation, to bring together young scholars from various fields as well as bring in a more interdisciplinary perspective, and finally, to draw attention to issues of protection and preservation.

Professor Katalin Szende
Professor Katalin Szende

Professor Katalin Szende, one of the course directors, and also a program director at the Department of Medieval Studies, provided background information on how the course came about and how their partnership with the CEU Democracy Institute was a great catalyst in its development. “The Democracy Institute was a new foundation in Budapest which was a sort of ‘compensation’ after CEU was forced to move to Vienna. It has four or five working groups that deal with current public issues such as corruption and illiberal systems, but they also have a history angle and this is where we come into the picture,” she reflected. The Democracy Institute not only hosted, but provided the technological background, advertised and managed the website for a lecture series with the same topic as the summer course, titled ‘Urban Governance and Civic Participation in Words and Stone in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period’ This was also conceived by Professor Szende as well as two other faculty members, namely Zoe Opacic and Susanne Rau. The faculty were delighted to see familiar faces during the summer program, as several students who attended the lecture series decided to revisit the topic and participate in the summer course as well.

One of the things that the course is famous for are its city walks which are led by Professor Jozsef Laszlovszky, a historian and archeologist at CEU and head of the Cultural Heritage Studies Program within the Medieval Studies department. During the walk, one has a chance to uncover the secrets of the old town hall, as well as other buildings from the medieval period located on the Buda side of Budapest. As Professor Laszlovszky drew everyone’s attention to the wine cellars and decorative lobbies, ideal for wine merchants to peddle their goods, from time to time even some tourists joined to listen in on his expertise on the subject.

Professor Laszlovszky leading one of his famous city walks
Professor Laszlovszky leading one of his famous city walks - photo credit: Professor Susanne Rau, Universitat Erfurt

Participants of the summer course also had the opportunity to view places that the average tourist did not, owing to the extensive network of teachers, colleagues and other university faculty, as well as people from local museums who had been invited along. “It's a very intense week, but if you ask our former students, they always say that this was one of the best things of the course,” said Professor Laszlovszky.

Please see here for a short video of the course:

Filming and directing: Professor Susanne Rau, Universitat Erfurt
Editing: Lukas Damm

Magic and Witchcraft: Antique and Medieval Roots, Early-Modern Outcomes

Professor Gabor Klaniczay
Professor Gabor Klaniczay

Professor Gabor Klaniczay, one of the course directors and also the founder of the Medieval Studies Department at CEU established the course with his former PhD student Fabrizio Conti. Their aim was to assemble a faculty of “international celebrities” as they put it, such as UCLA professor, Teo Ruiz and Michael Bailey, who is the founder of a scholarly journal called Magic, Ritual and Witchcraft and is one of the up-and-coming experts on the topic. Further faculty members included social historian Rita Voltmer, literary historian Marina Montesano and classical scholar Anne Pollard, which further demonstrates how interdisciplinary the course was. Professor Klaniczay explained that the course, in fact, “is combining history, anthropology, folklore as well as literature. There were students and young researchers from these fields, and we were very pleased to have this type of discussion together.

Professor Klaniczay also reflected on what inspired the founding of the department itself. “Medieval Studies is a department at CEU which was founded as a combination of disciplines. So, it is not just medieval history, but it is called Medieval Studies because it is a multidisciplinary approach. There are other universities that have medieval studies programs combined with various departments, but at CEU, we did not have this. We did not have Departments of Literature; we did not have a Department of Archaeology or a Department of Classical Studies and other things. So, the idea behind founding Medieval Studies was to combine these disciplines into one department and offer that type of multidisciplinary medieval studies course, similar to those in other places.”

Late Antique Political Theology from the Early Church to the Byzantine Era

Professor Gyorgy Gereby
Professor Gyorgy Gereby

This summer course exercised special focus on the power dynamics between the sacred and the secular and their impacts on the legitimacy of political order. The director of the course was Professor Gyorgy Gereby of CEU, who is a philosophy historian with a special interest in political theology. It was his second time organizing this summer course, with a slight adjustment this year as the team extended the time period covered up to the age of early Islam.

The course was founded on a gap in literature that Gereby discovered. “It is an interesting area. Namely the shaping of primarily the early Christian theories of the legitimacy of power. Now the formation of these ideas relies partly on the Hellenistic environment because there were sophisticated theories about the justification of primarily the monarchy, the Roman Empire and there was another channel which was equally important, and that was Hellenistic Judaism. And how the two otherwise very different conceptions of political power and their transcendentalism, or if you want to put it in simple terms, divine legitimacy, and how those worked and what kind of varieties they brought about, is not always treated with sufficient depth. There are very few really good books about this. Not about political history, the political history is clear, it's an accepted and much researched subject, but about the theories of legitimacy, that is the important point. This is where I thought we can contribute with the people whom I knew and who sort of signed up for the course as faculty, that with them, we can add something to this area and apparently some interest was indeed available.”

In the Student’s Own Words

Photo credit: Matyas Szabo, CEU, The Quality of University Education summer course

"It was extremely helpful to gain an in-person sense of which philosophical arguments participants found most pressing and forceful. [...] I feel like I did a semester-long seminar on laws in the span of a few days. Very enriching."

“For me, the international aspect of this course provides great help, connecting these with the lectures as well, actually seeing the buildings.”

"The course provided an in-depth look at historical issues but also places where the contemporary literature on the laws of nature needs further development. As a young researcher, I found that particularly helpful, along with the openness of the faculty to discussion."

“I was especially interested in the professors. I think these are really good people that they chose. It's really people who are experts in the field and I thought the discussions that they had were really interesting.”

“I learned a lot, it was very intensive. And sometimes I wasn't as receptive as I wanted to be. But in the end, I really think I have an overview of many fields, which I hadn't before.”

"The course has helped me in several ways: by informal talks with the professors and speakers, by discussions with my peers (clarifying points of the lectures that I didn't understand and other general discussions), by making contact with professors or other participants who work on a topic related to the topic of my thesis, and it has helped me to clarify what the important points are I want to address in my thesis by having to explain them to other participants and answer their questions." 

Written by:

Kata Kepes, MA student, London School of Economics

Bence Orkeny, BA student, Catholic University of Leuven

Co-written and edited by:

Kristof Vajda, Central European University