Summer School EHESS: The Unity of the Social Sciences?

Paris, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales

June 20-July 1, 2016

Hyper-specialization characterizes most, or all fields of academic studies. Medicine, history, economics or anthropology, are divided in internal subfields, often compartmentalized from each other and bearing little connection to the mother discipline. This hyper-specialization helped the development of all sciences, including the Social Sciences, but is often unsuitable to account for the complexity and scale of social processes. Culture, economics, politics, sexuality, the family, and technology shape each other in ways that demands a sobering return to broad scholarship and synthetic analysis and the capacity to move from economic models to historical narrative, from thick ethnography to global processes, from statistical analyses to hermeneutic understanding of everyday practices.

To find an inspiration for such model of scholarship, we need to look no further than at Adam Smith, Max Weber, Pareto, or Durkheim, all trained in philosophy, economics, history, political science, the study of religion, sociology, anthropology, and psychology. In order to make sense of the momentous changes undergone by their respective society, these thinkers borrowed freely from various disciplines and practiced Interdisciplinarity before the name was invented.

In the landscape of world academia, the EHESS has long stood out for the interdisciplinary character of its pedagogical and research program. This interdisciplinary tradition explains its sustained and steady flow of outstanding scholars such as Lucien Febvre, Claude Levi-Strauss, Fernand Braudel, Roland Barthes, Pierre Bourdieu, Jacques Derrida, Germaine Tillon (to quote only a few names). No other academic institution in the world has implemented more systematically the deliberate encounter of the Social and Human sciences in its teaching curriculum, most notably but not only: sociology with history, philosophy and literature, history and economics, philosophy and cognitive sciences, anthropology and sociology.

Because of this rich and unique intellectual tradition, the EHESS offers a Summer Program around the topic of The Unity of the Social Sciences through 4 intensive courses. These courses explore crucial questions:

a. How are we to criticize the models of economy which have become so dominant throughout the world? What does it mean to make economics more open to sociology and history?

b. How do the physical and social structure of cities change over time and how can we observe such changes? What is the agency of economic powers, government, social movements of various kinds, and the inhabitants themselves in this process?

c. How have technology, politics, and economics changed the nature of the family and of sexuality itself? What is the future of the family in the face of the radical changes undergone by gender, sexuality and reproduction?

d. How do corporations, the nation-state and culture interlock with global processes and transform the structure of modern lives?


The Unity of the Social Sciences Summer School at the EHESS brings together a large group of outstanding scholars whose aim will be to raise innovative questions about the economy, the city, globalization, and the family.

Students of all institutions and disciplines are invited to join us for a fascinating cluster of 4 classes during which they will be able to hear lectures by anthropologists, historians, sociologists, legal scholars, among which Michel Agier, Mathieu Arnoux, Alain Blum, Laurent Berger, Eve Chiapello, Maurizio Gribaudi, Eva Illouz, Sébastien Lechevalier, Otto Pfersmann, Enrique Porqueres, Alessandro Stanziani, Christian Topalov, Valeria Siniscalchi, Isabelle Thireau and others. Courses will be organized by seminar leaders, but will include invited guest lecturers who will discuss for 1-2 hours their research with the seminar leader and the students. The summer school will also include two lectures opened to the broad audience, one with Thomas Piketty, the second with Jean-Louis Fabiani and two intensive workshops on students’ research projects of the students. The purpose of these doctoral workshops will be to help students to think about and discuss the interdisciplinarity of their projects. All courses and readings will be in English.

1. Critique of Economic Reason: economists, historians, sociologists (seminar leader: Eva Illouz; invited speakers: Mathieu Arnoux, Eve Chiapello, Sébastien Lechevalier, Valeria Siniscalchi)

2. The changing structure of cities (seminar leader: Christian Topalov; invited speakers: Michel Agier, Maurizio Gribaudi, Eleonora Elguezabal)

3. Which future to the family? The family in Traditional and Modern Societies (seminar leader: Eva Illouz and Allison Pugh; invited speakers: Alain Blum, Enrique Porqueres)

4. Global Histories (seminar leader: Alessandro Stanziani; invited speakers: Laurent Berger, Otto Pfersmann, Isabelle Thireau)

Academic Director: Prof. Dr. Eva Illouz

Coordinator : Nathalie Courtois (


The summer school is open to masters, PhD students, postdoc and young faculty. Students to the Summer School will undergo a process of selection on the basis of letter of motivation, recommendation letters, CV, and research interests.

Registration fees, lunches, Metro pass valid for 2 weeks:        500

Accommodation at Cité universitaire:                                       750 €

Total fees:                                                                            1250 €  

It is possible to pay only the registration fees, lunches at Alliance française and Metro pass, without the stay at the Cité universitaire for students having other possibilities for accommodation in Paris.

NB: Students have to cover their travel expenses. However, students who cannot get a scholarship and do not have any resources for participating in the summer school may apply, two or three candidates having passed the selection may get their expenses covered by the Excellence Laboratory Tepsis.

The selected students will have to proceed by themselves with formalities to obtain their visa or migration documents, if required. The EHESS will provide an invitation letter.

The summer school is open to 5 EHESS students tuition-free, based on an application and selection. The EHESS students will be asked to help the students coming from abroad when they need.

Materials for Application

  • Motivation letter
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Summary of the Research project (1-2 pages)
  • Research project
  • Letter of recommendation from the advisor or from and/or other accredited teachers
  • English level required: B2
  • Document proving registration as student in a foreign university or at EHESS
  • Document proving valid health insurance covering the stay in Paris (to be provided after the selection process)

Deadline for application: January 15, 2016

To be sent to: