29 April 2010
I am writing to you to express my deep concern at the proposed closure of Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University.
I’m sure I will not be alone in exhorting you very strongly to reconsider this decision.
You will, of course, be fully aware of the research achievements of this Centre and its staff as reflected in the last Research Assessment Exercise and of the fact that this Centre was the highest achieving department at Middlesex University.
Above and beyond the scope of such formal government research assessment frameworks I wanted to stress to you how highly regarded and valued this Centre is in the wider academic world, both in the area of the study of European Philosophy but also more generally, within the fields of the humanities and social sciences.
In the past decade or so Middlesex Philosophy has come to rival and even surpass key centres of international excellence in European Philosophy such as the Universities of Warwick and Essex. The work being done in this field has a wide impact well beyond the limits of academic philosophy proper. In my own area of French studies cutting edge work on contemporary French film, literature and art, as well as in post-colonial studies is all being driven by contemporary European thought and members of the Centre have, through their published work, made a significant impact on the shape and direction of research being undertaken, particularly in the department of French here at Cambridge but in other French departments also.
My own work in French thought has taken me, as examiner, lecturer or speaker, into other departmental contexts in other Universities (as varied as the school of Geography at Bristol, the Royal College of Art in London, the department of Theology at Nottingham). In all these contexts and disciplines the work of members of CRMEP is being read and is informing ongoing research and developing intellectual trends. I have also noted this in my role as occasional examiner in the Political Science department of Cambridge.
I hope you will take full account of the seriousness, importance, and wider influence of the work that is being carried out by figures such as Eric Alliez, Peter Osborne Stella Sanford, Mark Kelly, and Christian Kerslake. Most obviously the work of Peter Hallward can be singled out for its international importance and influence in a wide range of contexts. Two years ago at an international French Studies Conference a world-leading figure in from Canada and specialist in post-colonial (Caribbean) studies was asked why he had so suddenly altered his intellectual position and answered simply: I read Peter Hallward’s work. Hallward has similarly transformed the stakes of the broader reception of French and European philosophy in the wake of post-structuralism and what was dubbed ‘post-modernism’. He is without doubt one of the most pre-eminent figures working in this area in the world today and his work is read by people from the full range of disciplines I have alluded to here, and no doubt beyond.
I hope you will forgive me for writing at such length. I am driven by the sense of the huge damage this move will inflict on the reputation of Middlesex University and, of course, on the loss to philosophy this closure will bring. I hope that you will be able to garner a sense of the important role this Centre has played and should continue to play within the field of knowledge more generally both here and abroad.
I really think that this is a decision which your institution may come bitterly to regret once the winds of financial austerity have blown over. Please do reconsider this decision.
Dr I R James,
Cambridge, CB2 1DQ.
Tel: 00 44 1223 334852.