Tim Anstey Professor - AHO, Institute for Form Theory and History

What kind of PhD school would I like to participate in myself?

First on my wish list would be that the teaching should be dynamic and pliable. I am almost infinitely curious, so I don’t mind investing time in discussions that may have an indirect relationship to what I am supposed to be doing at just that moment. But, on the other hand, those discussions need to be at a level such that I can see their potential value for my own activities.

Second, there are things that, as an architect trained to research via an apprentice system in the humanities, I always wanted but never had time to understand. For example, why a social sciences system for referencing (Anstey & Ball, 2015) would always be slightly irritating to an architectural historian.[1]

Third, I like looking in detail at things, and I have a forensic instinct that tells me that any “just” detail (“oh, that’s just the way we do it; that’s just a detail, that’s just peripheral – what we want to address is this...”) usually turns out to reveal a structural or infrastructural condition that is critical to understand why a particular phenomenon exhibits particular characteristics. I would want the school to be informed by that sensibility. I think its usually more interesting to see a big picture out of details than to interpret details according to a big picture.

Fourth, because I am a mixture of focussed and distracted, lazy and frenetically active, highly informed and terribly ignorant, planned and chaotic, I would want some discipline, someone to point out that what is required is way above what I’m achieving. I would want a structure of courses that gave me thematics on which I could hang my own concerns.

Fifth, I would want to join a group that respected each other and who made no value judgements on the validity of another type of PhD to their own. Who were curious enough to spend time discussing topics outside their immediate area, and who saw a benefit in doing that.

So – a focus on the dynamic, the discriminating glance, the detail; on discipline and the discursive is what guides the school. In 2015 we have a fantastic team – creative course teachers who re-invent the programme as we reiterate it, vociferous students, demanding supervisors and superlative administrators, and, courtesy of Jérémie McGowan, an excellent web-based platform with which to explore possibilities. Its time to play.






[1] For a full discussion see T.A. Anstey and C. E. Ball, ”Whaddaya mean, footnote?” in Do as I say, say as I do. Forty ways to build authority through academic writing, ed. Ipsum Lorem (London: Bloomsbury, 2015). In an article structured as a dialogue the authors review the potential for exegesis, commentary and brevity built in to various systems of referencing and oppose the various models for the construction of knowledge that these imply.