What is an “institution,” exactly? According to anthropologist John Bowen, the word can apply to just about anything – organizations, practices, customs, and more.
“Anything can be an institution. A bank is an institution, but so is language,” says Bowen. “Language has its norms and its rules, and it reproduces over time and gets changed.” With such a diversity of possible meanings and forms, scholars in the humanities and social sciences approach the study of institutions in a variety of ways.
“They learn a lot about how academic life is conducted in other countries, which is very valuable. All students have to think of their careers as being potentially global, and so these students are getting a very well-organized, supervised, initial take on what it is to be a global student and a global researcher.”
In order to coordinate these global efforts, in 2011 Bowen created the Social Studies of Institutions program. The program – a joint effort between Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Amsterdam, and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris – brings students interested in the study of institutions together to form physical and intellectual networks.
Read the full story in The Ampersand: Graduate Students, Global Researchers