How do you best carry out research on the “big questions” like global justice, democracy, and globalization?

Professor Jacob Levy, Director of the new Yan P. Lin Centre for the Study of Freedom and Global Orders in the Ancient and Modern Worlds states, “research on big international questions is much more likely to be careful and responsible when it's grounded in an understanding of a number of different parts of the world, one at a time.” The new Centre has an impressive array of researchers with expertise in an impressive array of fields.

With a generous gift of $3.4 million, Dr. Yan P. Lin, who received his PhD in Engineering from McGill in 1992, has established an ambitious interdisciplinary initiative. By focusing on the bridges between cultures, temporalities and disciplines, the Centre will explore how the fundamental ideas, systems and institutions that govern our lives came about.
The Centre will be housed in the Faculty of Arts, but will work closely with the faculties of Engineering and Law to bring together leading scholars in five research groups: Global Antiquities, Transitions and Global Modernities, Constitutional Studies, Global Justice, and Democracy, Space, and Technology.

“The hope is for a new home for the humanistic social sciences at McGill that would incorporate existing research clusters, encourage new ones, and generate collaborations and exchanges across these various fields,” says Levy.
For Levy, what makes the Centre unique is not only the span of disciplines and historical eras that the researchers cover, but the geographic areas they are experts on. For example, “Both the ancient and modern historical clusters include scholars of China and of China's interactions with the rest of the world, and not just scholars of the ancient Mediterranean or of European modernity.”

Levy adds that when you factor in expertise in “Latin America, Turkey and the Middle East, South Africa and Australia, our group includes expertise on most regions of the world, which I think is especially important for the study of global orders, globalization and global justice.”
Levy adds that many of the research groups working in the Centre already existed, but hadn’t formalized their relationships until they discovered key points of overlap in their work. For instance, the Constitutional Studies research group discovered an important crossover with the Global Antiquities group, which will provide a historical understanding of ancient Greek politics, and by extension many of our current political systems.

The inclusion of researchers from the Faculty of Engineering may not seem obvious, but it is vital. According to Professor Ipek Tureli of the School of Architecture, “there are many different strands of research on space and technology at the Schools of Architecture and Planning in the Faculty of Engineering. Some of these examine transportation and communication technologies, and more specifically how they re-order spatial and thus social relations, while others focus on the use of advanced technologies in the production of structures that support physical spaces.” As a result, the Centre will be able to explore the design of our cities, streets, and public spaces.

Dr. Lin’s vision has been crucial in the Centre’s creation, says McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier.
“His perspective is the driving force behind this Centre and it will be a powerful incentive for leading scholars and students from around the world to work together and excel across disciplines and geographical boundaries.”
Recently, the Centre held an inaugural lecture by Orlando Patterson, a historical and cultural sociologist at Harvard University, entitled “Freedom and Contestation in Western Culture: From the Ancient Greeks to America's Tea Party” to great acclaim. In the near future, we can expect numerous conferences, workshops and public lectures on law and religion, international justice, and global relations to be held at the Centre.