In-depth Training in Applied History at HSE St Petersburg
David Damtar from Ghana and Samrat Sil from India are both pursuing Master’s degrees in Applied and Interdisciplinary History at HSE St Petersburg. HSE student Julia Nikolaenko talked with them about their academic backgrounds, reasons for choosing HSE, and impressions of life in Russia.
David: I loved history even before I started school because my father trained me at home to become aware of events in the past. I became more interested in history as an academic subject while in high school through connecting what my father taught me with my school studies. This influenced my decision to major in history as an undergraduate in one of most prestigious departments of history in Ghana at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. During my studies, I learned about the gradual shift from “spinning narratives and telling stories” to unearthing problems, solving them and educating.
I was very passionate about continuing my studies in history and Applied and Interdisciplinary History at HSE was the best program through which I could realize this dream.
Samrat: I went to St. Augustine’s Day School in Kolkata and was the only student in my cohort to pursue humanities. After clearing my boards, I cracked the entrance exam for History Honors at one of the most reputable and oldest institutions in India, Presidency University (established in 1817). Presidency University has always been at the forefront of academic excellence. Notable alumni include Amartya Sen (winner of the Nobel prize in economics and an honorary professor at HSE), Gayatri Chakraborty Spivak, Satyajit Ray (Oscar winner), Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda, Rajendra Prasad (India’s first president) and many more. I was honored and privileged to be part of such a legacy. I completed my Bachelor’s degree in history and then applied for HSE’s Master’s programme because it offered a practical approach to the field of history. To top it off, as the cultural capital of Russia, Saint Petersburg is a perfect place to study history.
David: As the name of the programme implies, it focuses on “almost everything,” from history to anthropology, science and technology, environment and culture and many other sub disciplines with the intent of making the past “usable”. This enables students in the programme to acquire training in many different types of research methodologies. We also get practical lessons on museums and technology.
Samrat: While studying at Presidency, I focused on Southeast Asian and contemporary history. I developed two projects: one focused on the Nanking Massacre and the other tried to explore the mythical realms of El Dorado. As of now, in Saint Petersburg, I currently volunteer at the State Hermitage Museum and am performing research for an exhibition at the Peterhof Museum Complex.
Who the Usable Pasts programme is for
David: The programme is not only relevant to students of history but largely to all students within the social sciences and even natural sciences and engineering due to its interdisciplinary nature.
Samrat: The master’s programme offers an in-depth training in methods employed by historians. Textual criticism, memory narrative, critical analysis of sources, heritage management and conservation, and archelogy all form an integral part of the course. We also try to bridge the gap between the various other fields of technology, sociology, anthropology and biology. Students are encouraged to identify visual artifacts (paintings, sculptures etc.). We are also looking into the field of digital humanities and how it can be beneficial for the academic community. This course is highly suitable for individuals who are interested in the practical side of history and who want to explore other possible opportunities for the humanities. The programme includes a compulsory internship so there’s fieldwork to compliment the academic discussions held in the classroom.
David: Usable Pasts, as the programme is called in short, tends to make the past usable by training students for careers in the corporate world, to work effectively with research institutions, government and private agencies, museums, and educational institutes, and to pursue further (doctoral) studies.
Samrat: After the programme, I am interested in working in museum curation and archeology. At the same time, I am also thinking about the possibility of entering a PhD programme and continuing to strengthen my academic credentials.
Studies and fun
David: All the enjoyment a student needs while studying is blended in with the programme. Practical lessons through visits to museum sites and other interesting places make one enjoy nature while studying. These are opportunities to analyze the continuities and changes in trends of science and technology as well as other disciplines and how they have shaped our history while exploring with fun.
Applications for Master's Programme in Applied and Interdisciplinary History are accepted until August 10, 2016.
Prepared by Julia Nikolaenko