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Cultural Encounters - a short description of the theme

 

Background

The Humanities in the European Research Area (“HERA”) Network is preparing to launch a new Joint Research Programme under the theme “Cultural Encounters” (HERA JRP CE). The Call will be launched early February 2012 and will invite transnational consortia to submit proposals for humanities-centred research into the causes, conditions and consequences of cultural encounters.

The detailed thematic text will be incorporated in the HERA JRP Cultural Encounters Call for proposals. A short summary of the concept and context of the call can be found below or downloaded here


The concept

The concept of Cultural Encounters is an important facet of contemporary European life. The on-going process of European identity-making is, at its most fundamental level, the result of various forms of cultural friction, integration, transformation and synthesis. These processes have arisen for a myriad of reasons, including translation of cultural expressions, intellectual exchange, ideological contest, technological change, economic development, trade, war, occupation and reunification. To understand cultural encounters is to understand the history and meaning ofEuropeitself, from the earliest periods of human settlement to the present day. Its effects reach all the way from the activities of everyday life to the broader arenas of ideology and societal institutions.

History shows that interactions at the level of culture are among the most formative dimensions of human endeavour and social change, and act as fundamental drivers of innovation and creativity. They involve dynamics of both synergy and friction; cultural encounters can be accompanied by profound displacements and reconfigurations at social and political levels, resulting in conflict, segregation, and the creation of diasporas. Yet cultural encounters also enable new forms of community and collective identity, and have stimulated large-scale innovation and renovation across European society. They have resulted in new forms of knowledge and profound transformations in cultural practices, as well as in new forms of communication and imagination.

A proper understanding of cultural encounters depends, in a special way, upon the knowledge and methodologies only the humanities disciplines can provide. Culture is a broad and varied field, bound up with some of the most fundamental aspects of human existence, including among others values, beliefs, imagination, art, culture and language. The humanities provide unique insight and knowledge into these issues in multiple ways: through attentiveness to forms of communication and representation; through an insistence on historical perspectives that give depth to understanding; through close analysis of ideas and their societal impact; through the devising of appropriate tools for the analysis of cultural and artistic practices; and through an ability to model complex phenomena across time and geographical space.

While existing research at national and regional levels provides significant knowledge in this area, there is also a need for large-scale synthetic and comparative research involving researchers from a range of countries. Such large-scale investigations allow researchers to pool information, compare findings, share methodologies and to transfer knowledge and expertise across national boundaries in ways that would be impossible without transnational funding.

This new HERA JRP will invite project proposals that address general historical and theoretical issues, as well as those that investigate more focused aspects of cultural encounters. The programme will investigate the phenomenon of cultural encounters in spatial terms (i.e., in terms of cultural encounters within Europe, and between Europe and other parts of the world) as well as temporal terms (i.e., in its contemporary forms as well as in historical perspectives).

  

Suggested research directions

Proposed research may draw upon combined insights from a wide range of subjects: history, literature, cultural studies, art history and practice, languages, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy and psychology, among others. A variety of theoretical and empirical approaches are needed, and these should inform and stimulate each other. Although humanities-driven, proposals may involve disciplines from other research domains where necessary.

A grasp of the complex causes and consequences of cultural encounters requires multi- and inter-disciplinary research. While multi-disciplinarity and interdisciplinarity are challenging modes of research that demand careful planning and cooperative skills, they have the capacity to provide more comprehensive, innovative analyses than simple accumulation of knowledge in disciplinary ‘silos’. Projects should demonstrate how the multi-and interdisciplinary nature of their programme will ensure that in terms of research achievement, ‘the whole will be more than the sum of its parts.’

In order to stimulate knowledge exchange and/or transfer between researchers and society, projects may include engagement with practitioners in the creative and performing arts (museums, theatres, etc), policy makers and the wider public.