UCL Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction
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Published: Dec 18, 2014 12:00:07 AM
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The current themes for the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction include(but are not restricted to):
Empathy (Tim Beasley-Murray, UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies)
Empathy is the activity of feeling what the other feels. Empathy necessarily involves a relation of difference. What the other feels – her joy or suffering – is different precisely because it is hers. In empathizing, we attempt to overcome, and yet respect, this difference. It is empathy’s negotiation of difference, a difference that is often cultural, that makes empathy a good focus for research related to the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction. Nevertheless, it should be clear that, because of the role that empathy plays in grasping the pain of others and the role that it plays in therapeutic processes, empathy may also be a useful concept in thinking about Human Wellbeing.
Key to the topic of empathy as a stimulus to research is the double-edged nature of empathy. Our first thought about empathy is that it is generally a good thing and that we need more of it. However, empathy has both good and bad sides to it and it is certainly possible to have too much of a good thing. It is precisely this ambiguity of the concept of empathy that serious research ought to be concerned with.
Cosmology (Martin Holbraad, UCL Anthropology)
This GCII initiative explores diverse manifestations of the human impulse to wonder at the cosmos, conceived as the ultimate horizon of human existence. Across history and cultures, people have reckoned with their own position in the universe, and articulated their wonderment through varied elite or popular forms of knowledge and expression, including a variety of cosmologically-oriented traditions of scientific endeavour, mythology and theology, as well as varied forms of artistic creation. Furnishing a trans-disciplinary conversation across the natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts and humanities, the Wonderments of Cosmos initiative addressed questions such as:
- How does the scientific study of the cosmos relate to the ways in which its wonders have been engaged in other fields, across history and in different cultural settings?
- How far might a shared interest in cosmology and questions of ultimate horizons cast in a new light age-old debates about the relationship between science, religion and art?
- And how far might it serve to re-cast or even re-negotiate the boundaries between the proverbial ‘two cultures’ of the sciences and the humanities?
- Culture & Health (David Napier, UCL Anthropology)
The GCII theme of Health and Culture seeks to review health practices as they relate to culture, identify and evaluate pressing issues, and recommend lines of research that will be required to address current problems and emerging needs. Perceptions of physical and psychological wellbeing vary dramatically across cultures, as do individual experiences within diverse belief systems and patterns of practice. At the same time, global forces and planned and unplanned migrations create new forms of experience that continuously transform how health and wellbeing are understood and negotiated. The dynamic nature of cultural systems of value is often dramatically reshaped in multicultural settings, producing novel needs that established care-giving practices adjust to slowly if at all. Furthermore, the tendency to homogenize human nature in clinical contexts is paradoxically driven by both a lack of awareness about diverse ways of defining wellbeing, and an otherwise laudable moral commitment to define human needs and the obligations of caregivers in universal terms.
- Religion & Society (Francois Guesnet, UCL Hebrew & Jewish Studies)
The main objective is to stimulate a debate about the complex relationship between religion and society, and the ways academic research can engage with it. Throughout their history, European commonwealths have been shaped by religious identity, community, and conflict. Constitutions and legal systems to this very day are deeply affected by religious traditions, and debates are currently assessing the reach and meaning of secularization(s) in different societies. The Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction has supported a number of events organized by a core group of colleagues from several UCL departments, grouped in the „Research Initiative Religion and Society“, most notably a – soon to be published - series of events on Negotiating Religion. Inquiries into the History and Present of Religious Accomodation.
- Migration (Claire Dwyer, UCL Georgraphy)
Migration remains a key interdisciplinary theme across UCL which has benefited from funding from the GCII to develop initiatives and projects. Initiatives funded this year include the inaugural Migration Photography competition which attracted entries from staff and students at UCL as well as the Msc Global Migration Student Conference and an arts project Anchor and Magnet (based in Brixton and funded by the Arts Council).
Dynamics of Civilisation (Maria Wyke, UCL Greek & Latin)
Civilization is back on the map, whether in the well-known thesis of a 'clash of civilizations', in the political use of this term in transnational institution-building, or in long term historical research. For others, it describes a social phenomenon of greater extent than the nation, identified by materials, styles, language families, and institutions, all of which spread over time yet remain linked to one another as an integrated system: a civilization. Despite its growing prominence in international policy and the public arena, the concept of civilization remains under-examined and poorly theorised. UCL, with its tradition of combining social, historical and humanities research within one overarching institution has many of the preconditions for a much-needed reassessment of this foundational concept.
Mike Rowlands (Emeritus, Anthropology, David Wengrow (Institute of Archaeology, and Maria Wyke (Department of Greek & Latin) led a bid for PSDF support to establish an UCL Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilization (CREDOC). The Centre will launch in October 2013 and its first international lecture will take place in spring 2014.
- Transnational History (Axel Korner, UCL History)
Transnational History is concerned with the movement of people, ideas and goods across boundaries, and the impact of such connections on our social, political and cultural life worlds. It aims to overcome the tendency of national historiographies to portray historical experience as a unique product of a chosen people and to regard “the Other” as exotic or alien. In a world marked by growing concern about processes of globalization, inter-cultural communication and new supranational institutions, the national parameters which have traditionally dominated historical investigation increasingly prove to be inappropriate to answer the intellectual and political questions with which the discipline is now confronted. These challenges require a substantial reorientation of historical research within a transnational perspective, affecting the subject of historical research itself, the methodological framework of the discipline and the training of historians.
Early Modern Exchanges (Alexander Samson, UCL Spanish & Latin American Studies)
The Centre for Early Modern Exchanges explores the diverse cultural, historical, economic and social interactions between England and Europe, European countries, the Old World and the New in the period 1450-1800. This year we are focussing on the theme of 'Globalization and Its Premodern Discontents' amongst other things. Departing from the moment when the world became an interconnected global trading system for the first time (1565), we will be asking questions about geography and the environment and how they interacted with human civilization and culture. While imperial ideologies drove expansion, others questioned the wisdom of looking outwards rather than inwards and to God, in a world that on being hit by a mini-Ice Age descended into revolution, war, famine and natural disasters that may have wiped out a third of the world's populations.
- Translation (Stephen Hart, UCL SELCS)
Translation explores and celebrates the intercultural importance and societal impact of poetry, prose and drama in translation from its original language. This project, funded as part of UCL Challenges’ "Intercultural Interaction" pathway and organized by the School of European Languages, Culture and Society, articulates the concept of "Gained in Translation" in a number of carefully-choreographed events. Drawing inspiration from Robert Frost's famous dictum ("poetry is what gets lost in translation") SELCS teamed up with Poet in the City and the Cervantes Institute to produce a three-part series on "Emotions in Translation" as well as two major events on "Gained in Translation" in which the focus is on how poetry translates into film (21 March 2013), and how ideas are translated across cultures (31 May 2013).
Cross-cutting themes for GCII include Public Policy, Community Engagement, Student Activity.
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