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Lancelot's tomb, an example of study for the DEEPDEAD project

Funding for projects 'uses of the past'

University of Exeter academics have had outstanding success in winning funding in the HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) Joint Research Programme ‘The Uses of the Past’. 

The HERA scheme provides support for innovative research collaborations involving teams from at least four of 23 eligible European countries. Out of 605 initial applications, only 18 were awarded funding. Teams from Exeter are included in three of the successful projects, more than any other UK university, and tied in Europe with University of Leiden and Freie Universität Berlin.

The three projects are: “Deploring the Dead: Artefacts and human bodies in socio-cultural transformations”, “After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past in The Crisis of the Carolingian World, c. 900- c.1050” and “Understanding Sharia: Past Perfect/ Imperfect Pact. Spread across multiple disciplines and Colleges, these successes demonstrate how Exeter is leading the way in identifying and investigating the uses of the past. They also highlight the scope and value of the university’s European collaborations

Deploring the Dead: Artefacts and human bodies in socio-cultural transformations

The project “Deploring the Dead: Artefacts and human bodies in socio-cultural transformations” (“DEEPDEAD”) is a collaboration involving literary scholars and archaeologists in the UK, Austria, Germany, and Czech Republic. Professor Philip Schwyzer and Dr. Naomi Howell, English at the University of Exeter, are spearheading the project that will run for three years (2016-2019) and has received €1,160,000 of funding.

DEEPDEAD, harnessing the disciplines of literature and archaeology, aims to examine historic and prehistoric encounters with human remains and artefacts to shed light on their cultural and social power. The UK team will be dealing with cases ranging from the relics of medieval saints and the supposed discovery of the bones of King Arthur in the twelfth century, to the recent discovery and reburial of the remains of Richard III.

After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past in the Crisis of the Carolingian World, c.900‒c.1050

This project ‘After Empire: Using and Not Using the Past in the Crisis of the Carolingian World, c. 900-c.1050’ (“UNUP”) is a collaboration involving historians in the UK, Austria, Germany and Spain. Professor Sarah Hamilton, History at the University of Exeter, is the joint lead of the project in the UK.

The 10th century is an overlooked century in history and is usually viewed as a period of disintegration from which emerged the modern nations of Europe, including England, France and Germany. Researchers will collaborate to compare how people in different regions reacted to the changing political landscape by looking at the ways in which they chose to use and not use their shared past. The Exeter team will compare how religious communities in the heartland of the former Carolingian Empire chose to use or not use their past in comparison with their counterparts on the periphery of Europe. In illuminating a poorly understood part of Europe’s past and revealing what was specific about it, UNUP will show that it cannot be reduced to a history of national origins. UNUP will not replace the story of national origins with a narrative of European origins but rather aims to offer a fundamentally new perspective on Europe in the tenth century, built around a transnational approach.

Understanding Sharia: Past Perfect/ Imperfect Present

Sharia is Islamic law based on the Quran and Hadith. Modern Muslim thought appears to be heavily influenced by a yearning for things to be as they were in the past, specifically concerning legal issues.

Professor Robert Gleave, Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, is leading this project along with collaborators in Leiden, Göttingen, and Bergen. Understanding Sharia will explore the pivotal role of historical precedent in the construction of contemporary Muslim thinking, with the aim of raising the level of public debate around these issues by emphasising the creative and future-orientation of modern Muslim understandings of the past. The project will create a research base and draw on an international network of expertise.

The findings of the three projects will be showcased through exhibitions, public conferences and public events.

For further information please see the Humanities in the European Research Area pages.

Date: 7 June 2016

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