Future gazing: funded projects address major contemporary challenges

Young woman using VR headset

The Arts and Humanities Research Council is funding projects exploring the role of culture in the economic recovery of towns to sustainable practices in the creative industries.

Looking to the future

How can the performing arts be used to understand and address social violence? How do we attribute legal rights to nature? Where do arts, humanities and plants intersect?

These are the exciting questions which will be addressed in a series of interdisciplinary scoping projects being funded by the AHRC.

The AHRC has invested in these innovative interdisciplinary projects to identify how arts and humanities-led research could address major contemporary challenges and to scope research areas which could form the basis of future investments and programmes.

The projects engage with relevant expertise not just from across the arts and humanities but also beyond from the full spectrum of UKRI.

Towns and the cultural economies of recovery

One particularly timely project will identify the future research priorities which will enhance our understanding of the contributions that culture can make to the economic recovery, renewal and resilience of towns.

The project builds on the government’s 2019 Towns Fund initiative and will propose several critical and cultural research interventions that will enable towns to respond innovatively to the cultural and creative industries as they support social and economic regeneration in the context of the current crisis.

Sustainable materials in the creative industries

Another funded project will explore how the creative industry’s diverse outputs, ranging from physical artworks and hard luxury goods to publications and films, all entail multiple entanglements with material sustainability.

The project team will scope current and imminent sustainable practice around the sourcing, use, disposal, recycling and reuse of materials, to help understand the creative sector’s ongoing responses.

Paul Meller, Associate Director of Programmes at the AHRC, says:

We are delighted with the quality and variety of innovative ideas from our community in response to this call.

The fascinating breadth of topics we are funding demonstrates the strength of the arts and humanities research community to take an interdisciplinary approach to pressing contemporary challenges.

We hope that these scoping studies will lead to proposals for significant new research programmes, themes and investments.

A full list of the six funded projects can be found below.

Further information

Plant humanities: where arts, humanities and plants meet

Led by Professor Felix Driver at Royal Holloway this project will scope the potential of the ‘Plant Humanities’. This is a relatively recent term which covers a wide variety of research addressing questions relating to plants and plant-based knowledge, particularly questions of ecology, environment, and nature, often in collaboration with the sciences and social sciences.

Towns and the cultural economies of recovery: a new multidisciplinary mapping

Led by Professor Nicky Marsh at the University of Southampton, this project will identify the future research priorities which will enhance our understanding of the contributions that culture can make to the economic recovery, renewal and resilience of towns.

Cultural heritage 360

Led by Professor Stephen Taylor at Durham University, this project will bring together scientists and social scientists with arts and humanities researchers to identify the future potential and direction of arts and humanities-led interdisciplinary research into cultural heritage and its record.

Sustainable materials in the creative industries

Led by Dr Peter Oakley at the Royal College of Art, this project will scope current and immanent sustainable practice around the sourcing, use, disposal, recycling and reuse of materials, to help understand the creative sector’s ongoing responses.

Performing arts and social violence: innovating research approaches to sexual and gender-based violence in the global south

Led by Professor Susan Fitzmaurice at the University of Sheffield, this project will scope to what extent the performing arts – from theatre and dance to comedy – can be used to understand and address social violence, particularly everyday forms of violence, including sexual and gender-based violence.

The future of the Rights of Nature: an interdisciplinary scoping analysis

Led by Professor Jeremie Gilbert at Roehampton University, this project will review the current application of Earth Law, the movement to grant rights to Nature often grounded in indigenous peoples’ cosmologies and culture, across disciplines

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