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New research centre to reassess cultural heritage around the world

Posted on 5 April 2022

Professor Emma Waterton has won a £2million Leverhulme International Professorship award to bring a team to the University of York and establish a new research centre.

Australian heritage site 505Tourists visiting an Australian heritage site at sunset. Credit: Emma Waterton

The Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre will examine how the systems, structures and institutions of power currently shape heritage.

It will also explore how communities around the world have adapted and responded to a range of crises, such as environmental change, social inequalities, water insecurity, global migration and the legacies of colonialism.

From the Hindu Kush in the Himalayas to Australia’s urban centres, the Centre will investigate how disasters such as water scarcity, earthquakes and landslides have shaped cultures across centuries.

Leading scholars

Leverhulme International Professorships were set up by the Leverhulme Trust to help universities attract globally leading scholars to take up professorial posts in the UK. 

The associated £2m in funding will allow Professor Waterton to co-direct the new centre with Dr Hayley Saul, and bring together a group of established academics and PhD students to work on the international and transdisciplinary research.

The research team will use case studies in India, the UK, Fiji, Bermuda, Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis, Nepal, Australia, Bhutan, Norway, and South Africa - with the scope to include additional locations as the Centre grows.

The Centre will be built around six research themes:

  • 'Inclusions/Exclusions'
  • 'Colonial Legacies'
  • 'Mobilities and Materialities'
  • 'Anthropocene Encounters'
  • 'Cultures of Disaster'
  • 'Society-Nature Relations'

Wonderful opportunity

Professor Waterton said: "
I am thrilled that the Leverhulme Trust and the University of York have given me this wonderful opportunity of a Leverhulme International Professorship, which will enable me to co-create the Heritage for Global Challenges Research Centre with Dr Saul and our soon-to-be appointed team.

"The centre’s work will span local, national, and global scales. At the local scale, we will conduct interviews and focus group discussions with individuals and communities about specific heritage places, items, and memories. We will also undertake a comprehensive survey of the British public’s interests and participation in heritage on a national scale.

"At the global scale, we will undertake research across heritage sites connected by their colonial legacies, as well as recording patterns in heritage data that might hold solutions to pressing social challenges, like climate change and food security."

Important centre

Professor Nicky Milner, Head of Archaeology at the University of York said the new centre would help establish the Department as a world-leader in this area.

She added: "We are delighted that Professor Waterton has been successful with this Leverhulme award, and our department cannot wait to welcome the team to York. We are really looking forward to establishing this important Centre and exploring these critical heritage-related challenges."

Both Professor Waterton and Dr Saul will join the University of York from Western Sydney University, Australia, in August 2022.


Further information:

About the Leverhulme Trust

Since its foundation in 1925, the Leverhulme Trust has provided grants and scholarships for research and education. Today it is one of the largest all-subject providers of funding for research projects, fellowships, studentships, bursaries and prizes in the UK, currently distributing £100 million each year. Their awards are made in the responsive mode, with the choice of topic and research design left with applicants. They particularly value research that crosses disciplinary boundaries or that is willing to take risks in its pursuit of new knowledge or understanding. @LeverhulmeTrust

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