Research clusters

The Department of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies (ToRS) wishes to enable more flexibility and more new and temporary, research initaitives and to  encourage more interdisciplinary research.  The opportunity for innovation, creativity and interdisciplinary initiatives is a prerequisite for being at the forefront of international research and thus seeking external resources and attracting and keeping scientific talent.

That is the reason we utilize clusters for strategic research areas. A cluster is a research group that focuses on a specific subject that spans several research areas,  e.g. the Arctic, Islam, materiality studies and literature.

Cluster for interdisciplinary research on religion

The Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies (ToRS) is a treasure trove for interdisciplinary engagement with a diverse range of topics related to religion. While the field of Religious Studies has a focus on religion at its core, researchers in several other study areas at ToRS also engage with the topic of religion e.g. attention to identification patterns, cultural heritage or politics. The aim of this research cluster is to fashion an open milieu for interdisciplinary conversations and research in and of religion.

Coordinator: Andreas Bandak.

Digital Methods and Citizen Science 

This research cluster explores the recent advancements in collaborative research, with a focus on digital methods and Citizen Science. We will investigate how the newest tools of Digital Humanities can reframe our research projects to have increased polyvocality, more diverse stakeholders, and deeper public engagement. How can large-scale databases, geographic information system software, online archives, ethnography and the research principles outlined by the European Citizen Science Association expand the scope of our research? Some of the cluster members have already integrated these methods while others are considering how to integrate open-source technologies. Through reading groups, workshops and invited guest lectures, we will explore the ethical, theoretical, and practical aspects of these emergent methodologies and localize them to our own research areas. By building up Digital Humanities projects, we anticipate increased publications on digitalization and further integration with teaching materials.

Coordinators: Stephen ChristopherBo Ærenlund Sørensen and Frank Sejersen

Ethics and violence

The ethics and violence cluster facilitates monthly discussions around issues of ethics and violence. We cover the topics of violence and ethics very broadly, ranging from overt forms of violence like mass atrocities to subtler forms like discrimination and hate speech based on religion, political views, gender, ethnicity, class, culture, or nationality. We discuss a wide range of questions, such as the different ethical challenges posed by studying violence that is still currently unfolding as opposed to historical violence; the ethics of reproducing and representing violence and disturbing behaviour across different media and contexts, including teaching or public outreach; how to approach or reproach perpetrators, collaborators, bystanders, and victims of violence; and questions of memory and justice in the aftermath of violence. Since the cluster is constituted of a very diverse group, covering several cultural and geographic areas, we will also engage with questions about the cultural specificity of violence and the difficult issues of global vs local forms of justice. 

Coordinator: Thomas Brudholm

Islam and Muslims in the modern and global world

This open research cluster will bring together the different disciplines and research on Islam and Muslims. While it does have a distinctly contemporary focus, the cluster will focus on what the common global challenges are to Muslims and Islamic communities and institutions around in different contexts. The traditions, norms and Muslim practices in the Islamic world are challenged by regional autocracy, identity politics, and global trends, while an increasing number of Muslims now live as minorities in almost every country in the world, but in a diasporic relationship to the countries of their origin.

In this light, we ask; What does being a modern and global Muslim mean? How are Muslims interpreting and negotiating not just traditions and texts but also practices and morals in the encounter with other normative orders? How are various Muslim groups and Islamic communities relating to their tradition and its continuation to future generations, and what does resonant and responsible Muslim leadership look like in the modern, global world, both in the private and public realms?

An explicit ambition of this research cluster is to focus on the empirical sources to answer these questions. We will be examining and discussing the sources for considering distinctly modern and global expressions of what it means to be Muslim and how Islam is to be understood.

Coordinator: Jakob Skovgaard-Petersen

Nature and Spirituality

The research cluster Nature and Spirituality brings together a number of fields across CCRS, such as the Study of Religions, Assyriology, Chinese studies, Center for Applied Ecological Thinking, Center for Contemporary Buddhist Studies, Copenhagen Center for the Study of Theosophy and Esotericism, and Asian studies in order to foster innovative, creative, and interdisciplinary research related to understanding the plurality of spiritual understandings of nature, globally and throughout history. This includes lifestyles, ethics, practices, and the consequential consequences of various spiritual and secular perspectives. Especially a more nuanced understanding of the genealogies of ideas and practices that have led up to current discourses about nature and ecology will be explored. Alongside conventional thought, new spiritual perspectives continue to emerge and more established religions redefine themselves to address the challenges. Sometimes the new perspectives come up as countercurrents to mainstream thought and sometimes they become mainstream in themselves. By understanding the origin, history, and change of spiritual perspectives on nature, their entanglement with secular perspectives, and the continuing debates about the past and the future from a number of different disciplinary backgrounds, we aim to contribute useful knowledge that can be used in the furthering current debates in society at large. The cluster will hold regular meetings, and seminars, invite guest lecturers and explore further large-scale research possibilities.

Co-ordinator: Tim Rudbøg

State, Symbolism and Space

This cluster uses symbolism in public space as a lens with which to explore the contested intersection between identity, memory, the state and resistance in authoritarian and post-authoritarian national contexts. We look at how the state is narrated, represented, produced, contested and challenged through public symbolism – from monuments to murals to posters to protest repertoires. In doing so we draw on a diverse range of case studies that cross-temporal, geographic and disciplinary boundaries: from antiquity to the modern Middle East, from the Balkans to East Asia.

The cluster is organised around three key themes: elite politics, transitional politics and resistance. How is the contestation of public symbolism used in intra-elite competition? What does the construction of symbolic narratives reveal about elite threat perception, generational turnover and regime maintenance strategies and how do these change over time? What can public symbolism tell us about the political economy of a given national setting? How do transitional states deal with a contested past when constructing public space? How is state-sanctioned public symbolism challenged by counter-hegemonic narratives?

In exploring these and related questions, the cluster aims to stimulate research dialogue across different study areas. We hold regular meetings to discuss current research and possible areas of collaborative comparative research initiatives. Key to our output is the comparative aspect that bridges China, the Middle East, the Balkans and antiquities.

Coordinator: Fanar Haddad

Thinking Through the Transnational (TTT)

The aim of this cluster is to probe the implications of a situation where the “Areas” of “Area Studies” increasingly overflow their geographical containers: through globalization, transnationalism, migration, diasporias, media and so on. These developments call for a re-appraisal of the aim and value of Area Studies - and a critical engagement with various iterations of “global humanities". How does attention to regional, transregional or global processes affect our work with “the area(s)”? To what extent are we prepared to “follow" a phenomenon/culture/topic into the world? How do we engage with fields overlapping ours, e.g. migration studies or global history? What methods do we use to study a geographically slippery “area”? What is the role of language skills in the negotiations of globalization? How do we engage macro- and meso-level theories on our micro-level of research? Is it a task for us to react, in our work with different regions or cultures and languages, to calls for “globalizing” or “decolonizing" theory, method, epistemology and science itself? 

This cluster forms a space for thinking about these questions through closed peer feedback sessions on works-in-progress as well as lectures, seminars and roundtables open to the public.

Coordinator: Rasmus Christian Elling

Former strategic research areas