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NOK 100 million for projects on cultural conditions underlying social change

The Research Council of Norway has awarded a total of NOK 100 million in funding to 15 projects under the Programme on Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change (SAMKUL). This is the first round of grant allocations under the new programme.

Hallen “We have high expectations for the research to be conducted by dynamic research groups in important areas such as cross-cultural interaction, religious diversity, climate change and the Arctic and northern areas,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council. “Society is changing as a result of global, technological and social upheaval that poses new challenges. Knowledge about the cultural conditions will be crucial for meeting these challenges. The SAMKUL programme is one of the Research Council’s main priority areas,” says Arvid Hallén, Director General of the Research Council.

“We have high expectations for the research to be conducted by dynamic research groups in important areas such as cross-cultural interaction, religious diversity, climate change and the Arctic and northern areas.”

Many grant applications – tough competition

The Research Council is pleased with the level and breadth of the 138 proposals for SAMKUL projects it received. The total amount sought was approximately NOK 1 billion.

The projects were first assessed by panels of international referees before the programme board took the final decision on grant allocations. Eleven Researcher Projects and four Personal Post-doctoral Research Fellowships were awarded a total of roughly NOK 100 million over three to four years.

Funding was awarded primarily on the basis of the scientific merit and relevance relative to the programme’s objectives of the proposed projects. The programme board also attached importance to the feasibility of the projects and to ensuring that the projects as a whole comprised a broad-based, diversified portfolio.

Photo: Agnethe Weisser Petter Aaslestad (Photo: Agnethe Weisser ) Wide array of projects

“We are pleased that we received so many good applications which have elaborated on the line of thinking in the work programme. The projects that have been granted funding will give us new knowledge within most of the thematic priority areas of the work programme. The fact that researchers are now working to a greater extent across established subject and research fields is also gratifying to note,” says Professor Petter Aaslestad, chair of the SAMKUL programme board.

The following 11 Researcher Projects have been awarded funding:

Linguistic representations of climate change discourse and their individual and collective interpretations

This linguistic study explores how and to what degree language is significant for our actions related to climate change. The hypothesis is that linguistic representations affect how we associate and activate our knowledge, and thus which conclusions we draw about a particular matter. This cross-disciplinary project will employ linguistic analysis, questionnaires and psychological experiments to generate knowledge about the interpretation of climate change.

Project manager: Kjersti Fløttum, Professor, University of Bergen

Mechanisms of cross-cultural interaction: Networks in the Roman Near East

Merchants, missionaries, soldiers and administrators have been crossing cultures since Antiquity, thus serving as agents of cultural contact and change. This project will conduct studies of cross-cultural networks in the early history of the Middle East in order to understand similar processes later in history as well as in contemporary times.

Project manager: Eivind Heldaas Seland, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Bergen

Reassembling democracy: Ritual as cultural resource

As a result of increasing religious diversity, rituals are becoming an important cultural driving force for social change in modern society. Do rituals serve only as a mobilising factor in social change or do they also help to shape the changes taking place in society? The hypothesis of this project is that rituals can contribute in important ways to a democratic process that shapes society and creates a framework for addressing local and global crises.

Project manager: Jone Salomonsen, Professor, University of Oslo

The cultural logic of facts and figures: Objectification, measurement and standardisation as social processes

The project is based on the notion that measuring, quantifying and standardising not only involves organising given dimensions, but also helps to shape our reality. The desire to quantify is a basic cultural premise in our society. The objective is to conduct studies of fields such as statistics, economics, biomedicine and art to show how measurability and standardisation shape practice in a variety of areas and in society as a whole.
Project manager: Tord Larsen, Associate Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

In food we trust? Technologies of governance in industrialised food systems

The production, transport and consumption of food have changed dramatically in the past century. This project will combine studies of technology and science with historical studies to explain how today’s industrialised food production has become an integral part of daily life based on food safety and consumer confidence.

Project manager: Per Østby, Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who's most powerful of them all? Gender as a symbolic and social structure in organisations

Although the Nordic countries score high in international measurements of gender equality, a clear majority of men still hold leadership positions in key institutions of power in Nordic society. This project will study the cultural mechanisms that promote and prevent the integration of women in influential areas such as the military, the financial sector and the petroleum/marine sector. Which symbolic constructions of gender and leadership are found and how are these symbolic constructions connected with the structural distribution of power between the sexes?

Project manager: Agnes Bolsø, Associate Professor, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Negotiating values: Collective identities and resilience after 22/7

The events of 22 July 2011 have forced Norwegian society to re-think a number of core societal values. This project will analyse how democracy, equality, freedom, justice, openness, responsibility and solidarity have been dealt with in the public sphere and how these core values form the collective identity of the Norwegian people. How is the development of society affected by the interplay between values, collective identities and our ability to process dramatic events.

Project manager: Henrik Syse, Senior Researcher, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)

Future North

The point of departure for this project is that the landscape both shapes and is shaped by cultural and social development. From this perspective the Arctic landscape is a unique laboratory for studying how the landscape changes in step with changes in production, utilisation of the natural surroundings, infrastructure and climate. The project will take a cross-disciplinary approach to studying the relationship between humans and their environment and the significance of social action for the development of the northern landscape.

Project manager: Janike Kampevold Larsen, Associate Professor, Oslo School of Architecture and Design

The relational politics of aesthetics: Negotiating relations between art and society through cultural policy

Cultural policy may be understood as a translation of aesthetical value into political, economic or democratic values. This project will employ case studies from the field of music to investigate how this translation process occurs in practice and how it changes over time.

Project manager: Ole Marius Hylland, Researcher, Telemark Research Institute

Frogs, fuel, finance or food? Cultures, values, ethics, arguments and justifications in the management of agricultural land

Agricultural land is a crucial yet limited global resource. This project will study how culture, values, ethics and politics influence decisions related to the management of agricultural land in the recent past, present and future. The project takes its point of departure in studies of the nature-based economies in Norway, Australia and Canada, and will explore investments by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund in agricultural land abroad.

Project manager: Hilde Bjørkhaug, Senior Researcher, Centre for Rural Research, Norway

From racial typology to DNA sequencing: “Race” and “ethnicity” and the science of human genetic variation 1945-2012

Genomic research generates large amounts of data which are based in part on ethnically and racially defined human populations. This opens up great potential for social development, but raises many ethical and political questions. This project will study the social, cultural, technological and scientific aspects of the concepts of ethnicity and race in physical anthropology and genomic research from 1945 until the present.

Project manager: Jon Røyne Kyllingstad, Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology

The following four Personal Post-doctoral Research Fellowships have been awarded funding:

Trajectories of neurasthenia: Negotiating nature and culture within medical practices

The question of whether myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) can be explained in somatic or psychological terms is the subject of ongoing debate. This project will study neurasthenia (nerve weakness), which was a widespread diagnosis in the West in the period around 1900, in order to generate new knowledge about the historical conditions for the increase in conditions that the medical field has difficulty explaining.

Kristine Lillestøl, University of Oslo

Opéra comique: Secularisation, commercialisation and mass culture

Opéra comique, a genre of French opera, was a dominant cultural phenomenon in the 18th century, but it has long been regarded as an uninteresting topic of study. This project will investigate the genre’s role in the development of a new music culture through secularisation, commercialisation and the introduction of mass cultural communication in the 18th century and show how music can play a vital role in social change.

Martin Wåhlberg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Trust as a precondition for socio-economic development: What can we learn from the case of Brazil?

It is commonly accepted that a society’s economy is dependent on a certain degree of trust in order to function. According to prevailing economic ideology, some level of inequality must also be present to stimulate economic growth. This project will study the cultural conditions underlying Brazil’s economic growth in order to generate new knowledge about the relationship between trust and the economy of relevance to the European financial crisis.

Margit Ystanes, University of Bergen

Immigration and mobility in medieval and post-medieval Norway

This project will conduct analyses of DNA and oxygen isotopes from skeletons taken from four graveyards to gain a better understanding of the composition of Norway’s population during and after the Middle Ages. Determining the population’s geographic and genetic origins will provide a clearer picture of pre-modern immigration to Norway.

Stian Hamre, University of Bergen

The SAMKUL programme

The Research Council’s Programme on Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change (SAMKUL) seeks to generate new knowledge about the relationship of humans to their environment by studying changes in thoughts and actions related to nature, technology, language, cultural diversity, religion and the media.

A key objective is to expand the knowledge base for use in decision-making in society.


Written by:
Christian Lund/Else Lie. Translation: Connie Stultz/Carol B. Eckmann
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