About our work

We generate new insights and seek to enhance engagement between communities of research and practice.

Through its international programmes and collaborations, the British Academy aims to recognise and support excellence in the humanities and social sciences in the UK and overseas; generate new insights on (what works in tackling) global challenges; and enhance engagement between communities of research and practice. In particular, we are committed to the development of the next generation of talent within the humanities and social sciences, and to promoting the value of interdisciplinary research. We strive to raise the international profile of UK’s research and research networks, strengthen the voice of the social sciences and humanities in high-level debates, as well as demonstrate the value of international collaboration and mobility.

The Academy’s portfolio of international activities is broad, with projects focusing on issues ranging from novel approaches to addressing modern slavery, to supporting the realisation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Agenda, to promoting new understanding of violence, to examining how valid knowledge is developed and communicated. Currently our international work is primarily clustered around five priority themes:

Urban Futures

The rapid growth of cities around the world is giving rise to a wide range of economic, social and environmental problems. The challenge is how to manage growth sustainably, tapping the potential benefits of urbanisation while avoiding its exclusionary and environmentally damaging tendencies. Our activities under this theme seek to conduct an evaluation of urban pluralism as a key characteristic of urban futures: as a form of effective governance, as a basis for increased resilience and human security, as a pre-condition for creativity and improved experiences of the urban habitat, and as a manifestation of the making and meeting of livelihoods. With much of current thinking increasingly looking for singular solutions, such as ‘smart’ technologies or anticipatory governance, it is necessary to reconsider the modalities of governing plural cities, navigating plural economies and inhabiting plural cities, with a view to better harnessing their potential alongside more traditional ‘top down’ forms of urban planning and management.

Justice, Rights & Equality

There is little understanding of how different historical experiences, cultural developments and socio-economic conditions shape varying perceptions of justice. Western tradition tends to perceive justice as inextricably linked to democracy, human rights protection and equality in law. This has implications for the evolution of the global political and normative order, with non-Western approaches perceived as insufficiently developed or adversely affected by dogmatic ideologies. Few efforts have been made to consider how Western and non-Western notions could effectively be benchmarked so as to reinforce the creation of a more just society (nationally and internationally), which does not rest exclusively on legal definitions of rights and equality. Our activities under this theme aim to develop new understanding of the tensions at the interface between global norms and local attempts to realise justice, rights and equality. They seek to encourage creative thinking as to the innovative language and spaces needed for pursuing ideas of the common good in an unstable world.

Conflict, Stability & Security

Conflict and human insecurity pose considerable challenges to peace and development around the world. Our activities under this theme aim to illustrate the importance of in-depth and broad understanding of the historical, political, linguistic, cultural and socio-economic context, as well as the relevance of perspectives from the philosophical to the demographic when examining and responding to conflict and insecurity overseas. We are particularly interested in different manifestations of violence and in exploring the identities, semantic configurations, mythologies, attitudes and histories that create the imagined space for narratives of violence to take root and flourish and structure the moral economy in different contexts. We seek to engage with the less tangible, ephemeral carriers and atmospheres of violence, as well as the less visible structures of violence that may underpin them, and how these are absorbed and ritualised in everyday culture.

Europe’s Futures

This is a time of charged sentiments towards and within Europe. They draw on enduring assumptions of community and belonging that are poorly understood, yet pivotal in shaping public opinion. Looking ahead, sentiments of belonging may turn out to be key for managing an uncertain and fearful age, when the propositions of future society invariably filter through them, and all the more so when instituted precepts of society and its order falter. Our activities under this theme seek to engage with the tropes of European belonging, past and present. They explore the different modalities through which the UK aligns, or may come to align in future, with European institutions as the country navigates its exit from the European Union. We are also working to illustrate the value of the social sciences and the humanities for better understanding of the potential pathways for the Europe of tomorrow, and to ensure that the UK research community continues to be able to engage closely with other European partners.

Knowledge Frontiers

The complexities of global change and world integration, the formation of composites that defy disciplinary knowledge, and the proliferation of diverse communities of knowledge, practice and intelligence suggest the need for inquiry into the nature of valid knowledge and evidence, and their formative requirements and professional moorings today and in the future. Our activities under this theme aim to broach and illustrate expressions of interdisciplinarity as well as of the effective co-design and co-production of knowledge between the expert and the lay or the theoretical and the applied. More concretely, the focus is on examining how valid knowledge, knowledge associations and evidence are developed, communicated and disseminated, and the factors which can serve as barriers in different political or cultural settings. We also strive to develop connections between disciplines and researchers, with a view to promoting the exchange of knowledge and encouraging new research collaborations.

Global Talent Visa

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