Research Projects

The Centre for Cosmopolitan Studies is currently part of an international consortium that has been awarded DKK 8,390,452 (£ 990,000) by the Danish Research Board of Culture and Communication for a project entitled, ‘AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF DISTORTION: Ethnographic Explorations of Paradoxical Connections’. The consortium includes anthropologists at Aarhus and Copenhagen Universities. The project will run for 5 years.

The project explores the theme of distortion as an aspect of social interaction, examining the relationship between human intentions and their consequences. The research aims to elucidate the complex and paradoxical nature of human relationality: how social process may not be addressed only through the lens of systemic practice. While there is a large existing social-scientific literature that focuses on the unintended consequences of human action, recognising the importance of the unforeseen in social life, ‘AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF DISTORTION’ approaches the disjunction between intentions and outcomes in a different way. Distortion is here conceptualised as a phenomenon in its own right, whose appreciation is key to a complete description and mapping of any and every instance of social interaction and exchange. Distortion is a description of radical difference erupting onto the social scene: the project centres on the emergent or mutatory nature of social life and how such radical discontinuity can nevertheless be anchored to antecedent conditions.

Professor Nigel Rapport’s particular role in the project entails undertaking research into some of the artistic production of the British painter, Stanley Spencer. ‘Distorted Vision: The creative representations of Stanley Spencer’ will involve Rapport in examining distortion in the context of artistic creativity and moral norms. Controversy has accompanied Spencer’s unsurpassed body of twentieth-century work for its purported obscenity, its ‘blasphemic’ vision, and for what has been seen as the astonishing deformity of the people and scenes portrayed as Spencer sought to engage with social reality and identify the authentic nature of persons and relations.

In addition:

Drs Paloma Gay y Blasco and Huon Wardle are developing a research study exploring how ideas about nationalism, cosmopolitanism, race, ethnicity and culture intersect in the making of families through intercountry adoption.

Dr Mattia Fumanti works on poverty, upward mobgility and youth in Namibia, especially in urban settings. His present research explores the relationship between urbanism and capitalism, and the relationship between popular culture and the exclusivity of elite cultures.

Dr Mark Harris generally works on placing the Brazilian Amazon in an Atlantic context. He has just finished a book on the political undercurrents which led to an Amazonian rebellion in the 1830s. His next project is to consider the circulations of ritual and religious beliefs between the Old and the New World using the Amazon as a case-study. The focus will be on individuals who moved between contexts and deliberately sought to refigure practices and ideas.

Dr Daniel M. Knight held a Leverhulme Trust project (2016-19) focused on the temporal complexity of renewable energy initiatives in austerity Greece, addressing how economic uncertainty has created dynamic spaces for entrepreneurial opportunism while renewables are locally perceived as neo-colonial programs and new extractive economies.

Dr Stavroula Pipyrou  held a three-year Leverhulme project (2014-17) “An Intergenerational Analysis of Forced Child-relocation in Italy”, looking at the silenced stories of displacement in Cold War (1950s) South Italy shedding light on a hitherto overlooked historico-political period of turmoil. Child displacement is directly associated with historical macro-silences and the lack of systematic ethnological studies on the events that took place during the Cold War period in Italy.

Dr Adam Reed works on developing an anthropological contribution to debates in urban theory, specifically through ethnographic explorations of forms of knowledge of the city of London. More recently, he has also begun a research project on ethical subjects in Britain, intended as a means of unearthing the anthropological dimensions of debates in moral philosophy.