It is clear that none of the really difficult questions that face us can be dealt with satisfactorily using the resources of just one discipline. Not only this, there are very few of the questions with which individual disciplines have concerned themselves that cannot be enlivened by other perspectives. CRASSH exists to initiate and foster such transactions between different forms of expertise and ways of thinking, deepening connections both within Cambridge and between Cambridge and the world more generally.
– Steven Connor, Director of CRASSH
Transformative ideas, innovative thinking, and the freedom of enquiry that gives rise to them, lie at the heart of Cambridge’s excellence. But in order to take place and take root – to synthesize with existing scholarship and ensure that the ways in which knowledge is produced remain alive to the present – academic innovation needs nurturing. Indeed, at a time of stunningly rapid change on a global scale, there is a pressing need for fresh approaches that advance and transcend the boundaries of discipline.
This is what CRASSH, Cambridge’s renowned Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, exists to do. Both a ‘convener’ and an incubator, CRASSH provides the intellectual space and a state-of-the- art place, underpinned by expert academic and practical support, necessary to explore new academic terrain in a collaborative environment. Through Research Groups of graduate students and academics; Fellowships that provide vital early career opportunities to talented researchers from across the world; and through its flagship Conference Programme, CRASSH enables academics to cross boundaries of discipline, geography, institution and of academe itself, bringing into the process leading artists, writers, film-makers, civil servants, and representatives of government, NGOs and the business sectors. At the heart of CRASSH’s research output is a portfolio of large-scale collaborative research projects. Seven major projects, interrelated around themes of the location of knowledge and in particular the relation between knowledge and new technology, create an exhilarating research environment, unique in the country for 40 researchers employed at CRASSH.
Here’s a snapshot (necessarily selective) of CRASSH in action. Graduate students are exploring the challenges of professional practice in social media, and the interconnected social, cultural and biomedical issues relating to human reproduction. Postdoctoral researchers are investigating the limits of the numerical, and examining western, Russian and Chinese medical approaches to infectious disease. A major investigation into the 19th century’s fascination with the Bible and classical antiquity is poised to enrich understanding of the Victorian period and illuminate the place of religion in public life. Students and academics are participating in myriad discussions – such as that between philosopher and activist Cornel West and novelist Ben Okri on literature and the nation or historian Natalie Zemon Davis and novelist Amitav Ghosh on global storytelling and the distinction between historical and fictional ‘truth’. Public events such as the Humanitas Lecture Series have brought to Cambridge, as Distinguished Visiting Professors, pianist Alfred Brendel, execute chairman of Google Eric Schmidt, historian Margaret MacMillan and literary critic David Der-wei Wang. In addition, precisely because it is not tethered to a given agenda, CRASSH has become the University’s ‘rapid response unit’, able to mount major events to explore such charged questions as the very Idea of the University.
Since its start just over a decade ago, CRASSH has built an international reputation for agenda-setting scholarship. This has been recognized by grants from supporters including the Mellon Foundation, the Isaac Newton Trust and the European Research Council, and by individuals who wish to see independent, exciting and top-level research flourish. Today, CRASSH seeks to consolidate its achievements and harness the synergies opened up by its collaborative projects, by securing support for its Fellowships and Conferences, and endowment of its Directorship. True to its participatory mission, the Centre invites its supporters to join in: to raise the issues they think should be opened up to the searching questioning and fresh ideas that CRASSH exists to promote.
To meet the Director and his colleagues please contact:
Professor Steven Connor
Director of CRASSH