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Leverhulme grants for Bristol academics

The Tower of Babel, symbol of the existence of many different languages and races

The Tower of Babel, symbol of the existence of many different languages and races Special Collections

30 August 2007

Five Bristol academics have received research awards from the Leverhulme Trust, one of Britain’s most important grant-making foundations.

Dr Ad Putter in the Department of English has received a grant worth £50,148 to develop the international network ‘Multilingualism in the Middle Ages’. The network is an international collaboration between a number of universities in the UK, Europe, and US, in association with Brepols Publishing. It was set up with the aim of advancing the understanding of the cultural forms and consequences of multilingualism in the medieval west. This topic is of fundamental importance to the understanding of the cultural experience of the past and the present. Most medieval western communities were multilingual: Latin, the clerical lingua franca, competed with French, the language of the court and the nobility, and with various vernacular languages. Numerous surviving multilingual texts and manuscripts bear witness to the linguistic versatility of medieval authors and scribes, and from these and other written sources, the researchers hope to uncover the spoken situation on the ground. The award will allow the network to extend its research activities, to include three international conferences and a two-year video-conferenced seminar series. For more information, see the project website.

Dr Mhairi Gibson in the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology  has received a grant totalling £110,336 for a study entitled ‘The impact of a water development project on migration in rural Ethiopia’. The study will explore the population and health consequences of a new labour-saving water-supply scheme in villages in Southern Ethiopia that has dramatically reduced women’s workloads by removing the need to walk long distances daily carrying water. The aim of the study is to test the assumption that population growth directly associated with the scheme is increasing competition for resources within households, thus fuelling the trend towards migration from rural to urban areas. The grant includes funds for a PhD studentship to start in January 2008. The studentship is still available; details can be found on the departmental website.

Professor Mark Viney and Dr Michael Pocock in the School of Biological Sciences have been awarded a grant worth £55,518 for ‘The determinants on immune function in wild mammals’. This study will investigate how much the immune responses of wild animals vary and what causes this variation. Animals make immune responses against infecting organisms, such as bacteria, viruses and parasitic worms. It is known from laboratory studies that these responses can be affected by many factors, for example, age, genetics and reproduction, but it is not yet known to what extent these factors affect the immune systems of wild animals. The study will lead to a better understanding of the spread of infections and disease in wild animal populations.

Professor Bruce Hood in the Department of Experimental Psychology has been awarded a grant worth £170,283 for ‘The psychological attribution of essences to objects’. The basis of this research project is that, in British culture, adults and children may treat certain objects and personal possessions as if they contain the essence of the previous owner. Few would wear the clothing of a mass murderer, for example, whereas celebrity memorabilia is revered. Even sentimental objects of no intrinsic value may be deemed to possess invisible essences. Some adults hold this as an explicit belief. The research will examine the origin of such beliefs from the perspective of intuitive essentialism, which is the natural inclination to think of physical objects as possessing invisible properties that define them. It will also investigate the role of ‘ki’, or invisible spiritual energy, in Japanese culture. This programme of research marks the beginning of a more general investigation into the natural thought processes that lead many people to believe in supernatural forces.

The Leverhulme Trust provides some £25 million each year to promote research of originality and significance principally in the university sector across a full span of disciplines.


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