Reading the ruins: School of Advanced Study launches new project

Friday 5 December 2014

While ruins are part of the world around us, we rarely stop to think what significance they have, who might use them and might claim them as their own, or how are they represented in a variety of media, across cultures and over time. A new interdisciplinary research project run by the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London, seeks to provide answers to these questions.

‘Reconfiguring ruins: materialities, processes and mediations’, is a one-year initiative funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), led by SAS research fellow Dr Carlos López Galviz. He will use the grant, one of ten early career awards announced under the AHRC’s Care for the Future scheme, to work with co-investigators Dr Nadia Bartolini (Open University), Dr Adam Stock (University of Newcastle) and Dr Mark Pendleton (University of Sheffield).

‘Whether it is through exhibitions like Tate Britain's Ruin Lust, films and festivals, not to mention a growing body of scholarship, ruins around the world continue to fascinate and inspire,’ explained Dr Galviz.

The project will provide a critical reflection on the contemporary explosion of interest in ruins across the arts and humanities. It will consider the processes by which ruins emerge, change, and are sustained, and the different kinds of actors that engage with them. Central to this will be ongoing and new research by the project investigators which draws on history, human geography, urban studies, English literature, East Asian and Latin American studies.

‘The AHRC’s Care for the Future Theme addresses ways in which we can understand the future through the past, and the traces of our history may teach us something important about who we are and where we are now. This new project addresses this theme centrally’, said Professor Barry Smith, Pro-Dean for Central Academic Initiatives at SAS.

The project’s innovative collaboration also includes the wide range of academic researchers, professionals and artists working with the project’s non-academic partners, namely MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) and the artist-led NewBridge Project, Newcastle. They will be involved in a combination of workshops, site visits and virtual platforms and foster a dialogue around potential impact of the projects on their respective environments in the north and south-east of England.

‘These awards will develop new approaches toward and provide new insights into the central concerns of the Care for the Future theme,’ said Professor Andrew Thompson, Theme Leadership Fellow for the Care for the Future theme. ‘They will also provide early career researchers with valuable experience in project design and delivery; in their own way, therefore, they care for the future of our disciplines. From the proposals, it is clear that they will each make a significant contribution to the theme’s overall development, and I look forward to seeing each come to fruition.’

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Notes for editors:

1. For further information please contact Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London +44 (0)20 7862 8653 / Images available on request.

2. The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and support of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights. Find out more at or follow SAS on Twitter at @SASNews

3. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.