British Arts and Humanities Research Council and German Research Foundation sponsor four UK-German joint projects at Mainz University

AHRC and DFG to promote collaborative projects in the humanities and social sciences at JGU

14 December 2021

As has been the case in recent years, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has again been particularly successful with its applications for project financing through the joint funding line of the British Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the German Research Foundation (DFG). Four projects at JGU are to receive funding from the two support organizations, among a total of 19 collaborative research undertakings that have won funding awards. These awards make it possible for arts and humanities researchers in the United Kingdom and Germany to work together on exceptional projects in a wide range of academic disciplines. Involved at JGU are researchers in the fields of Ancient History, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Book Studies together with their counterparts in the UK and other participants. The German Research Foundation will be making available some EUR 1.2 million to fund the four projects at JGU. The AHRC, one of the nine organizations that make up the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) body, will be supporting the British-based researchers. The projects will start in 2022 and are expected to run for three years until 2025.

"We greatly look forward to the collaboration with our British colleagues and our other partners," stated the initiative's participants at JGU. "Indeed, some of what we are planning to do will only be possible by working together and combining our expertise."

FAIR Epigraphy

Digital techniques and digital tools open up new, creative approaches and innovative, unfamiliar ways of looking at and interpreting ancient history, economy, and culture – areas for which epigraphy offers particularly rich material. Research for this is facilitated by databases. The larger of these databases contain more than 100,000 inscriptions, but there are also many smaller epigraphic databases. However, in order to adequately coordinate research into the world of classical antiquity, the availability of FAIR data – i.e., findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable data – in this field is an essential prerequisite. The FAIR Epigraphy project aims to promote face-to-face networking and the use of linked open data and new interface technologies. This will facilitate the development of necessary tools and bring together those partners who will be able to better integrate epigraphic research into our digital age. With a collaborative approach, the team aims to standardize norms, develop implementation tools, and make linked open data from individual projects accessible.

The team of dedicated historians, philologists, and archaeologists will provide advice and training in the techniques needed to ensure that past, present, and future projects can be adapted to the agreed standards. Best practice networks will be established. In addition, the researchers aim to showcase the research potential of the linked epigraphic data and its integration into the data network through scholarly publications and innovative avenues of investigation in the study of ancient Greek and Roman history, culture, and economy. The project is supervised by Professor Marietta Horster from the Department of Ancient History at JGU and Professor Jonathan Prag from the University of Oxford.

Microvariation and Youth Language Practices in Africa

In this project, Junior Professor Nico Nassenstein and Dr. Andrea Hollington of JGU's Department of Anthropology and African Studies and their British colleague Dr. Hannah Gibson of the University of Essex will be examining morphosyntactic variation in African youth languages with a focus on three geographical regions in which widely used languages are spoken. It explores youth language practices of Kiswahili speakers in East and Central Africa, Lingala speakers in Central Africa, and isiZulu-isiNdebele in Southern Africa. The researchers aim to obtain greater understanding of both youth language practices – leading away from a focus on linguistic manipulation and, for example, ethnographic approaches – and structural variation within the Bantu family of languages. The project is grouped around four key questions aimed at identifying commonalities and differences in youth language practices across the regions under study: What features can be identified using a microvariation approach in the youth language practices of Kiswahili, Lingala, and isiZulu/isiNdebele speakers? How can parallel language change processes in the three youth languages be explained despite their often considerable geographical distance? To what extent do the features noted in these three areas reflect general patterns of the language family? And, last but not least, how can this innovative approach provide further insights into both youth language practices and grammatical variation in the Bantu languages?

The project will bring together an international team of experts cooperating with partners in Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Japan.

Rethinking Enlightenment: The Reception of John Locke in Germany

Few figures are more closely associated with the origins of the European Enlightenment than the Englishman John Locke (1632-1704). Rethinking Enlightenment will focus on the significant, but hitherto underexplored role that Locke played in the intellectual exchange between Britain and Germany from about 1700. The project will combine archival research into the dissemination of Locke's ideas with a close look at their reception in various fields of philosophy and in aesthetics as well as their uses in political debates. Central questions are: How was Locke read and taught? How exactly did his writings circulate? What aspects of Locke's thought attracted particular interest and how were they interpreted? How did the arrival of Kant's critical philosophy reshape Locke's reception on the continent?

The research group consists of the historian Professor Thomas Ahnert of the University of Edinburgh, the literary scholar Dr. Lore Knapp of Bielefeld University, and the philosopher Professor Konstantin Pollok of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz. The team will be supported by a number of collaborators from the UK, Italy, Canada, and the USA.

"Werck der Bücher": Transitions, Experimentation, and Collaboration in Reprographic Technologies, 1440-1470

This project in the field of Book Studies will involve a holistic analysis of the historical situation in which block books (or xylographica), items printed using early experimental forms of multiple and moveable type, and fully developed letterpress printing were available at one and the same time. One objective is to assemble as completely as possible a record of the various watermarks of single sheet printed works of the period to 1470. The researchers expect that this will provide information on whether the various printing techniques available were used in isolation and by competing workshops or – and this is the underlying project hypothesis – whether they were used side-by-side within the same workshops. Assuming this turns out to be the case, completely new questions will arise relating to the practical advantages of the various techniques and their applications.

This investigation will be supplemented by an analysis of the types of available digitalized works printed in the period 1440 to 1470. With the help of practical experimentation to determine the possible extent of variation in typefounding and printing and new pattern recognition-based analysis techniques, the researchers will be aiming to determine whether very early printed works – particularly those created using DK-type – were also produced with type made by means of an already fully evolved model of punch-and-matrix or whether an earlier technological variant of this was employed, as Paul Needham und Blaise Agüera y Arcas, among others, have postulated. Participating in the project are Dr. Vincent Christlein of Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Junior Professor Dr. Nikolaus Weichselbaumer of the Department of Book Studies at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, and Dr. Stephen Charles Mossman of the University of Manchester.