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UCL Grand Challenges

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Examples of what we have done

The UCL Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding has funded over £100,000 in Small Grants to UCL researchers, hosted events in London and around the world, including roundtables, seminars and public events, and helped create the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

The following are just a few examples of the cross-disciplinary work that the Grand Challenge has brought about and the important impact the work has had in the world. For more details about other work funded by this Grand Challenge since its inception, please contact the co-ordinator Aarathi Prasad: a.prasad@ucl.ac.uk.

Workshop: Forced marriage research leads to new teaching for UCL medical students

Funding from the Grand Challenge of Cultural Understanding helped UCL health researchers hold a workshop on forced marriage. Though an illegal activity, forced marriage still happens in the UK. The workshop set the scene and explored some of the key questions about forced marriage in regards to culture and honour, the law and police, education and health services.

Thanks to work started by the workshop, UCL medical students now receive lectures on gender-based violence and forced marriage. Seminars have also been set up, with the aim of raising awareness of forced marriage and encouraging dialogue on this difficult and misunderstood practice. Find out more

This graph visualises the collaborations between researchers in UCL departments and divisions facilitated by UCL Grand Challenges Small Grants in Cultural Understanding (formerly Intercultural Interaction), from its establishment in 2011 to the end of the 2016/17 academic year.

Lancet Commission: UCL leads the way on the research of culture and health

The Lancet Commission on Culture and Health, published in 2014, has brought together researchers from around the world to publish influential research on the important role of less well-studied health determinants, such as culture, play and the provisioning of equitable healthcare. Find out more

Event series: Gained in Translation

Through a series of five events between February and September 2013, Professor Stephen M Hart, UCL Spanish, Portuguese & Latin American Studies, expanded horizons in current thinking about translations. The series – organised with the Cervantes Institute and Poet in the City – included a focus on the mechanics of translation and an examination of how ideas are translated across cultures. The events and subsequent discussions led to:

  • a first translation into English of a contemporary Peruvian novel, Cesar Vallejo's Season in Hell
  • the creation of two films about two French poets, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud: a documentary (No. 8 New College Street) and a drama, House of Knives
  • selected papers of the “Gained in Translation” conference are to appear in a book accepted for publication by Cambridge Scholars, and edited by Stephen Hart and Zoltan Biedermann
  • Stephen Hart successfully applied for a Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship, worth £97,115 from 1 October 2015-30 September 2017.

Conference: Moving Borders – Comparative Perspectives on Refuge

In June 2016, students on the Global Migration Msc held a successful one day conference ‘Moving Borders – Comparative Perspectives on Refuge’ which was supported by the UCL Grand Challenges Student Project Fund.

The conference featured input from institutions in London and abroad and from the Refugee Council, proving an inspiring and informative window into contemporary debates about refugees.

Find out more

Event series: Rousseau 300

Between January and April 2012, a series of cross-faculty events were held at UCL to celebrate the tercentenary of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s birth. Rousseau has been cast as a champion of Enlightenment and a beacon of Romanticism, a father figure of radical revolutionaries and totalitarian dictators alike, an inventor of the modern notion of the self – and an advocate of stern ancient republicanism. How can the writings of a single author elicit such contradictory interpretations?

The events, featuring input from diverse UCL faculties and guests from around the world, examined these questions and sought to re-evaluate Rousseau's enduring legacy.

Find out more