Research in the humanities

Why Conducting transdisciplinary research ?

The interest in social and ecological sustainability sparked also a rich development of transdisciplinary approaches the humanities. For instance, a very active community in the environmental humanities critically analyses new narratives in novels and other cultural artefacts around environmental issues (cf. for instance Higgins et al., 2020). One example are the research projects on nature writing of the Environmental Humanities Research group at the University of Leeds, who investigates the relationship between human creativity, social life and the nonhuman world though collaborations with academic and non-academic partners.

What is a typical example of transdisciplinary research in the humanities ?

Land Lines, a research project that explored British nature writing from the late eighteenth century to the present (cf. The project, running between 2017 and 2019, was a collaboration between researchers from the Universities of Leeds, Sussex and St Andrews. The project involved various creative engagement initiatives, in order to gain a new understanding of environmental issues and the natural world. For instance, one follow-up project on species extinction, « Tipping Points », organized a creative writing workshop, a nature writing workshop and symposium with stakeholders in land ownership, management and agriculture.

Nightjar New York Public Library

Figure. The Nightjar (or also Nighthawk in popular naming) in nature and in arts. Sources: Mike Pennington via (License CC By SA 2.0) ; via New York Public Library, Public Domain)

What tools were used ?

The Environmental Humanities Research Group co-constructed specific social interventions with social actors, in close interactions with the ongoing research:

  • The project on “Tracks, Traces and Trails” is co-constructed between the University of Leeds and Natural England, the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England. Through creative interventions, the project seeks to connect communities to their local natural reserves.
  • The project on “Tipping points” is co-constructed between the University of Leeds and the Castle Howard Estate in Yorkshire, who is currently in the planning stage f land-use changes with a wilding initiative. Tipping Points will maintain a close focus on the communities impacted most directly by these decisions, through a series of public engagement workshops, collaborations, and knowledge-sharing between different stakeholders in land ownership, management and agriculture.

References to this section