Ten Oxford academics from the Humanities and Social Sciences divisions have been awarded highly-prestigious British Academy fellowships – as the institution’s incoming president declares the 2020s to be the decade of these ‘vital’ subjects.
Announcing the 2020 fellows, Professor Julia Black FBA, the British Academy President-elect, insisted, ‘With growing evidence about their employability, the narrative that paints these subjects as recreational or non-essential needs to be challenged.’
She maintained, ‘The 2020s will be the decade that the humanities and social sciences reassert themselves on the national, and the global, stage. The last six months have highlighted just how vital these subjects are to the health, well-being and prosperity of the nation and to tackling grand challenges.’
The 2020s will be the decade that the humanities and social sciences reassert themselves on the national, and the global, stage. The last six months have highlighted just how vital these subjects are to the health, well-being and prosperity of the nation and to tackling grand challenges
Oxford’s ten new BA fellows are among just 52 UK-based fellows created this month. This is the largest number from any institution, and the academics come from across Oxford’s Humanities and Social Sciences, demonstrating the strength and versatility of the divisions.
Anna Sapir Abulafia, professor of the study of the Abrahamic religions, is an international authority on the Christian-Jewish debate. She has published widely on interactions between Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages, within the broad context of 12th and 13th century theological and ecclesiastical developments. At present, the focus of her research is on the place of Jews and Muslims in canon law.
Professor Abulafia said, ‘I feel deeply honoured by my election. I am particularly pleased that I can bring the study of Christian-Jewish relations in the Middle Ages to the Academy.’
Amy Bogaard, is head of the School of Archaeology and professor of Neolithic and Bronze age archaeology. Her research interests include ‘Feeding Anglo-Saxon England’, excavations on the lower Gypsades hill in Knossos and exploring the dynamics and causes of prehistoric land use change.
Professor Bogaard said, ‘I am honoured and delighted to join the British Academy fellowship. It is an exciting opportunity to support and promote excellent, inclusive research.’
Colin Burrow, professor of English and comparative literature, works mainly on relationships between English and classical literatures. He recently published Imitating Authors: Plato to Futurity (OUP, 2019), which is about the theory and practice of how writers (and, latterly, computers) learn from and imitate other authors. He also regularly writes long review essays in The London Review of Books.
Professor Burrow said, ‘I hope that the fellowship will enable me to help bring about a higher level of public engagement in literature in general and poetry in particular.’
Ursula Coope, professor of ancient philosophy, is the author of Freedom and Responsibility in Neoplatonist Thought (OUP 2020) and of Time for Aristotle (OUP 2005). She has written articles on Aristotle's accounts of change, agency and the infinite, and on ancient discussions of the importance of thinking for oneself. She is especially interested in questions about the relations between ancient metaphysics and ancient ethics.
Professor Coope said, 'I am delighted to have been elected to an institution dedicated to fostering scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. I am honoured to take my place alongside so other distinguished academics, and welcome the opportunity to participate in the British Academy's important work.'
Paul Fiddes, professor of systematic theology, understands ‘Systematic Theology’ to be the practice of ‘connecting’ Christian theology, first in terms of the many areas within theology itself, and then with other academic disciplines and with the wider cultural and social context. His prolific published work has connected theology with creative literature, late-modern philosophy, other world religions and the life of Christian congregations across the whole ecumenical spectrum. Twenty five years ago, he created the ‘Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture’ at Regent’s Park College, he has helped initiate a new academic discipline of ‘ecclesiology and ethnography’ and, at present, directs the inter-faith project of ‘Love in Religion’.
Professor Fiddes said: ‘It is a very great honour and a delight to be elected a fellow of the British Academy. I look forward to the new opportunities the fellowship offers for putting theology into inter-disciplinary conversations, and hope to play some part in the encouragement of younger scholars for which the Academy is rightly renowned.’
Rosalind (Polly) O’Hanlon is professor of Indian history and culture in the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Her work focuses on the early modern and colonial history of India. She also works on histories of empire, with particular reference to caste and gender; problems in intellectual history and historical methodology in the postcolonial world and the history, language and culture of the important Indian state of Maharashtra. Professor O'Hanlon aims, in particular, to contribute to our understanding of the colonial world by exploring much longer term processes of societal formation. These enable us better to understand the ruptures and discontinuities of colonialism, as well as the social institutions which survived it, often in transfigured and remade forms.
Professor O'Hanlon said, 'In these most difficult days for scholars and researchers everywhere, it is wonderful to be able to celebrate this honour. Having myself benefited from the comprehensive support the Academy offers to scholars at every stage of their careers, I am immensely grateful now for this opportunity to contribute to its work. The Academy already offers brilliant support for interdisciplinary projects. But, for scholars of the post-colonial world in particular, the Academy's developing programme of visiting fellowships and scholar exchanges gives us tremendous opportunities to build solid research links with colleagues in the countries that we study, colleagues who are in many cases also facing grave political as well as epidemiological challenges.'
‘When I first embarked on applied research, I knew it was a risk to leave well-trodden paths in psychology. However I try to bring the rigour of psychological methods to interventions that support families and childcare centres as they shape the child’s intellect and imagination. I am delighted that the British Academy has recognised the work of researchers who aim to make a difference, no matter how small, to the lives of children, families and teachers.’
We are confronted in 2020 by some of the most complex social, economic, and environmental challenges of our time. The rigorous research of social scientists will be absolutely vital to tackling these challenges for the benefit of all society in the decade to come
Rosalind Thomas, professor of Ancient Greek history, has wide cultural, intellectual and anthropological interests. She has done pioneering work on ancient Greek literacy and the interaction of the written word with orality and oral tradition. Her interests include Greek law, medicine and cultural and intellectual history. She has written on Herodotus, the 'first historian' and his relation to the intellectual currents of the day, Thucydides, and most recently on the flourishing of 'local history' in the city-states after the classical period.
Andreas Willi, Diebold professor of comparative philology in the Faculties of Classics and of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics, is a comparative linguist, specialising in the grammar and history of the ancient Indo-European languages and of Ancient Greek and Latin, in particular. He has published widely on the sociolinguistic and dialectal variation of Ancient Greek, on the evolution of its complex verbal system, and on the interface between linguistics and literary culture in the Greek and Roman worlds.
Professor Willi said, ‘Much of the fascination of studying ancient or modern languages lies in the fact that each of them makes you discover a new way of looking at the world. To be able to do so professionally is an incredible privilege in itself. Becoming a fellow of the British Academy, while enjoying this privilege is not only a huge honour, but also an encouragement to try to make others discover this richness for themselves: we must never forget that listening to the voices of other cultures on their own terms is something that is both fair and deeply enjoyable.’
I am delighted that so many of our academics have received the prestigious honour of being named Fellows of the British Academy. They have made outstanding contributions to their fields, and their research shows the breadth and strength of research across the Humanities at Oxford
The university warmly welcomed the honours.
Speaking for the Social Sciences, Professor Mark Pollard, Associate Head of Division (Research) said: ‘My warmest congratulations to Professor Bogaard, Professor Kalyvas, and Professor Sylva on the conferral of this honour, which reflects their academic distinction within the social sciences at a critical moment in history. We are confronted in 2020 by some of the most complex social, economic, and environmental challenges of our time. The rigorous research of social scientists will be absolutely vital to tackling these challenges for the benefit of all society in the decade to come.'
Summing up, Professor Karen O'Brien, Head of Humanities, maintained, 'I am delighted that so many of our academics have received the prestigious honour of being named Fellows of the British Academy. They have made outstanding contributions to their fields, and their research shows the breadth and strength of research across the Humanities at Oxford.'