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Social PracticE Cultural Trauma and REestablishing Solid Sovereignties

Final Report Summary - SPECTRESS (Social PracticE Cultural Trauma and REestablishing Solid Sovereignties)

The SPeCTReSS project has applied the concept of cultural trauma, defined as radical and comprehensive 'shock to the cultural tissue of a society,' to investigate the ongoing development of national identities in Europe and beyond. It worked to build a dialogue among humanistic research centres in largely ‘post-traumatic’ states, regarding the positive negotiation of cultural trauma and ‘new sovereignties’ in the 20th-21st Century. To do this, its participants have undertaken research secondments and projects intended to document the inscriptions of this status of cultural trauma in both official and unofficial discourse and other forms of public ‘performance,' and to identify sources and resources for research across national boundaries which cast light on these issues, harnessing the tacit knowledge of local scholars regarding the archival holdings in their region/country and theoretical material produced in their mother tongue.

SPeCTReSS has leveraged its network of participants from Europe (Ireland, Germany, Poland, Croatia and Estonia), Asia (India) and South America (Brazil), plus the USA to create a rich comparative framework for the achievement of its goals. Over the course of the project, this network has supported 95 exchanges among 77 researchers, lasting between 1 week and 9 months, for a total of over 215 person months of exchange. In each case, these researchers have been integrated into the research groups of the institutions they have visited, contributing to their host institutions in a variety of ways, consulting research material and making at least one formal presentation of their work to the host institution.

The long term impact of these secondments in terms of results is difficult to determine at this point in time: humanities research generally takes many years to gestate its outputs, and the majority of the network secondments took place in the period 2016-2017. The full secondment reports (available at indicate two general areas of impact, however. First, the adoption of the ideas and rhetoric of cultural trauma across the projects and national contexts has progressed as we had expected, and is leading to creation of a truly global context for the discussion of cultural trauma. Second, the generic benefits of mobility for younger and senior staff are very clear. The exchange of ideas, evidence and contexts is of great importance for us all, and this can only truly take place in the context of a rich and multi-faceted relationship built up over weeks and months.

The network also hosted a number of non-secondment events, including a kick-off meeting hosted by Trinity College in Dublin in 2014; three editions of a week-long summer school in Dubrovnik in 2015, 2016 and 2017; a conference on "Configuring Early Modern South East Asia” in Delhi in 2015; a conference on “Traumatic Modernities” in Krakow in 2017; and a final workshop and conference in Sao Paulo in 2017. These events provided valuable opportunities for the network to share knowledge in a multilateral fashion, among European and international partners as well as between them.

An additional result of the project has been the success it has had in acquiring match funding and in pushing forward ambitious funding applications as a project team. The Dubrovnik summer school, Krakow conference and Sao Paulo workshop were all heavily co-funded by a variety of sources, and some aspects of the secondment programme received additional support from Ireland's Science Foundation. The European partners also submitted a proposal to the HERA call on the 'Uses of the Past,' which received very positive reviews (although it was not in the end funded), but an application to the US Mellon Foundation to run a global summer school on the SPECTRESS model was awarded funding of $180K for activities in the years 2018-2020, and a COST Action (NEP4Dissent) in which many members participate was also successfully delivered.

The project has resulted in a greatly enhanced international network working on topic of national identity through the lens of cultural trauma, which has benefitted all of the researchers involved, as well as their research groups and broader institutions. In particular, the consortium balance between Western and Eastern Europe, and between high income and lower income international partners, has made the exchange deeply enriching across a number of axes. It has also developed a large-scale interdisciplinary and collaborative mode of work in of disciplines where this would not be the norm. Above and beyond these benefits to researchers and to research culture, however, the SPECTRESS project has also established pathways and examples by which humanities scholars can apply their understanding of cultural trauma to influence policymaking and citizen conceptions of national and supernational identities.

Further information about the project can be found at: of from the project coordinator, Dr Jennifer Edmond (