Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Periodic Report Summary 1 - SPECTRESS (Social PracticE Cultural Trauma and REestablishing Solid Sovereignties)

The SPeCTReSS project applies 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 aims 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 undertake research secondments and projects intended to document the inscriptions of this status of cultural trauma in both official and unofficial forms of 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 consolidates a network of participants from Europe (Ireland, Germany, Poland, Croatia and Estonia), Asia (India, Japan) and South America (Brazil), plus the USA to create a rich comparative framework for the achievement of its goals. Since the beginning of the project, this network has exchanged 24 seconded researchers for a total of over 54 months within the network. In each case, these researchers have been fully integrated into the research groups of the institutions they have visited, participating in exchanges of various sorts, 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 several years to gestate its outputs. The research blogs and full secondment reports (available at indicate three general areas of emerging impact, however. First, the adoption of the ideas and rhetoric of cultural trauma across the projects and national contexts is progressing, and will lead by the end of the project to the creation of a truly global context for the discussion of cultural trauma. Second, we are establishing a novel web of comparative studies, allowing us to validate the specificity (or lack thereof) of national or local narratives of cultural trauma. Finally, the generic benefits of mobility for younger and senior staff are very clear. The exchange of ideas, evidence and contexts if of great importance for us all, and this can only truly take place in the context of a personal relationship built up over weeks and months.

The network has also hosted 2 workshop/project meetings, the first a 2-day meeting hosted by Trinity College in Dublin in 2014 and the second a week-long summer school hosted by the University of Zagreb in Dubrovnik in 2015. These events have been one of the most important for the network, as they have allowed a critical mass of all partners (European and non-European) to gather together to share knowledge and methodological approaches. The Dubrovnik School proved very popular and useful within the project and beyond, and will be repeated in the summer of 2016 as a stand-alone, self-financing event. The network also produced a further major public event in 2015, entitled "Configuring Early Modern South East Asia," which was held in JNU in November 2015. This event was instigated by Professor Jane Ohlmeyer following upon her secondment to JNU, which was itself the subject of a newspaper article in the Times of India. We were also approached to have the project featured in the magazine ‘EU Research,’ but had to decline for reasons of funding.

An additional result of the project has been the success we have had in acquiring match funding and in pushing forward ambitious funding applications as a project team. The Dubrovnik summer school was heavily co-funded by a variety of sources, and the relationship between TCD and the University of Tokyo also 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).

The project is expected to result in a greatly enhanced international network on the topic of cultural trauma, which will have 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, makes the exchange enriching across a number of axes. It also seeks to develop an interdisciplinary and collaborative mode of work in a set of disciplines where this would not be the norm. Above and beyond these goals for our researchers and our research culture, however, we also hope to see, by the end of the project, pathways emerging by which we can use our well-grounded understanding of cultural trauma to influence policymaking and citizen conceptions of national and supernational identities.
For more project information, see:

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