The humanities are essentially the study of the human condition.
They include some of the longest-established fields of human academic endeavour, such as history, law and music. Research in some disciplines, such as law and architecture, provides a continually-updated knowledge base for the professions. Others such as history and archaeology ask questions about the development of our societies while others again, including journalism and political studies, look at pressing contemporary issues.
Cardiff is well placed to answer these questions. It is well-equipped with documentary sources in all these fields and the latest high-technical equipment to support research in areas such as archaeology and architecture. It is situated in an area which has been a focal point in human history since before Roman times and is now a capital city as the now-devolved United Kingdom enters a new political phase.
This impacts on our understanding of many societies throughout time and geography. For example, Cardiff archaeologists have excavated the earliest known glassworks in Egypt and recreated a working kiln to demonstrate how the ancient Egyptians would have produced their glass.
Meanwhile, the Wales Governance Centre was created in 1999 to act as a centre for scholarly research on legal and political matters relating to the National Assembly for Wales. It involves scholars from the School of European Studies and colleagues from the Schools of Law and Business.
Contemporary issues are also explored at the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies. The School’s research on modern media methods was the academic underpinning for Nick Davies’ recent controversial book Flat Earth News.
Equally pressing are the issues considered by academics in the Philosophy Research Group at the School of English, Communication and Philosophy. The Group is the base for the Centre for Applied Ethics, where researchers work with colleagues in Law, Medicine, Pharmacy on ethical issues including the impact of genetic science.
The School of History, Archaeology and Religion also has research interests in contemporary societies and the roles that religion and spirituality play within them, for example in relation to the body and health, and to Islam in the modern world. The School’s work also enhances our understanding of the past, with research looking at the history of religion in Asia and the way early Christianity interacted with Graeco-Roman religions and later Islam.
In a similar way, research in the School of Welsh spans both past and present, with studies taking in Welsh literature from the medieval to the contemporary, from poetry to prose, from children’s literature to women’s studies. The School is also a pioneer in studies of Welsh communities overseas in the USA, Canada and, in particular, Patagonia.
Likewise, the School of Music has research interests in historical musicology and is one of the few schools of its kind to study contemporary popular music. There is a strong practical element too, with a composition by one of School’s postgraduate students – part of her PhD submission – recently played at the University’s 125th anniversary gala concert.
Research at the School of Architecture also includes practically oriented work with a strong emphasis on sustainability. There is also a research strength in the history and theory of architecture. The Architectural History and Theory Group has a wide range of interests, including building in non-western cultures. There is a research centre dedicated to the architecture, visual arts and material culture of South Asia, with a particular concentration on Indian temples.
The questions academics wish to answer are becoming ever more complex, involving more than one specialism in their solution. To this end, the University has set up the Cardiff Humanities Research Institute to encourage research collaborations, knowledge-sharing, intellectual debate and exchange across all areas of research in the humanities schools. The Institute’s mission is to, “promote and develop the visibility and value of Cardiff Humanities research cultures, environments, people and achievements, to the University, and to national and international audiences.”