A major humanities initiative has been launched at Oxford University that promises to provide a new platform for cross-disciplinary research.
The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) will allow humanities scholars to collaborate with researchers in other colleges, disciplines, divisions and institutions, and to engage with non-academic partners and the wider public.
Many of the University's most prominent figures gathered to help launch the centre, which aims to stimulate and support high-quality, cross-boundary research activities.
Speaking at the event in the Radcliffe Humanities Building, Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Hamilton said: 'This is an opportunity here, in a single site, for research in the humanities to take on a different feel and a different flavour – a different level of collaboration. It's an opportunity as well to do something that TORCH will very much focus on, and that's to lead the University's campaign to promote the humanities and very much emphasise its place within the public debate.'
TORCH is the humanities research centre for the 21st century
Professor Shearer West
Professor Shearer West, Head of the Humanities Division, added: 'TORCH is the humanities research centre for the 21st century. It's providing us with a space for collaboration between different academics and different disciplines, for incubating new research ideas, and it's also a space to enable us to engage more with members of the public who might be interested in our research and to bring those people into the University of Oxford to discuss our research with us.'
TORCH already sponsors nine exciting new interdisciplinary research networks, including projects focusing on celebrity research, early modern Catholicism, and race and resistance in the 20th century. The centre will sponsor up to 10 such networks each year, as well as providing a home for major research programmes and sponsoring a number of cultural engagement fellows.
Dr Stephen Tuck, Director of TORCH, said: 'Some of the most pressing academic and public issues require collaboration across disciplines. TORCH provides a space for people to do that, whether it's a small new academic conversation or a major existing project, both of which will hopefully grow.'
Among the academics attending the launch event was mathematics professor Marcus du Sautoy, who spoke of his excitement at the possibility of being able to collaborate with colleagues in the Humanities Division.
He said: 'I think this is a really exciting moment in the academic world where we're starting to talk to each other for the first time. Science really needs to engage with the humanities because the humanities can help us look at questions we're trying to answer in a new way, and that's often the way to make a breakthrough.'
TORCH will also be hosting a range of workshops, conferences, early-career reading groups and summer schools, as well as administering a visiting professor programme which will bring leading academics, practitioners and public figures to Oxford.