Posts Tagged ‘europe

13
Apr
17

bahrain, 13 april

I am in Bahrain for the Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective conference.

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We have been hearing papers outlining the nature of the Islamic occupations from Brunei to Morocco via Turkmenistan, Yemen, Saudi and many others. In some areas such as the Levant, these rather late, medieval, levels were dug straight through to get to the older, Classical or Biblical-era, levels that were of more interest to the excavators. I will be talking about West Africa later today; there the problem has sometimes been the opposite, where sites were excavated down to Islamic levels – enough to try and show that a site mentioned in Arabic written records had been identified – and no further. Neither approach is considered acceptable today, by the way!

 

 

30
Mar
17

a50

Here is the statement from the seven national academies of the UK on the day that that UK government set in train the process of leaving the European Union.

Last November, the British Academy provided written evidence to the British Parliament, including an assessment of the impact on UK Higher Education of leaving the EU. Here are a few points taken from that document:

  • The UK is currently underinvesting in research and innovation compared to its main competitors, and European funding makes a significant contribution. This is particularly the case in the humanities and the social sciences; from 2007 to 2015, for example, UK-based researchers in this area won over €626 million (just over a third of all total funding available in the humanities and social sciences) from Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). One of those was grants mine, and it made possible all the work in Bénin which you have been reading about in this blog. It probably also helped the Leverhulme Trust decide to award me the grant to work on cowrie shells.
  • A negative rhetoric towards ‘expertise’ has been developing. One famous instance was the justice secretary’s comment that the people of the UK have had enough of experts. The British Academy notes that  “Such rhetoric can create an environment that is understandably perceived as less conducive, less welcoming and more restrictive to academic freedom, enterprise and endeavour. As the UK withdraws from the EU, the higher education sector can ill afford a growing reputation, whether real or perceived, as one that does not acknowledge positively, respect and support academic expertise and scholarship”.
  • Almost 50% of UK academic papers are written with an international partner, of which currently 60% are with EU partners. EU nationals make up 16% of the UK-based academic workforce. The ten higher education institutions that do best in the Research Excellence Framework employ 125% more researchers from non-UK EU countries than the next best ten institutions.
  • EU students are an important part of the university scene. They make up 5.5% of the entire student body; in particular postgraduate research students from non-UK EU countries account for 13.7% of postgrads. The rhetoric on international students has become increasingly divisive and self-defeating for the UK’s position in the world, and its ability to maximise opportunities for able students and staff; a welcoming and cosmopolitan atmosphere is needed to attract overseas students, European or from the rest of the world.
  • The ERC would be a considerable attraction for UK-based researchers to bid for and, if successful, to leave the UK to go somewhere within the EU or an associated country. If the UK came to an agreement with the rest of the EU on EEA status, much of this would be mitigated. The crux of this, however, depends on freedom of movement, which in the current climate appears at best far from certain.

Clearly there are some difficult negotiations ahead for the UK government, and this has been known from some time. If you are interested in more reading along this vein then check out the British Academy’s notes on what they feel should be the UK’s negotiating objectives for the withdrawal from the EU.

 

15
Dec
16

Petition

Clarify plans to protect UK Research and Universities from impacts of leaving EU

The prospect of leaving the EU has left the UK’s Higher Education and Research sectors – among the country’s most successful exporters of services – in damaging uncertainty. Can Government clarify its position on the rights of EU staff, continued research funding, and staff and student recruitment?

 

Open for UK residents and citizens to sign at

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/174915

07
Nov
16

spotlight on crossroads… and uk at a crossroads

The University of East Anglia (UEA) puts the spotlight on our recent work in Benin: read about it here.

UEA is in the top 15 institutions for research impact in the UK and ranked 63rd worldwide for research citations. Much of this is a product of international collaborations such as Crossroads. … and we in UK Higher Education are really worried at present. There are 32,000 non-British EU academics in UK university teaching and research posts, accounting for 17% of the total. UEA Vice-Chancellor notes, “UEA was founded with an international outlook. It’s in our DNA, it’s at the heart of our interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to research. We have always welcomed students and staff from around the world and we always will”.

 

 

21
Oct
16

st andrews 24 october

Heading up to St Andrews to give a paper at the Medieval Studies seminar of the School of History there. The title indicates a focus on the cowrie shell, and I am going to add in a bit about the northern European finds of such shells in medieval graves (often those of women and/or children) (see here a recent story). Of course, I will also give a snapshot of our archaeological work in Benin, which situates where I am coming from. Even though we were not fortunate enough to recover medieval cowries there…

All of this is bringing me back to some of the West Africa/Europe comparative work I have done before, in my 2007 book and papers since, including one written recently with Ian F from Oxford.

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Meanwhile in Norwich, we have been mapping out the next 6-8 months which will include fieldwork in the Maldives, research trips to West and East Africa, and hopefully a couple of nice papers reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of our team: we hope museums, archaeologists, anthropologists and marine biologists will all find something there. Stay tuned…

22
Nov
14

AARD 2014; and European-funded Africanists

I’m in Bristol for the eleventh African Archaeology Research Day. It’s the fourth at which I have presented Crossroads materials (after London in 2011, Southampton in 2012, and Norwich in 2013) and things have been coming along as we enter the project’s final year.

I talked mainly about how we might write a history of Dendi in the longue durée thanks to the variety and richness of the sources we have for the region: maps, archaeology, language maps, oral traditions, written texts, finds analysis… all giving information on different time periods. Changes in the environment, how much the archaeology of our area resembles (or not) that of neighbouring areas, and whether Dendi saw several shifts from vacuum to crossroads, were the main three questions I threw out there.

What has been really nice this year has been the possibility to speak alongside several other, inspiring, European-funded projects. The Garamantes and their links with the wider world (including sub-Saharan Africa?), Indian Ocean maritime connections as seen through food, and markers of the Atlantic slave trade, were other topics covered – all, again, about the role of the African continent in world history and its connections beyond its shores.

Thank you to the organisers for the opportunity; and time for another vote of thanks to the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research.

06
Dec
12

research austerity 2

An update on my earlier post.

The petition “no cuts on research” now stands at over 150000 signatures. On 15 November a delegation led by Nobel laureates met the President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, the President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, to urge EU leaders to secure the future budget for Horizon 2020, the European innovation and research programme to run from 2014 to 2020.

A bit of background: Horizon 2020 had been announced on 30 November 2011 by Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn as a package of measures to boost research, innovation and competitiveness in Europe.  The proposed budget for the programme was €80 billion, including an increase in funding of 77% for the very successful European Research Council (ERC). The proposal then had to be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption before the end of 2013.

Back to the present… – the meetings to discuss this and other budgets was held on 22-23 November 2012 in Brussels. But European leaders walked away from the table without a deal on the European budget for the rest of the decade. “With 27 nations each pushing for their own priorities, finding an agreement on spending plans is inevitably complex, and the tight economic climate aggravated the differences even more than usual”, notes a recent editorial of Nature, commenting that the Horizon 2020 research programme comes out among the worst of the cuts proposed by Herman Van Rompuy, with a suggested 12% reduction in funding. Helga Nowotny, president of the ERC since March 2010, likewise sees a bleak future for the council under the Van Rompuy proposals.

The decision on the EU budget is now delayed until the beginning of 2013.




About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

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