01.04.2020 Africa

European Research Council Backs Research Into Anti-Slavery In Africa

By Tony Moran
European Research Council Backs Research Into Anti-Slavery In Africa
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A University of Birmingham expert has won a share of a £400 million fund to support her research into the rise of Africa’s anti-slavery movement

Dr. Benedetta Rossi is one of two researchers at the University to be awarded ERC Advanced Grants as part of the latest €450 million funding for Europe’s long-term frontier research.

A Reader in African History and Anthropology, Dr. Rossi secured a grant to explore ‘African Abolitionism: The Rise and Transformations of Anti-Slavery in Africa’.

She said: "I am grateful to the ERC for this great opportunity to expand our understanding of African and global abolitionism by developing new research with a team of researchers in Africa, Europe, and the UK.

“The AFRAB Project is the first large-scale comparative research project on African abolitionists - tracing the historical developments of anti-slavery ideas and actions across African societies, networks and actors. Its results will contribute not only to African historiography, but also to the study of abolitionism as a global phenomenon."

Her colleague in the University’s College of Arts and Law Dr Adam Schembri also won a grant to support his research into ‘the dynamics of sign language grammar: Morphology, language change, iconicity and social structure in signing communities’.

Dr. Schembri, a Reader in Linguistics in the Department of English Language and Linguistics, said: “This new project aims to better understand similarities and differences in the grammar of sign languages around the world, and how they are shaped by language-internal and language-external factors.

“I’m extremely excited about the opportunity this funding will provide: how it will enable us to build a team of deaf and hearing researchers working on sign language linguistics research here at the University of Birmingham, and what the project will teach us about the emergence and evolution of sign languages in particular, and human language in general.”

The College of Arts and Law academics are among 185 winners of the annual ERC Advanced Grants competition. This funding is part of the EU research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

The new grantees will carry out their projects at universities and research centres across 20 EU Member States and associated countries with Germany (35), UK (34) and France (21) hosting most grants.

The President of the European Research Council, Professor Mauro Ferrari, commented: “I am glad to announce a new round of ERC grants that will back cutting-edge, exploratory research, set to help Europe and the world to be better equipped for what the future may hold. That’s the role of blue sky research.”

Set up by the European Union in 2007, the European Research Council is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe.

The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.

Tony Moran, International Communications Manager, University of Birmingham

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