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Research priority area

Being Human: Past, Present and Future

This research priority area was established in the university to address areas of research that were concerned with human experience and a sense of heritage and direction.

This research priority area draws on the riches of the past, with the formative potency of memory, and focuses on engaging with modern thinking about humanity in the cyber-age and considering possible futures.

The modern post-secularised situation is one which looks for the recovery of meaning following the profound loss of commonly accepted construals of reality. Within this context, the questioning of what it means to be human is a key imperative underlying the area’s direction of research.

This is inseparable from acknowledging how the meaning of the human is continually contested by, and inextricably entwined with, powerful forces of globalisation, spectacular advances in technology and scientific knowledge, and conflicts over politics, ideology and resources.

Montpellier, Cheltenham

Heritage and direction

This strand of the research area is related to the preservation, encoding and transference of our collective experience, and what might be called our mimetic inheritance. This inheritance embraces a wide body of work, and research in philosophy, theology, history, English, art, and writing, ranging from literary, film, language and cultural studies to computer science and journalism among others.

Meaning and reality

This strand of the research priority area focuses on artistic, cultural, curatorial, and critical concerns. This includes artistic, philosophical, and spiritual enterprises, and the critical study of textual and visual artefacts, and social and material conditions of the production of such artefacts. Research in this area focuses on the study, questioning, and representation of the nature of our reality, and in finding ways for us to critically examine it, including through the generation of artistic media, and through the reception of such media.

Buddist monks outside religious temple
Mountain top through clouds

Forces and contests

This strand of the research priority area focuses on the study and representation of the conflicts and contests one finds where powerful forces come into apposition and opposition, and what that means for us as individuals and as a species. Naturally, there is significant cross-fertilisation of ideas with the other two strands, and this strand covers a broad range of work in Literary, Historical and Philosophical Studies, while also including work produced in artistic and other media.


Research centres


Contact Prof. Nigel McLoughlin, research priority area convenor for Being Human: Past, Present and Future.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can within office hours