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Theme leader
Prof Nick Groom
01326 371804

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Identities and beliefs are concerned with who we perceive ourselves to be, as individuals and groups, and how this shapes the ways we behave.

Identities and Beliefs

Identities and beliefs is concerned with some of the most central questions about human behaviour and social interaction. Key aspects of this theme’s research are:

  • Studying who we perceive ourselves, and others, to be and why.
  • Exploring the shaping of identities through time, space, experience and encounters.
  • Investigating how convictions shape the ways we behave.

Research in this area will:

  • Help in negotiating tensions that arise between national and regional identities.
  • Facilitate inter-religious dialogue and understanding.
  • Inform reflection on current discussions about the ‘Big Society’ and the role of voluntary and third sector organisations and their partnerships with government.
  • Shape policy and practice in medical and religious institutions.

REF case studies

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the new system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

Exeter came 16th in the REF 2014. A number of case studies are submitted on which the University is assessed: below are those we submitted related to the Environment and Sustainability theme.

Case studyDescription
Connecting Cornwall Dr Richard Noakes led ‘Connecting Cornwall’, a project working with the Porthcurno Telegraph Museum (PTM) from February 2009 - July 2012, looking at the lives and careers of the ‘ordinary’ men who operated the Victorian and Edwardian British submarine cable network. The project was fundamental in building a working relationship with PTM that now paves the way for future research-based collaborations.
Engaging audiences in the South West's literary heritage Members of Exeter University’s Centre for South West Writing have collaborated with authors, scholars, musicians, archivists, museum staff, private businesses, public councils, and tourist organisations to enhance public understanding of the cultural heritage of the South West of England and its distinctive literary traditions.
Engaging people in shared reflection and creativity Professor Elena Isayev has led three projects, drawing on the implications of historical research, in collaboration with art practitioners, to engage young people, minority and disaffected groups in shared reflection and creative activity.
Influencing urban planning policy Professor Timothy Gorringe’s research examines issues in urban planning and transition towns from a theological and ethical perspective. It places moral, spiritual and aesthetic values alongside economic and physical considerations at the heart of the planning process, and provides analyses of movements seeking environmental and social change.
Mapping British South Asian theatre The British Asian Theatre Project (2004-2009), involved researchers from the Centre for Performance Histories and Cultures. The project charted and disseminated the cultural history and heritage of British Asian theatrical practitioners, enriching appreciation and preserving the heritage of British Asian theatre, partly by enabling theatre professionals to possess their own history more securely. This led to a further research project, The Southall Story (2011-2013), which is documenting the cultural history of the art forms and political movements among the British Asian communities in Southall.
Providing new perspectives on identity and citizenship As long-running debates on what it means to be British, English, Scottish or Cornish grow more urgent, researchers at the University of Exeter have engaged different publics in new perspectives on identity and citizenship, encouraging them to reconsider their own identities in the context of regional and national cultural heritage.
Transforming how museums connect communities with their seafaring heritage A project held at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall (NMMC), supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Knowledge Transfer Fellowship (KTF), has demonstrated the value of experimental maritime archaeology in engaging the public with the past.
Using biblical texts and archaeology to challenge and inform religious and political beliefs Certain figures and stories from the Hebrew Bible – such as Abraham or King David, or the story of the Garden of Eden – are familiar to most people, yet their historical and cultural contexts are still being explored and only just beginning to enter public consciousness. Biblical history, too easily dismissed as marginal in a secular age, remains highly pertinent to modern convictions and conflicts, as these biblical stories are central to both the Jewish and Christian faiths, and highly relevant to present-day territorial disputes in the region popularly known as the Holy Land.

Our impact

  • Two projects are helping to inform and reshape the teaching of RE in secondary schools. Research into biblical texts and environmental ethics by Prof David Horrell and Dr Anna Davis is helping to find ways of enhancing RE teaching at GCSE and A-Level. Work by Prof Esther Reed and Dr Rob Freathy is developing an approach to teaching the Bible based on narrative philosophy and theology.
  • Prof Francesca Stavrakopoulou is a regular on TV and presented her own series for the BBC, Bible's Buried Secrets, each episode of which was seen by more than 1.5 million people. The series used recent archaeological and historical research to challenge many important beliefs about biblical characters and stories which are central to both Judaism and Christianity.
  • Prof Paul Cloke's research has examined the role of faith-based organisations in providing welfare and care services for marginalised people in European cities. The research emphasised the scale and impact that faith-motivated individuals and groups are achieving in serving and caring for homeless people, asylum seekers, victims of trafficking, victims of indebtedness, and other socially excluded groups, with implications for policy-making in these areas.

Sub themes