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ERC ADVANCED GRANT

Equality in crisis

How does greater inequality create dividing lines in society? That is one of the central issues in Professor Bruce Kapferer’s new research project.

ECONOMY UNBALANCED: Activist groups, such as the Occupy movement, are vocal in their protest against inequality and the increasing gap between rich and poor in many Western economies.
ECONOMY UNBALANCED: Activist groups, such as the Occupy movement, are vocal in their protest against inequality and the increasing gap between rich and poor in many Western economies.
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Professor Kapferer has just received an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his project Egalitarianism: Forms, Processes, Comparisons and thus becomes the seventh recipient of an ERC advanced grant at the University of Bergen (UiB).

As a professor of social anthropology at UiB, Kapferer has a long research record concerning a broad range of social and political issues. This new project has particular relevance in light of the on-going financial crisis and how it has exacerbated forms of inequality.

“The project will take a look at differences and similarities in the creation of dividing lines in society, how this creates inequalities,” says Professor Edvard Hviding, former head of the Department of Social Anthropology at UiB. “It is a deeply political project, of extreme relevance in today’s Europe with the increasing gaps between the poor and the rich on many levels.”

Equality and diversity

Kapferer’s project aims to study egalitarian structures and processes and the underlying values that inform these. The approach will be one of analysis of text-based materials as well as fieldwork in situations where the crisis in equality is visible, in Europe and elsewhere. The project will be anchored at UiB’s Department of Social Anthropology, which will be a hub for a large network of international researchers from several social sciences, who will work together to create a global, comparative perspective.

ERC Advanced Grants are among the most prestigious awards in European academia and support world-class research. To achieve an advanced grant, the researchers must demonstrate a strong ten-year track record and a well-documented profile as a scientific leader.

First social science ERC

The dean of UiB’s Faculty of Social Sciences, Professor Knut Helland, is delighted with the faculty’s first ERC Advanced Grant.

“This grant shows UiB’s rising status as an international research university,” Helland says. “It means a lot for both the faculty and the department that one of our prominent scholars receives this kind of approval, and not the least significant is the creation of an international, scholarly community that such a grant stimulates.”

Helland also notes that as part of the evaluation process, Kapferer’s project was described as ‘pioneering’.

The ERC supports advanced grants holders for a five-year period, with support of up to Euro 2.5 million (about NOK 20 million) in this period.

Leading anthropologist

Bruce Kapferer is considered one of the most prominent social anthropologists in the world, and he has worked at UiB since 1999. His research has been diverse and has included work on ethnic identity, nationalism, and violence.

“He is a fascinating researcher, who often sees what others miss,” Helland says.

“Professor Kapferer is one of the doyens of social anthropology, who chose UiB because of our department’s international orientation. He brought with him great ideas and an unusually large global research network,” Hviding says. “It is a great honour for the department to host and be an active participant in Kapferer’s ERC project.”

(Translation: Sverre Ole Drønen.)