Mobility & Humanities

project of excellence

The Department of Historical and Geographic Sciences and the Ancient World (DiSSGeA) has been selected by ANVUR, the Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of the University and Research Systems, as Department of Excellence for the period 2018-2022. Thanks to this achievement, DiSSGeA will receive 6,075,000 € from the Italian Ministry for Education, University and Research (MIUR) for strengthening research activities, developing excellent teaching methods and enhancing its international profile.

Combining mobility studies and research in the humanities, as early suggested by Merriman and Pearce (2017), the project will boost the Department’s activities in the coming years. DiSSGeA aims to become a research hub for the humanistic study of mobility, meaning the movement of people, objects, ideas and texts in space and time.

The project has funded the recruitment of four (4) new staff members, as well as the development of two (2) new research infrastructures: a Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility and the Humanities, and a Digital Laboratory for Mobility Research in the Humanities (MobiLab).

The project also includes a series of initiatives fostering excellence in education: A new curriculum in Mobility Studies within the Historical Sciences Master programme, scholarships and study prizes for students with an outstanding academic record, additional funding for Erasmus+ outgoing mobility, PhD and post-doc research grants supporting research on mobility, and an invitation to world-renowned visiting scholars. Such initiatives contribute to the training of a new generation of humanists who know how to manage mobility-related topics with a high degree of awareness of their complexities.

Research aims

The scientific objective of the Project is to significantly advance the study of mobility, understood as the movement of people, objects, ideas and texts in past and present societies as well as in different geographical contexts. Taking advantage of a rich and unique mix of disciplines, with a distinctive reference to the connections between past and present times (from antiquity to contemporaneity), the Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility and the Humanities aims to contribute to the emerging area of mobility study through the humanities, which is increasingly pursued by other research hubs worldwide.

Technological and societal advancement have moved toward an increased interest in mobilities and their complexity. While this has been the object of a major involvement by the hard and social sciences, the humanities can play an equally important role in understanding mobility in a diachronic and spatial perspective. Thanks to a multifaceted conceptualisation of mobility, the availability of an ever-increasing amount of data, an expanding methodological creativity involving a variety of sources, and the convergence of social and humanities research, mobility studies today can bring together a multiplicity of movement-related phenomena in a single study program. Indeed, the study of movement-related processes is central to a diverse range of research topics and disciplinary domains at DiSSGeA.

This inclusive and plural approach will help in overcoming the traditional paradigm that reads past and present as static entities developing independently one from the other. The combination of historiographical, philological, geographical and anthropological methods, with a reference also to economic and legal aspects, allows better understanding of the dynamism of human societies and nonhuman entities, and to reconstruct in critical ways the related contexts, practices and experiences at different scales.

The project takes into consideration three areas of interest:

Mobility study methodologies.

DiSSGeA aspires to develop new methodologies to become a landmark in the scientific landscape of humanistic mobility studies. The approach is both quantitative (such as data mining and big-data analysis, historical geographical information systems and geovisualisation of mobility issues) and qualitative (such as comparative textual analysis, thematic reconstruction of networks, mobile ethnography, creative methods, phenomenological reading of mobile experiences and their representations). The newly elaborated methodologies will also be able to contribute to other fields of mobility studies in the future.

Mobility phenomena.

DiSSGeA intends to contribute to the rethinking of mobility phenomena from a humanistic perspective. Mobilities are not limited to transport or current migratory challenges, but include a variety of subjects, as for example: movements of knowledge and political cultures; movements and translation of books and textual tradition; landscape mobility practices; the narration and representation of movement; movements of scientific collections; the reimagination of the mobility-immobility nexus.

Mobility impact on the social sphere.

This area aims at understanding and interpreting the social, cultural, political and economic changes triggered by mobility phenomena. In such a framework, the synergy between the different disciplines within DiSSGeA allows, on one hand, to contextualise the impact of mobility phenomena in the contemporary world and, on the other, to study the profound dynamism of societies in all historical epochs. Historicising mobilities, thus, is also seen as an opportunity to critically rethink present and future mobilities.