ERC Advanced Grants for Guido Bacciagaluppi and Rebecca Bryant

Dr. Guido Bacciagaluppi (Faculty of Science)
Dr. Guido Bacciagaluppi (Faculty of Science)

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded two ERC Advanced Grants to Guido Bacciagaluppi (Faculty of Science) and Rebecca Bryant (Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences). The grants are awarded every year to exceptional senior researchers. This makes it one of the most prestigious individual research grants.

In total, ERC awards a total of 544 million to 218 laureates. The grant, which is part of the Horizon Europe programme , gives the two Utrecht researchers the chance to shape major projects that could lead to scientific breakthroughs.

About the laureates

Associate Professor Guido Bacciagaluppi is a philosopher of physics at the Freudenthal Institute. He mainly works on quantum mechanics, including the history of quantum mechanics.

Thoughts of Niels Bohr

During the next five years, Bacciagaluppi will focus on the legacy of Niels Bohr (1885-1962). This Danish physicist and Nobel-prize winner has been hugely influential both in and outside physics, but his thoughts are also immensely misunderstood, according to Bacciagaluppi: "A few of his writings have been overstudied at the expense of many others, which led to prejudice in several fields of research, among other things."

In this ERC project, Bacciagaluppi will establish an unprejudiced understanding of Bohr’s ideas, which has implications for not only the philosophy of physics, but also beyond, such as biology and philosophy of science.

The project will closely collaborate with the Niels Bohr Archive in Copenhagen, which has only recently started digitising its collections, making the necessary resources for this project available just now.

Also an ERC Starting Grant for group

Bacciagaluppi’s colleague Niels Martens , who works in the same group, recently received an ERC Starting Grant for a project in the philosophy of cosmology. Bacciagaluppi: "Utrecht has a long tradition of philosophy and history of physics. It’s wonderful that, with these two grants, we have the opportunity to do something big in the field."

Rebecca Bryant , Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University, has also received an ERC Advanced Grant. With this prestigious European grant of 2.5 million euros, Bryant will conduct research into infrastructural imperialism over the next six years. Her research focuses on infrastructural investments that Turkey is making in countries in the Balkans, the Caucasus and in Central Asia.

Countries such as China, Russia, India and Turkey have invested heavily in the infrastructure of various areas and countries in recent years. With such investments, these countries want to create so-called ’soft power empires’: to acquire power with a soft hand in the states in which investments have been made. Bryant’s research will focus on Turkey and the infrastructure investments it has made in countries in the Balkans, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Bryant: "In six countries, we will study Turkish-sponsored megaprojects. For example, we want to know how the recipients view their investors. And we are investigating to what extent the investments affect the politics of the recipient countries."

Multipolar world

With her research, Bryant wants to find out what kind of power underlies a multipolar world, a world in which multiple countries are about the same strength or have the same influence. "The leaders of Turkey and China talk about a multipolar world all the time. But what exactly does that mean? In addition to formulating an answer to that question, my research project aims to theorize the relationship between infrastructure and empire, and provide concepts to understand the new power relations that arise today. I want us to talk about how emerging powers are rebuilding the world, and why we should be concerned about that."

Fieldwork

Thanks to the European grant, the Utrecht cultural anthropologist can appoint two PhD students and three postdoctoral researchers. "With this team, we can do a year of fieldwork in Turkey and the six other countries that are part of the study. It also allows us to set up a network of scientists working on Chinese and Russian or Soviet infrastructure investments in these same areas."