Research Environments

Several scholars at the department work within interdiciplinary research environments. These are presented below in alfabethical order.

Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR)Educational science research environments (History and Education; Religious Education; UmSOD)Ethics and Social PhilosophyGenderLanguage and Cognition/Cognitive ScienceNorthern StudiesPremodern Studies (UGPS)

Centre for Demographic and Ageing Research (CEDAR)

Centre for demographic and Ageing Research - CEDARCEDAR Research consists of the previous Centre for Population Studies (CPS), the research programme Ageing and Living Conditions (ALC), Historical Demography and the Graduate School in Population Dynamics and Public Policy. 

In various projects, scholars from three faculties and a large number of disciplines research the transition from a young population to an ageing society: What happens with people's living conditions when the demographic structure is transformed? The goal is to address the consequences of changing living conditions in various groups in society. This means examining how altered cognition, health, economy, social relations and participation is affecting old and young, men and women, wealthy and poor, healthy and sick, as well as different majority and minority groups.

An important point of departure are the longitudinal databases developed at CEDAR (including POPUM, POPLINK, the Linnaeus Database and SHARE), as well as information from databases developed at other units at Umeå University (such as Betula and the Västerbotten Intervention Programme, VIP).

Important themes for the research are:

  • Cognitive and physical ageing
  • Participation of the elderly
  • Living conditions in majority and minority groups during different phases of the demographic transition
  • Determinants of population trends


Ethics and Social Philosophy

The philosophy group at Umeå University has been growing in recent years. A few of us in this group work in applied research areas which include political philosophy and practical ethics. Research topics include broad questions about individual and collective responsibility (Gunnar Björnsson and Daniela Cutas), paternalism and public health (Kalle Grill), and environmental ethics (Lars Samuelsson), as well as more specific questions about ethics and policy in the realm of close personal relationships, reproduction and parenting (Daniela Cutas and Kalle Grill), or equality in education (Lars Lindblom). Research ethics is an ongoing research interest for several of the group members. Since the spring of 2013, we organise a seminar series with both internal and invited speakers. The nature of these seminars is interdisciplinary and everyone is welcome.


Gender StudiesFor over 20 years, the department has been a strong environment for gender studies research environment with research on the history of women and gender, the history of the family, and men´s studies. In recent years, research has also been done on feminist philosophy. Some of the themes investigated at different periods of history include: women and economics, education and gender, violence and masculinity, history of law and gender, gender and politics, sexual identity and gender, and reproduction and gender. The research done in gender studies has been published in doctoral theses and other scholarly publications but also spread through textbooks and popular science channels.

Several of the research projects have been externally financed through funding from the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences, and other research councils. Gender studies researchers participate actively in research exchanges in the Nordic countries and in other international contexts. They also participate in interdisciplinary collaborations at Umeå University, not least with researchers at Umeå Centre of Gender Studies (UCGS). The following are examples of ongoing externally funded projects: Close personal relationships, children and the family (Swedish Research Council), Debts in preindustrial Europe (Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences) and Gender, Class and Citizenship in the Swedish education system (Swedish Research Council).  A number of the department’s doctoral students are or have been attached to the graduate school at UCGS and contribute to both the development of their own subject and to the field of gender studies research in general. The department has organised a large number of workshops and conferences. Some examples in 2015 and 2016 are the workshops on Gender and Status Competition, on Gender, Class and Education, on Women and Credit, and on Feminist Philosophy: Time and History. The latter workshop was run in collaboration with UCGS and Nordic Summer University (NSU). Several international top researchers have visited the department. Some of the guests in recent years include Merry Wiesner Hanks, Jacqueline van Gent, Giulia Calvi, Elizabeth Blake and Joan Wallach Scott. In 2015-2017, the board of directors of Sveriges Kvinno- och Genushistoriker (the Swedish Association of Women and Gender Historians) is based in Umeå. In October 2016, the association organised a half day seminar on Gender in historical research/History in gender research.

Language and Cognition/Cognitive Science

Language and Cognition, Cognitive ScienceIn the field of Language and Cognition/Cognitive Science it is studied how people handle and transmit information. Perception, thinking and action are parts of what is studied, as is memory, planning and different forms of communication. Similarities and differences between the ways humans, animals and artificial systems process information are also parts of the field. Some examples of over-arching research issues in the area are these:

  • Do we think and reason in a kind of inner "mental language" and if so, is this language similar to or quite different from our common, public language? Is our thinking more picture-like or more word-like?
  • How are our mental lives structured? Do they consist of many specialised functions, or by a few more general mechanisms that deal with many different types of information?
  • To what extent are our cognitive abilities innate, and to what extent are they something we acquire?
  • What dependencies are there between language and thought? To what extent do our thinking abilities depend on our language, and to what extent does our language depend on our thinking abilities?
  • Can we ever communicate our private thought contents in the language, and if so, how is that possible?

At the Department of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies such issues are explored within parts of philosophy, primarily in the philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, theory of knowledge, and logic. The research field is, however, highly interdisciplinary and at Umeå University research in the field is also conducted in psychology, linguistics, physiology, computer science, informatics, and educational sciences. There are several ongoing, cross-disciplinary research projects among these subjects. There are also educational collaborations in the field in the form of a Bachelor's Programme and a Master Programme in cognitive science.

Northern Studies

Northern StudiesNorthern Studies is one of the strong research environments at Umeå University. It is a multi- and interdisciplinary environment that, inter alia, addresses the knowledge deficits and problems regarding sustainable development in northern areas. Northern Studies has a specific focus on humans in, and human interaction with, northern environments. At the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Northern Studies generally has time depth and elucidates possibilities and difficulties for humans in the North, from prehistoric times to the present. Archaeological research at Umeå University has, for instance, radically changed our knowledge of the prehistory of northern Scandinavia. Other researchers at the department haves studied how northern peoples have perceived themselves, as well as how state authorities, foreign travellers or representatives of varying scientific disciplines or religious groups haves pictured depicted northern peoples, cultures and natural environments during different epochs.

Many former and current researchers at the department are affiliated to the Arctic Research Centre at Umeå University (Arcum), which since 2012 coordinates Northern Studies at Umeå University as well as on the national and the international level. Some are in addition affiliated to the Centre for Sami Research (CeSam) – Vaartoe, which was founded in the year 2000 at the Faculty of Arts with the aim of initiating and coordinating national and international research on Sami issues.

Since 2007, Umeå University, together with the Royal Skyttean Society, has issueds an international multi- and interdisciplinary scientific journal – Journal of Northern Studies – which is closely connected to the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Premodern Studies – UGPS (Umeå Group for Premodern Studies)

Premodern StudiesThe aim of UGPS is to provide a multidisciplinary forum for research on premodern cultures and societies before 1800. Researchers and doctoral students from different disciplines gather around three main themes – Gender, Political Culture and Emotions.

The main activity consists of seminars, lectures and annual workshops, often in collaboration with other networks and research groups. An affiliation exists with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE) in Australia.

During the period 2010-2016, eleven international workshops and conferences have been organized by UGPS in and outside Umeå, including Justice and Authority in East and West before 1800: the use of court records and petitions as historical sources (Istanbul 2011), Gender Theories in Premodern Studies (Umeå 2012), Words and Matters: The Virgin Mary in Late Medieval Parish (Umeå 2012), Gender, Laughter and Humour across Culture and Time (Umeå 2012), Gender and Political Culture, 1400-1800 (Plymouth 2013), Boundaries in Premodern Studies (Umeå, 2013), Gender, Emotions and Material Culture in Scandinavian History (Umeå 2013), Northern Visions in the Pre-Modern Era (Umeå 2014), Gender and Status Competition in Premodern Societies (Umeå 2015), and Women and Credit in Preindustrial Europe (Umeå 2016). Most of these have already or will result in publications.

Of the ongoing (2016) research projects directed by UGPS members, the following can be mentioned: Medicine and the Seven Deadly Sins in Late Medieval Culture Literature and Culture (Pro Futura Scientia, Virginia Langum); Marrying Cultures: Queens Consort and European Identities 1500-1800 (HERA, Svante Norrhem and Elise Dermineur); Ambivalent Emotions and Conflicts Between Parent and Child Generations in Early Modern Sweden and Finland, (RJ Sabbatical/ CHE Jonas Liliequist); Debt in Pre-Industrial Europe (Pro Futura Scientia, Elise Dermineur). Since a few years back research on Classical cultures and societies is for the first time conducted at Umeå University, represented by Anna Foka’s research on Ancient World Visualizations and Lewis Webb’s PhD project Elite Female Status Competition in Mid-Republican Rome.

UGPS is also represented in Umeå University’s research strategical themes under the heading “Premodern challenges”.

Learn more at the website for Umeå Group for Premodern Studies

Science, Technology and Environment Studies (VTM studies)

Umeå Studies in Science, Technology and Environment - USSTEThe aim of USSTE is to initiate and develop humanist research on science, medicine, technology and the environment, as well as on the relations between these areas and the society. It is an interdisciplinary and faculty-spanning field, welcoming scholars from all departments and subjects within the humanities. Furthermore, it collaborates with other areas of research at the university as well as with external actors, such as governmental agencies, museums, corporations and educational associations.

USSTE research and education can be summarized into three themes, drawing on international developments in post-disciplinary research while also addressing broader societal changes and the need for knowledge in dealing with contemporary and future challenges. All of these themes are concerned with issues about the production, use, mediation and communication of knowledge across time and space, as well with the ways in which knowledge ties into culture and values.

  • Science and Technology Studies (STS) involves research on the development of science and technology and its impact on societies and on world-views. It also encompasses studies of historical and contemporary policies on research and higher education.
  • Environmental Humanities involves research on the archaeology and history of the environment, how humans use and relate to nature and its resources, and on the rise and management – scientific, political and corporate/industrial – of environmental issues.
  • Medical Humanities involves research on the history and ethics of medicine, how humans relate to body and mind, relations between healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry, and on the diagnosing and treatment of disease.

Educational science research environments

At the department various educational research is being conducted. Several of the researchers at the department lead or participate in different subject didactic and educational history environments.

History and Education

School writing boardThe research done in this environment focuses on the fields of educational history and history didactics. Within this subject, the historical study of fostering, learning and education (educational history) is linked to the study of history as a school subject and social phenomenon (history didactics). Some examples of the research themes studied in this environment are the fostering of children and youth, the education of minorities, and the design of different school subjects. Other studies investigate the mediation and uses of history, both historically and contemporary and both within and outside the framework of school education. This covers both the history of the school subject of history and the importance of history for the shaping of national, ethnic and political identity. Another area of research is the analysis of teaching and learning of history in relation to pupils of different ages.
The research is largely externally funded, primarily by the Swedish Research Council and Formas. The research environment is characterised by extensive international contacts and participation in international projects on, for instance, educational spaces, history books, textbook revision, history teacher training, popular history magazines, digital history, and debates on history education.
History and Education has also a doctoral study programme which currently has about ten doctoral students. The third-cycle programme is organised in collaboration with different postgraduate schools, primarily the Postgraduate school within the field of educational sciences and the Gender postgraduate school. The research environment is led by Professor Anna Larsson and Professor Daniel Lindmark.

Learn more at the homepage for History and Education

Religious Education

The research environment of religious education brings together scholars from the fields of religious studies, theology, educational work, and history and education. The research focuses on different aspects of teaching and learning with regard to different religious traditions. A broad spectrum of research is done in this environment, some of the specialisations being on history, the Christian church (cultural heritage), school, teaching and learning in higher education, and media didactics.
Through collaboration with Dalarna University, this research environment is running a postgraduate school at halfspeed in the period 2016-2020. This is being financed by Dalarna University and educational authorities in the Dalarna region. Five teachers have been accepted to this study programme in educational work, leading to a licentiate’s degree. The theme is “Values, diversity and religion”. Professor Daniel Lindmark is serving as the department’s coordinator of the postgraduate school.
Within the framework of the Social Studies Didactics project (described below), Umeå School of Education is financing a senior lectureship in religious education, to be appointed in 2017. The successful candidate will act as the head of research in the environment. Daniel Lindmark is contact person until further notice.

Umeå Research Centre for Social Studies Didactics (UmSOD)

The Umeå Research Centre for Social Studies Didactics brings together didactic research in civics, geography, religious studies and history. This research environment consists of a network of scholars at both the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences. In addition to the research environments at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies mentioned above, there are also researchers from the Department of Education, the Department of Geography and Economic History, the Department of Political Science, and the Department of Applied Educational Science. The environment is being supported by Umeå School of Education during the period 2016–2019 with a number of research appointments and funding for visiting professors. The Centre works to develop research with both short-term and long-term perspectives, and arrange joint seminars and visits by international researchers. The research concerns social studies education in preschool, compulsory school and/or upper secondary school, and comparative perspectives are encouraged. The head of research for this field is Professor Anna Larsson.

Learn more at the hompage for Umeå Research Centre for Social Studies Didactics (UmSOD)

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