University of Göttingen: Spearheading Global Research through ERC Advanced Grants

The University of Göttingen proudly stands at the forefront of global academic excellence, driving forward the boundaries of knowledge and innovation. This prestigious institution recently celebrated a significant triumph with two of its researchers, Professor Irene Schneider and Professor Hedde Zeijlstra, receiving the coveted Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC). Additionally, historian Dr. Anna Dorofeeva is set to play a pivotal role in another ERC-funded project led by the University of Leicester, further cementing Göttingen’s reputation in the academic community.

Shedding Light on Post-Colonial Legal Transformations

Amidst the pivotal debates surrounding the impacts of European colonialism, the work of Professor Irene Schneider, a dedicated expert in Arabic and Islamic Studies, has never been more relevant. Funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, Schneider’s project delves into the profound influences of European colonialism on the legal systems of Muslim-majority countries. With a grant allocation of 2.5 million euros over five years, the project explores how jurisdictions, court systems, and educational entities underwent significant transformations post-colonialism, particularly focusing on Sharia courts.

The investigation aims to unravel the complexities of legal adaption and survival within these changed systems, challenging the narrative of a complete departure from pre-colonial legal practices. Through meticulous archival research and collaboration with Middle Eastern and North African scholars, Schneider’s project promises to offer groundbreaking insights into the nuanced ‘translation’ of European laws into the legal frameworks of Muslim countries.

Exploring the Linguistics of Unspoken Realities

Alongside Schneider’s insightful research, Professor Hedde Zeijlstra from the University of Göttingen’s English Department has embarked on an intriguing linguistic journey, also supported by an ERC Advanced Grant. Zeijlstra’s project confronts the enigmatic absence of specific lexical terms in global languages—terms that logically should exist but universally do not, such as a single word to denote “not all.” With a curious blend of linguistics and philosophy, this project aims to uncover why certain logical elements have not been lexicalized across languages, whether spoken or signed.

By identifying and analyzing these “universal paradigmatic gaps,” Zeijlstra and his team are set to offer novel insights into the cognitive and cultural underpinnings of language creation and usage. This exploration challenges the boundaries of how languages encapsulate human thought and the possibilities of the world around us.

Unravelling the Mysteries of Insular Manuscripts

Dr. Anna Dorofeeva takes the spotlight in yet another ERC endeavor, focusing on the study of insular manuscripts from the era of Charlemagne. As part of a larger project led by the University of Leicester, Dorofeeva’s involvement underscores the University of Göttingen’s pivotal role in international collaborative research. This project, blessed with significant funding of around 550,000 euros allocated to Göttingen, utilizes a blend of digital tools, palaeography, and art history to dissect approximately 850 insular manuscripts.

The research aims to distinguish the disparities between manuscripts crafted in the British Isles and those produced on the Continent, shedding light on the cultural and intellectual exchanges during the early medieval period. Dorofeeva’s expertise in digital humanities and medieval scholarship forms the backbone of this innovative approach to understanding one of history’s most transformative epochs.


The University of Göttingen continues to solidify its status as a bastion of innovation and scholarly excellence on the global stage. Through the acquisition of two ERC Advanced Grants and significant involvement in a third, Göttingen’s academics are pushing the envelope of research across the humanities. Their work not only contributes to their respective fields but also intersects with pressing debates and discoveries that resonate far beyond academia. As these projects unfold, they promise to provoke thought, challenge existing paradigms, and illuminate the path toward a deeper understanding of our complex world.

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