The Slovenia Times

Slovenian-led project explores the role of the dead in society

Science & Technology
Mirmam Mencej. Photo: Miha Tozon

A Slovenian-led project on the role of death in the lives of individuals in modern society has won a European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant. Led by folklore researcher Mirjam Mencej, the €2 million effort will launch in September and last 5 years.

Called DEAGENCY, the project is aimed at developing a deep understanding of the role the dead play in society. Rather than interpreting the relationships of individuals with the dead as expressions of folk belief or as symbols and metaphors of societal problems, the dead will be treated as active participants in relationships between individuals and broader cultural and societal processes.

The researchers will explore how the dead affect the thinking, values and behaviour of people, how they participate in their social relationships, and how they influence individuals inside a broader societal, cultural and political context.

Research has shown that the role of the dead is more pronounced in times of change and crisis. That is why the dead will be treated in three different contexts of societal change, said Mencej, who works at the Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana.

There are three areas of specific interest the researchers will explore: mass graves dating to the end of World War II in Slovenia and the Bosnian war in the 1990s, alternative religions, and the role of the dead in familial and neighbourly relations in a rural environment.

For Mencej this project is an opportunity to delve into research without distractions, "which is a great reward for researchers that are often burdened with pedagogical and administrative tasks".

She will work together with a group of young and established researchers from Slovenia and abroad. Ten of them will conduct research in Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ERC advanced grant is one of the most prestigious and competitive EU research grants, awarded to established, leading researchers with a track record of important research achievements in the past decade. Out of nearly 1,650 applications, 218 will receive funding.


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