Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society
The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the few research institutes in the world in which researchers in the field of literature, art, architecture, design and media studies come together to conduct research into the cultural production of the western world, from classical antiquity until today. One overarching research theme is pivotal to this: the relationship between the arts and society, with particular regard to the areas of politics, religion, law, science and technology.
The research at LUCAS has a wide impact, not only because of the nature of the research, but also because of LUCAS’s many partners within and outside the academic world. The researchers from LUCAS write popular science blogs, contribute to the regional and national media, give public lectures and participate in educational activities for the general public. Their research often attracts national and international prizes and grants.
‘The quality and quantity of the scientific output of LUCAS appeared impressive overall, and the national and international academic impact is good and promising.’
Assessment Report Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), Peer Review 2012 – 2017
The research at LUCAS spans the breadth of classical antiquity to the modern, contemporary world. It is organised into three clusters: Classics (800 BCE – 600 CE), Medieval and Early Modern (600 – 1800) and Modern and Contemporary (1800 – Present). Within these clusters, the researchers work together to gain a better understanding of the relationship between cultural products and their social and historical context and effect.
The researchers from the Classics cluster analyse and interpret Greco-Roman culture and its reception in later periods. The themes that they study range from literature, art and architecture to philosophical and religious ideas and social, political, scientific and legal debates.
The ‘Anchoring innovation’ project, a collaborative project between six Dutch universities that is led by Ineke Sluiter, plays a central role in this cluster. The research focuses on acceptance of change and innovation, viewed from the perspective of classical antiquity. How did people deal with change in that period and what can we learn from this? This unique research is attracting the interest of organisations and businesses from all around the world that deal with innovation and transitions.
Medieval and Early Modern
The Medieval and Early Modern cluster focuses on the development, meaning, spread and reception of Medieval and Early Modern culture in Europe. The researchers from this cluster do this by looking at the relationship between cultural objects – literature, art and books – and the social, political, religious and intellectual context in which they operated.
The research by Nadine Akkerman into female spies in the 17th century has attracted a lot of interest. Women played a much bigger role in the espionage world at that time than was previously thought, as Akkerman’s book Invisible Agents (2018), which was published by Oxford University Press.
Modern and Contemporary
The researchers from the Modern and Contemporary cluster and their students study the interaction between society, cultural objects (art, literature, film, photography, games and digital media) and cultural, political and aesthetical practices and processes.
One example is research by Sara Polak into images of American presidents from cartoons, tweets, election films and more. What do we distil from the media to reconstruct an image of presidents? How do presidents themselves make strategic use of the media?