The RCC was designated as a Research Unit in 2009 by the Faculty of Theology but grew out of research priority areas initiated by Armin W. Geertz and Jeppe Sinding Jensen. In 2003, the initiators together with other members of the Laboratory on Theories of Religion at the Department of the Study of Religion were awarded money to pursue a two-year preliminary project called Religious Narrative, Cognition and Culture (2003-2004) under the auspices of the Laboratory. During that period a number of conferences, workshops, graduate courses and Ph.D. courses were held designed to explore and bring into contact theories and approaches from the humanities and social sciences and theories and approaches in what can broadly be called neurocognitive studies. One of the most important insights gained in that project was that cognition is not exclusively about what goes on in the head, but more importantly about what goes on in the social and intersubjective dynamics between individuals. In other words, language, social intercourse, and bodily communication play a causal role in cognition. Our preliminary project convinced us that narrative and the communication of symbolic systems through material and intellectual culture are not just “stories,” and that they are certainly not simply epiphenomenal, rather they play a formative role in integrating diverse processes and regions of the brain and body. We also noted that religion is a very rich resource in manipulating the mechanisms connecting individual brains and bodies with social brains and bodies.
The research group was awarded financing to pursue a four-year project area on Religion, Cognition and Culture (which took on the acronym RCC) by the Faculty of Theology (2004-2008). The project was designated as a key research area in 2005 by the Faculty of Theology. The RCC expanded its program to the exploration of religion in general as a causal factor in cognition and culture. The RCC network expanded exponentially and doctoral students gravitated to the RCC as well as guest researchers who have spent productive time with us. The RCC entered into a number of cooperative ventures with colleagues in a variety of disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and the natural sciences; and it hosted four international conferences.
The designation “Research Unit” means that the RCC consists of junior and senior scholars (10 full time staff) pursuing groundbreaking research and teaching on all educational levels, from bachelor to doctoral levels. Besides teaching responsibilities in existing educational packages, the RCC is currently developing Master Classes in English for foreign graduate students. Individual educational packages, however, are already available as well as doctoral programs.
In 2014 a Doctoral programme in the cognitive science of religion was established by Aarhus University (Graduate School of Arts/Religion, Cognition and Culture Research Unit, and Queen’s University, Belfast (School of History and Anthropology/Institute of Cognition and Culture).
Students should apply for admission via one of the two Universities, and will be considered in line with their normal Postgraduate Admission Procedures, which require, among other things, a research proposal on a topic relevant to the cognitive science of religion. The normal duration of the Doctoral programme is full time for three years. In general, admitted students will spend the first six months and the last six months of their doctoral studies at the University where they are admitted. The intervening 24 months are spent according to a PhD plan established for each individual student. In completion, the student receives a single degree certificate issued by Aarhus University and Queen’s University.
Each University agreed to provide two fellowships to support the programme. One fellowship shall be available each year—Queen’s University will allocate funding in the academic years 2014-15 and 2016-17, while Aarhus University will allocate funding in academic years 2015-16 and 2017-18. Students who wish to compete for a fellowship will be required to apply to the University responsible for offering the support in the related year. For more information about the programme, please contact Armin W. Geertz (AWG@cas.au.dk) or Paulo Sousa (firstname.lastname@example.org).