SCAS News - 22 January, 2021

The New Pro Futura Scientia XV Fellows Presented Their Research Projects at the
Welcome Ceremony

Usually held in September each year, the welcome ceremony for the most recent generation
of Pro Futura Scientia Fellows had to be postponed in 2020 due the Corona pandemic. How-
ever, at an online ceremony held earlier this week, the five new Pro Futura Scientia XV Fellows,
who were admitted to the programme in 2020, were finally introduced at the Collegium.

In front of the invited (online) audience, Principal Christina Garsten was delighted to welcome
Arthur Asseraf (University of Cambridge); Katharina Ó Cathaoir (University of Copenhagen);
Yaffa Epstein (Uppsala University); Lisa Hellman (Universität Bonn; nominated by Lund Uni-
versity); and Janina Neufeld (Karolinska Institutet) to join the SCAS community.

Whereas the diplomas had been received via regular mail in advance, the part of the ceremony
where the researchers briefly present the projects that they will embark upon as Pro Futura
Fellows could be carried out (more or less) as usual. Below you will find brief summaries of
the research plans:

Arthur Asseraf (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)
Research project: From Race to Rumour

What happens to racial categories when the state denies that race exists? After the Second World
War, biological theories of race were widely discredited. While race is now widely acknowledged
to be a socially constructed phenomenon, racial discrimination has transformed rather than dis-
appeared. My project From Race to Rumour addresses this question through a history of race in
France since decolonization. It does so by looking at how people in a Southern French town talked
about race over thirty years, and how this language was influenced by wider national and inter-
national changes. The specificities of the French case can help answer wider global questions on
race, as unlike many others, the French government actively denies the existence of ethnic or
racial categories. I will show how rumours play a central role in keeping racial categories alive
while they have no official existence.

Katharina Ó Cathaoir (Faculty of Law, University of Copenhagen)
Research project: The Law on Health Data Outliers

Data-driven health technologies aim to improve human health and lower healthcare costs. Yet, due
to data gaps, data outliers – women, minority ethnic groups, the elderly, children, and persons with
cognitive disabilities – may be left behind. This project will contribute to health equality and the
realisation of human rights in Nordic countries by illuminating the legal regulation of the data-outliers
of emerging health technologies and proposing novel legal solutions for addressing health and human
rights consequences. It will analyse overlapping legal regimes and social science research, while
gathering new empirical data.

Yaffa Epstein (Department of Law, Uppsala University)
Research project: Developing Rights of Nature Jurisprudence

The recognition of rights or legal personhood one of the most surprising jurisprudential developments
of the past decade. In just a few years, the idea of endowing nature with rights or legal personhood
has gone from absurd to reality in a growing number of jurisdictions. These new rights have led to
some judicial wins for nature protection, but thus far have not yielded impressive results for the
environment. It remains unclear whether these recent legal developments such as those in Ecuador,
Bolivia, Colombia, New Zealand, parts of the United States, India, Mexico and even French New
Caledonia are the beginning of a new global rights paradigm, or merely a passing fad.

In order for these new laws and jurisprudential ideas to succeed in stopping environmental degrada-
tion and the loss of biodiversity, they must be theoretically sound. Perhaps equally importantly, the
legal systems in which these rights are recognized must be able to integrate ecological knowledge.
This project examines several important questions for developing the interdisciplinary theoretical
grounding for rights of nature, including how natural entity rights bearers are defined, what rights
they have, and how these rights are enforced.

Lisa Hellman (Universität Bonn; nominated by Department of History, Lund University)
Research project: Connections in Shackles: The Impact of Prisoners of War on Early Modern

This study will analyse the impact of prisoners of war on intercultural exchanges, and thereby trace
an overland, non-European process of early globalisation. In the early 18th century, the Qing Empire,
Russia and nomad empires such as the Dzungars fought for dominance over eastern Siberia and
Central Asia. As a result of the Great Northern War, 25 000 Swedish male and female prisoners of
war were sent eastwards into the borderlands. This study traces the forced mobility of these prison-
ers, in order to illuminate processes of regional integration and imperial world-making. Using a combi-
nation of European, Russian and Chinese sources, and a global micro-historical approach, the study
will analyse exchanges within three themes: geography and mapping, trade and religion, as well as
diplomacy and intercultural communication. With a focus on an understudied area, that is Central
Asia, from the perspective of marginalised actors, that is prisoners of war, it offers a new and
balanced view of early modern globalisation, both in terms of who its actors were and where they
were active.

Janina Neufeld (Department of Women’s and Children’s Health, Karolinska Institutet)
Research project: Synesthesia - Burden or Benefit? A Multi-level Twin Study on the Co-occurrence,
Interactions and Shared vs Non-shared Mechanisms of Synesthesia and Mental Disorders

Synesthesia is a perceptual condition associated with altered brain connectivity, where specific stimuli
lead to additional internally generated sensory-like experiences, like for instance color sensations in
response to letters or music. While it is non-pathological per se, synesthesia co-occurs with autism
and other mental disorders including Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, which co-occurs most strongly
with synaesthesia according to two independent preliminary outcomes of my group. On the other hand,
synesthesia is associated with altered perception, benefits in cognition and if co-occuring with autism
even with extraordinary talents. In this project, I will investigate the behavioural, neural and genetic
causes for the association between synaesthesia and mental disorders. More specifically, I will compare
individuals with synesthesia to controls and individuals with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder on mea-
sures of perceptual and cognitive functioning and brain connectivity and investigate how the beneficial
effect of synaesthesia on cognition interact with different domains of neuropsychiatric traits. I will
further investigate the genetic and environmental contributions to the relationship between synesthesia
and a wide range of mental disorders in a separate population-based twin cohort, as well as polygenic
risk for different mental disorder in synesthethes. This highly multi-disciplinary project, which spans
between clinical/epidemiological and psychological/philosophical perspectives, will not only elucidate
the etiology of synesthesia and the potential risks and benefits associated with it, but also inform more
generally about the etiology of associations in the human brain and their relationship with sensory pro-
cessing, memory and creativity.

Including the fifteenth generation of Pro Futura Scientia Fellows, more than 60 promising scholars have
been admitted to the programme since it was launched by the Swedish Collegium and Riksbankens
Jubileumsfond in 1999.

Read more: Pro Futura Scientia History and Mission

Read more: Nominations and Selections

Read more: Pro Futura Scientia Fellows (1999 - present)