Connecting Cultures

Our Connecting Cultures research promotes and connects diverse cultures, fosters social inclusion, shared ownership, and a sense of belonging. Though all of our work we’re changing lives and bridging gaps through innovative projects that celebrate diversity.

Culture and cultures enrich lives, engage our emotions, stimulate our imaginations, help us to empathise, preserve and shape our stories, and much more. They help connect us with others, find common ground and explore differences. Cultures colour how we see and interpret the world. 

Our work shows how connecting cultures changes lives. The work of Professor Sabine Lee and the CHIBOW (Children Born of War) team aims to enhance understanding of the challenges experienced by children born of war in unstable societies, and inform debates and policies on the integration of children born of war into post-conflict societies. As part of the research, CHIBOW created a powerful documentary titled The Wound is where the Light Enters telling the story of 15 children taking part in a dance-theatre workshop to explore their experiences, the stigma they face in everyday life, and their routes to empowerment and healing.

Cultural Heritage and Identity  

Our work engages cultural and civic partners to unravel the complexities of cultural heritage and its relevance for identity formation. Our studies in heritage focus on the intricate interplay between heritage, placemaking, sustainability, and wellbeing. The research has a tangible impact on government policies, fosters the development of sustainable communities, and supports a diverse range of industries at regional, national, and international levels. 

Inspired by Birmingham’s civic foundations and renewed commitment to a civic mission as a legacy of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, we work with a network of partners and organisations across Birmingham through our Culture Forward initiative. Culture Forward is co-designed and co-delivered with the city and cultural partners. Combining our respective strengths in education, research, engagement, and creativity, it supports increased cultural participation, representation, and creation by the diverse communities that make up Birmingham, contributing to the imperative to address inequality, marginalisation, and lack of representation in our city. 

Intercultural Understanding 

Intercultural understanding improves the policies, structures, and dispositions that help us to live well together, celebrate diversity, and encourage intercultural exchange, connection, and engagement. For many people, religion is a central part of their cultural identity, and understanding religious belief and practice is key to intercultural understanding.  

The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion (CPUR) is led by Professor Andrew Davies to enhance the public understanding of religion regionally, nationally and internationally. It works with faith communities and policymakers to develop informed agendas for social transformation, and delivers innovative, impact-driven, and internationally excellent programmes exploring the significance of religious belief and practice for public and professional life.

Communication and Expression 

Communication and Expression is an area of our research that focuses on understanding and analysing various forms of communication, including verbal, nonverbal, written, and visual, plus the expression of ideas, and emotions. 

Professor Jeannette Littlemore’s work on the EMMA (Exploring Multimodal Metaphor in Advertising) project explores how the global marketplace has an increasing need for companies to develop sophisticated and effective advertising strategies to compete for increased sales. To be effective, advertisements must capture the attention, and be emotionally engaging and persuasive. EMMA delves into how they can achieve these aims using verbal, visual metaphors and by packaging a mass of information into a small space or into a simple representation; be that a word or an image (metonymy). The aim of the project is to establish how the use of metaphors and metonymy in advertisements affects the speed of human understanding.

Creative Communities  

Signing Shakespeare is a powerful illustration of how creativity unlocks potential. Designed to support D/deaf young people in their study and enjoyment of Shakespeare, it began as a research project between the Royal Shakespeare Company and the University of Birmingham. Although Shakespeare is a compulsory element of the National Curriculum in England, many young people struggle to appreciate his work. Through research and consultation with D/deaf practitioners and students and teachers of the D/deaf, we identified ways in which D/deaf young people might better connect with Shakespeare, leading to the development of active, rehearsal room-based resources for the study of Macbeth, supported by a series of films performed by D/deaf actors.

The idea of ‘culture’ means different things to different people – from high-end art in museums to graffiti on our streets; from the commonwealth games to park run; from formal state banquets to curry with your friends. Culture is expressed in the ways we tell our stories, what makes us laugh, how we celebrate our lives, remember the city’s past, entertain ourselves, and imagine the future.

Cultures are expressions of the rich tapestry of human experience and understanding. By bringing people together, cultural activities such as festivals, fairs, sporting events or public lectures and classes create social solidarity and cohesion. Furthering community empowerment, enhancing confidence, and generating civic pride.

Connecting the diverse cultures of our cities fosters social inclusion, shared ownership, and a shared sense of belonging.

Dr Katherine Brown

Dr Katherine Brown

Reader in Religion and Global Security

Discover more...

  • International Centre for Heritage

    The International Centre for Heritage is a focal point for cross-disciplinary research, postgraduate teaching, and policy engagement

  • CHIBOW (Children Born of War)

    CHIBOW is a research network aimed to enhance our understanding of the challenges experienced by children born of war in volatile societies.

  • The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

    Home to ‘one of the finest small art galleries in Europe’, and a concert hall with ‘perfect acoustics, comfort, and rest for the eye.’

  • Midlands Arts Papers

    An online journal and collaborative curatorial programme between the University and 13 cultural partners that showcases works of art and design in public collections across the Midlands.


    The concert sound system of the University of Birmingham’s Electroacoustic Music Studios. To showcase electronic music produced in the Studios and around the world.

  • EMMA (Exploring Multimodal Metaphor and Metonymy in Advertising)

    EMMA is a project which uses cognitive linguistic, psychophysiological and marketing approaches to investigate how metaphor and metonymy are used in advertising.

  • The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Understanding of Religion (CPUR)

    CPUR is a centre to enhance the public understanding of regionally, nationally and internationally.

  • Signing Shakespeare

    The Signing Shakespeare Programme is designed to support deaf young people in their study and enjoyment of Shakespeare.

Our researchers

  • Policy experts

    University of Birmingham researchers and academic experts are working across all major policy areas, this guide aims to enable policy makers to contact researchers quickly and efficiently.

  • Media experts

    The University of Birmingham is one of the UK's leading universities for research and can offer expertise to the media on many different subjects.