Theme & concept

Our Program

Our Program


Radboud University
Erasmusplein 1
6500 HD Nijmegen

Dr. Sven Betjes

Anchoring Innovation’ is the Gravitation Grant research agenda of OIKOS, the National Research School in Classical Studies, the Netherlands. It is financially supported by the Dutch ministry of Education, Culture and Science (2017-2027). Anchoring Innovation is a tool for research with a much wider applicability in society and education.

The theme

Innovation is a central theme in science and society. We tend to delegate innovation to the technical and natural sciences and to medicine, in that we emphasize the R&D side of innovation. But first of all, innovation can obviously affect all societal domains. Classicists, who collectively study ancient societies as a whole, are in an excellent position to observe this. And secondly, research has shown that the ‘human factor' is crucial in converting inventions and new ideas into successful and actualized innovation. New possibilities need to be realized and embedded in societal practices. New ideas need to ‘land' in the intended target-group. They must fit the thoughts, knowledge, beliefs, convictions and understanding of human actors. Human beings have certain ways of conceptualizing their world, and talking and communicating about it, and different groups will react differently to the same new information. Knowledge about such issues, which is crucial to successful innovation, can be provided by the Social Sciences and the Humanities.

The classicists in Anchoring Innovation propose to investigate a new way of understanding this human aspect of innovation processes through the concept of anchoring. Our first goal is to solve a fundamental scholarly problem: the Athenians and Romans are visibly (at least to us, as external observers) radically innovating many aspects of their societies, yet at the same time they seem to demonstrate through their own writings that they are ‘in the grip of the past'. How can the paradox of these two facts be reconciled? A second goal is to create and develop anchoring as a new analytical concept for all researchers in the Humanities. But our researchers in OIKOS also have a third goal: to contribute, through the work done on Anchoring Innovation, to our current societal thought about innovation.

The concept: anchoring

The new concept that we are developing is that of anchoring, intended as a new ‘tool for thinking' and a potential breakthrough for the Humanities. Anchoring is a label for the many different ways in which people connect the new to the old, the traditional, the already known. What is called or considered ‘old' or ‘new' is not always a matter of objective diagnosis: it is a judgment established through discourse and societal negotiation. In either case, whether something is decided to be ‘old' or ‘new', the phenomenon under discussion may be accepted or rejected, depending on the evaluation of the new and the old. This evaluation is again a matter of societal negotiation. Anchoring innovation is about the way in which people regard and cope with ‘newness', and about the question under what conditions new things become ‘anchored', and thus successfully implemented - or not!

The concept of anchoring enables us to pull together and unify several areas of research in the Humanities. Theories on discourse cohesion, intertextuality, ‘memory studies', transitions in building techniques: all of these may be regarded on a slightly higher level of abstraction as instantiations of the notion of anchoring in different cultural domains. The classicists are suitable representatives of the Humanities at large, because they constitute a microcosm of the Humanities: sharing one object of research (the world of Greco-Roman antiquity and its reception), they study this object from the perspective of numerous different Humanities disciplines: linguistics, literary studies, cultural studies, history (including the history of technology, history of religion, socio-economic history, political and intellectual history), archaeology (material culture), and philosophy. Antiquity has been studied for a long time - in fact, since Antiquity - and it is a highly accessible field with many advanced (digital) research tools. The classicists also have a wide network that includes many other scholars in the Humanities and the Social Sciences.