As head of the newly opened Centre for Privacy Studies (PRIVACY), established as a part of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Copenhagen, Prof Mette Birkedal Bruun has secured a substantial grant to support the work of scholars at this institution. The Danish National Research Foundation has pledged to make up to 50 Mio DKK (approximately 6.8 Mio €) available for the initiation of the centre. The funding will run for six years with the possibility of a four-year extension. The aim of this new unit is to research how the concept of privacy has been shaped over the centuries.
“The boundaries of the private sphere are under pressure, and it is extremely important for us as a society to understand the concept of privacy. Where lies the boundary of a person's private sphere? What is its function? The historical distance allows us to see the social structures more clearly than if we were in the midst of it. Just as a map provides a better overview than if you are actually standing in the landscape," Professor Mette Birkedal Bruun explained in a news article. She draws particular attention to paradoxical relationship between privacy and security: “Privacy is a paradoxical issue because it’s perceived as a good thing and a human right unless it endangers safety. Privacy is necessary for an individual, but also dangerous for the state. The concept is at the interface between the interests of the individual and those of society. Our hypothesis is that different historical perceptions of privacy are a mirror of what society sees as central values and dreaded threats.”
The research she spearheads will focus on 11 historic case studies focusing on a period between 1500 and 1800 in Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, England and France. Interdisciplinary research is encouraged, with experts in religious culture, political thinking, legislation and architecture working alongside each other.
Additionally, on September 3rd last year, Prof Mette Birkedal Bruun received one of the most prestigious awards for scholars from the human sciences in Denmark, the Carlsberg Foundation Research Prize. The prize, worth 1 Mio DKK (approximately 134 000 €) honors her contributions to church history through her work on medieval monasticism and the early modern period, and her research on the historical background of the feeling of isolation. She is one of two recipients of this award in 2017, which is meant to encourage further scientific advances. A quarter of the prize – amounting to 250 000 DKK (roughly 33 500 €) – is a dedicated gift for personal use.
The Carlsberg foundation has published a video about the work of Prof Mette Birkedal Bruun, which can be watched here.