In an announcement on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking programme, Mirela’s selection was announced as one of ten of the UK’s most exciting early career researchers.
Mirela (History 2012) is a cultural historian of Eastern Europe in the premodern world. After doing her DPhil at Balliol she joined University College as a Junior Research Fellow.
Her work explores what tools communities used to define themselves in the past, and how these definitions resonate in the contemporary history of Eastern Europe.
She is particularly interested in moments of transmission and displacement, whether across languages or political cultures, and how such moments can reveal the tensions inherent in communities and their perceptions of themselves.
Speaking on Radio 3 Mirela shared her research into the origins of the Cyrillic alphabet, invented in the ninth century to capture sounds in modern Slavonic languages, and disagreements about where the alphabet originated which has repercussions on political life today. “This contestation is still pertinent today and has led to major political scandals over who did invent it,” she commented, citing a recent example of Bulgaria trying to block North Macedonia’s entry to the EU over the problem of the history of the Cyrillic alphabet.
Every year, BBC Radio 3 and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) hold a nationwide search for academics with game changing ideas that will resonate with a wide audience. The New Generation Thinkers are chosen for their ability to communicate complex ideas and change the way we think.
The New Generation Thinkers are given the prestigious opportunity to communicate their research on BBC radio and television. They also have unique access to training and support from AHRC and the BBC.
In previous years, New Generation Thinkers have gone on to become prominent public figures as well as the face of major documentaries, TV series, and regular figures in public debate.