Welcome to the Global Institute for Silk Roads Studies 

The Global Institute for Silk Roads Studies is the premier hub for the interdisciplinary study and research on China–Afro-Eurasian relations.

Located at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC), the Institute integrates meaningful research on the cultural, historical, political, social, technological, and economic connectivity across the Afro-Eurasian maritime, littoral, and continental spaces. 

The Institute provides space for creative synergies between the global campuses of the University of Nottingham – in the UK, China, and Malaysia, as well as our partners and collaborators in China and across the world.


Our mission and vision

The Global Institute for Silk Roads Studies is a creative space for thinking and responding to the challenges and opportunities of connectivity in Afro-Eurasia by exploring the intersection between their past, present and future trajectories.

The three strategic aims of the Institute are:

  • To increase the visibility of research on China–Afro-Eurasian relations at UNNC making UNNC the global hub for such research;
  • To establish UNNC as a preferred partner for collaborative projects on China–Afro-Eurasian relations; 
  • To develop UNNC as a preferred host for students and scholars interested in researching the full spectrum of dynamics of China– Afro-Eurasian relations. 


Research priority areas

1-1 urban

Architecture and Urban Development

This priority area engages in multi-disciplinary research across architecture and urban development.

The focus is on the transition of vernacular architecture across various cultures, climates and geographic locations along the Silk Road. At the same time, this priority area explores past and contemporary urban development and related sustainability issues.

The aim is to identify best practices in the area of sustainable building and city development.

2 globe

16+1: A New Model of Globalisation

Resting on the values of connectivity, diversity, and cross-cultural cosmopolitanism, the BRI offers a significant innovation on the existing models of global governance.

This research priority area will focus on the identification of factors that either enhance or hamper cross-border cooperation in different fields (e.g. trade, environmental protection, culture, research, etc.).

Against this background, the role of nation-states, international institutions, and global actors will be carefully assessed in order to draw policy-relevant conclusions on the likely future trajectories of both globalization and China’s relations with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.


3 climate 345

Climatic and Environmental Risk

This research priority area aims to pull together scholars across the three campuses of the University of Nottingham as well as external colleagues who explore the environmental and climate issues related to the Belt and Road Initiative.

The aims are to:

  • Generate a collaborative platform for idea exchange on environmental and climate research of the Belt and Road Initiative.
  • Synergize ideas and collaborative power to produce joint research publications and establish strong consortium across the three campuses of the University of Nottingham and external collaborators and generate research funding from National (NSFC and MoST) or international research funding bodies (e.g. UK or EU or elsewhere).

4 engage 345

Cultural Engagement with BRI Countries/Regions 

The intent of this priority area is to conduct inter-disciplinary research into China’s cultural and social engagements with BRI countries to enrich enquiries into dynamics between China and BRI countries.

The aim is to investigate:

  • How does China communicate with BRI countries/regions?
  • How are China’s narratives received?
  • What can the exchange of cultural products and activities tell us? 

5 desert

Defining the ancient Silk Roads: heritage, archaeology, science and museums

This priority area aims to reconstruct interaction along both the terrestrial and maritime Silk Roads using interdisciplinary approaches.

Using combined historical, archaeological, scientific and digital techniques, the aims of the researchers working in this priority area is:

  • To reconstruct/map the silk roads especially (but not exclusively) between the 8th and 12th centuries between Scandinavia and eastern Asia focusing on selected global hubs.
  • To investigate the social, economic, political and ritual values of materials when used in contrasting locations and periods along the silk roads and to inform the public perception of the silk roads.

6 asian

The Future of Asian Pasts 

This priority area explores the historical imaginations and social practices of the Silk Roads in Europe and Asia since the early modern times.

The aim is to evaluate the intersections of global orders, development and cultural entanglements.

It assumes that narratives and practices of cultural entanglements and historical imaginations are an integral part of the way in which the Silk Roads were implemented in political narratives of hegemony and order in the past.

Building on conceptual debates about cultural adaptations, transfers, globalisation and the nation, the researchers working in this area inquire into the rich legacies of those narratives as sources of legitimacy for explorations, expansions and outward-looking development by combining research on transnational and global history, archaeology, heritage studies, historical and political geography and political theory in order to develop three subthemes related to the Inventions of the Silk Roads:

  • Transnational labour migration along the Maritime Silk Roads.
  • The location of religions in cultural encounters.
  • The evaluation of cosmopolitanism along the trading routes of the Silk Roads.

7 tech

Global Technologies and Political Order 

This research priority area explores the production of political order at the nexus between global infrastructures, emerging technologies and the processes of governance, regulation and control. 

It assumes that technologies are integral elements of global markets and international relations. They are prime sites to explore the ideational, geopolitical and geo-economic shifts of the last 25 years. 

Building on recent theoretical and conceptual advances of the research about large technical systems and technosciences in international relations theory, science and technology studies, innovation studies and critical geography, this research priority group aims at developing four main subthemes that animate interdisciplinary research collaborations.

8 sustainable 345

Supply Chain Innovation and Sustainability
This research priority area has a multi-and-inter-disciplinary focus and aims to provide a platform for scholars and practitioners to critically study, evaluate, explore and explain the new business models, new technology, and service innovation within the supply chain that create impacts on sustainability (triple-bottom-line) development.