What are the Public Humanities

Public humanities bring humanities scholarship to bear in the context of advancing democracy, civic life, and the public good.  We are seeking to help participants develop collaborative projects in partnership with community or other public organizations/groups, with the recognition that knowledge and expertise are not the exclusive purview of academic practitioners. 

What Type of Work is Eligible?

Emphasis is on sustained collaboration and partnership, as well as mutual respect and benefit.  Your project should further community interests and work toward a clearly defined outcome or product. Community work need not be confined to your immediate community or even the United States, so long as it represents a committed relationship and benefits the community with which you are partnering. 

Some examples of public humanities projects might include: 1) a group of military veterans meeting to discuss The Iliad for college credit — and to give meaning to their own experiences – in discussions facilitated by a classics professor, 2) an oral history-based audio tour that invites listeners to learn about a particular geographic feature from those native to the region, 3) construction of a building done, in part, by tribal youth who are learning about traditional culture and indigenous technologies with guidance by a historian, 4) a testimonial writing workshop for survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking, 5) development of a crowdsourced digital archive that allows people to upload materials related to a historic event directly from smartphones, 6) collaboration with residents of one county to gather stories of place and infuse them into local land use planning processes, 7) training sessions for community leaders and facilitators to manage anger and disruption in public meeting settings through an interactive theater model.

Public humanities does not, for our purposes, include the following: lectures by faculty in libraries, faculty books written “because the public will be interested,” and other such endeavors, all of which are indisputably valuable but do not demonstrate the kind of ongoing partnerships we intend to encourage.

What is Expected of Participants?

Faculty and grad student participants will agree to attend and participate in scheduled programming for the entire week the institute is in session, and they will make the following commitments beyond their attendance. They will agree to:

a) plan and initiate an engaged project in the following academic year (for which they will be eligible to apply to the institute for a $5,000 start-up award)  and submit a written report a month after the grant period ends.

b) commit to using the summer’s institute as a basis for initiating curricular or institutional change.

Undergraduate participants will agree to attend and participate in scheduled programming for the entire week the institute is in session, to adhere to a code of conduct, and to check in as scheduled each day with the Student Experience Coordinator.  They will also agree to submit a 1-2 page report on their experience to their faculty mentor.