The Humanities Council is pleased to award 31 new grants for innovation and collaboration in 2023-24. These projects, led by 41 faculty from across 25 academic departments and programs, will contribute to humanistic inquiry across disciplines on Princeton’s campus and beyond. In addition, the Council continues to support six previously awarded multi-year initiatives.
This year’s projects address pressing environmental challenges, engage with tools in the digital humanities, and aim to generate new scholarly research in emerging fields. Grants will support interdisciplinary workshops and working groups, as well as performances and art installations.
Twenty-three David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Grants will support new ideas that have the potential to change how the humanities are conceived and taught.
This year’s Magic Projects include:
- An innovative hub focused on the planet’s urgent water-related crises.
- A working group dedicated to queer spaces, and to methods and concepts in the field of LGBTQ+ global spatial studies.
- The development of an interactive platform that will include translations of Indigenous language manuscripts from Princeton University Library’s Mesoamerican Collection.
- An international exploration of Eastern European cinema before and in the aftermath of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
- A cross-disciplinary collective focused on the study of “animal song” and biosemiotics.
- Programming to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the military coup against President Salvador Allende in Chile.
- An on-site workshop at Borobudur, a Buddhist monument in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
These projects also support global and comparative approaches to teaching, with the development and enrichment of several new undergraduate courses and graduate seminars. The Council will fund undergraduate course travel to France, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom, as well as a two-day conference held in Princeton and in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art.
Magic Grants are made possible thanks to the generosity of Lynn Shostack, in memory of her husband David A. Gardner ’69.
In addition to the Magic Grants, three new Exploratory Grants in Collaborative Humanities and two renewed Global Initiatives will receive multi-year support from the Council. These projects include an expansion of the Princeton Food Project and support for the Climate Stories Incubator, which will explore climate change and action through science reporting, audio documentary, and data visualization. The Council has also awarded three special grants for conferences in literature and music.
Brief descriptions of the projects are below.
- Beyond Provenance: What Information Doesn’t Tell Us
Erin Besler (Architecture)
Hosted by the School of Architecture in 2023-24, Beyond Provenance is a new workshop series that examines “provenance” across fields of inquiry and collectively reimagines its exigency for the built environment. The sessions, developed in collaboration with Sarah Hearne (University of Colorado, Denver), will incorporate remote object demonstrations and bring Princeton graduate students and faculty together with inventive technicians, historians, and practitioners whose research focuses on the circulation of artifacts.
- Sick Architecture 2
Beatriz Colomina (Architecture)
This collaborative project, developed from an ongoing interdisciplinary seminar, allows graduate students to investigate a wide range of intersections between medicine and architecture. Now in its second phase, the grant will support expanded research exhibitions in Princeton and with the School of Architecture.
- Queer Spaces in the World, Concepts and Methods
S. E. Eisterer (Architecture)
The Queer Space Working Group, an interdisciplinary student-faculty group, was founded in spring 2021 to discuss key scholarly questions in the study of queer spaces. This grant will help the working group develop a new conference component anchored in a series of discussions institutionally focusing on methods and concepts that have emerged in the field of LGBTQ+ global spatial studies.
- Borobudur: New Directions for Research
Jonathan Gold (Religion)
This grant supports an on-site workshop at the famous Buddhist monument of Borobudur, a masterpiece of stone carving near Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The exploratory workshop will bring together 24 scholars and graduate students from around the globe to generate new insights and scholarly research around the site, and establish a Borobudur research network centered at Princeton.
- LOGION: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Philology
Barbara Graziosi (Classics); Johannes Haubold (Classics); Karthik Narasimhan (Computer Science); Suma Bhat (Computer Science)
This project aims to develop a scalable, Natural Language Processing (NLP) model, called Logion, to support philological restoration of ancient and medieval Greek texts. Together, philologists and NLP experts will assess results of the machine learning algorithm, and undergraduate students will work to create a user-friendly interface for the program.
- Suspended in the Air: An Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Workshop at Meteora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Molly Greene (History and Hellenic Studies)
This grant will support an eight-day intensive workshop at the Meteora monasteries in Thessaly, Greece. The workshop will introduce graduate students to the rich heritage of the monastic community of Meteora, as well as provide a foundation in methods of Greek paleography, the transmission history of ancient and medieval texts, and the history of premodern and early modern book culture.
- Chile 9/11
Javier Guerrero (Spanish and Portuguese)
September 11, 2023 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the military coup against President Salvador Allende in Chile. This grant will support a series of workshops, symposia, panels, art installations, and performances to commemorate this anniversary and its legacy for Chile and the Americas. The sessions will emphasize the role of the arts in confronting and resisting fascism.
- Postwar New York: Workshops
Joshua Kotin (English)
This grant supports three workshops that will enhance the spring 2024 graduate seminar, “Postwar New York,” taught by Joshua Kotin. The workshops will connect students to mid-career scholars and extend discussions beyond the classroom to offer a more comprehensive account of the artistic, literary, and intellectual culture in 1960s New York.
- Re/Framing Eastern European Cinema
Yuri Leving (Slavic Languages and Literatures)
This two-day international conference will focus on Eastern European cinema before and in the aftermath of the Russian-Ukrainian war of 2022. Participants will interrogate the cultural canon, challenge common historical interpretations, and reflect on the visual experiences of displacement and violence in light of the largest military crisis in Europe since WWII.
- Albertus Magnus’ De Natura Loci
Hendrik Lorenz (Philosophy)
Albertus Magnus’ De Natura Loci, written in the 1250s, is a key text for the history of the modern concept of race and for Iberian exploration and colonization in Africa and the Americas in the 15th and 16th centuries. This grant supports a four-day workshop in 2024, which will bring together faculty and scholars who have contributed research on the text.
- Re-Discovering Semiotics for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Federico Marcon (East Asian Studies and History)
This event series, to be held between 2023-2025, aims to re-introduce the theory and methodology of interpretive semiotics to Princeton graduate students and faculty working within the humanities and social sciences. Its long-term aim is to develop a platform for interactive and collaborative interdisciplinary research that connects an international network of scholars interested in semiotics.
- The Princeton LLM Forum: Interdisciplinary Conversations about Large Language Models
Meredith Martin (English and Center for Digital Humanities); Danqi Chen (Computer Science)
Recent breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have produced a new class of neural networks called Large Language Models (LLMs) that demonstrate a capability to generate fluent, plausible responses to prompts posed in natural language. This interdivisional group of faculty, staff, and students will examine LLMs from different angles and consider the role they may play in culture and society going forward.
- The Fluid Futures Forum
Anne McClintock (Gender and Sexuality Studies and High Meadows Environmental Institute); Ryo Morimoto (Anthropology)
This grant will fund a new initiative that brings together faculty, post-doctoral fellows and students across the humanities, sciences, and arts, to generate collaborations focused on the planet’s urgent and enduring water-related challenges. The Fluid Futures Forum will feature monthly discussions, an art exhibition, and a multi-media conference set to launch in 2024.
- Translating Mesoamerica: Learning about Indigenous Cultures through Princeton’s Nahuatl Documents from Colonial Mexico & Central America
Nadia Cervantes Pérez (Spanish and Portuguese)
This project will produce a visually engaging and interactive platform, built by the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, that includes the translation and curation of manuscripts and documents in Indigenous languages from the Princeton University Library’s Mesoamerican Collection. This grant supports both Spanish and English translators, who will transcribe and translate some of the most prominent Nahuatl manuscripts.
- Arriving in the Present: Transcultural Perspectives in Contemporary German-Speaking Contexts Phase II
Sara S. Poor (German); Barbara N. Nagel (German)
This reading group aims to expand and diversify the community of the Department of German at Princeton by fostering the study of “Transnational Literatures” and “Literatures of (Post-)Migration,” two increasingly relevant fields in German studies. Building on a 2023 Humanities Council Flash Grant, this initiative will develop a new conference in spring 2024.
- Be Kunu – African Music at Princeton
Michael Pratt (Music; University Orchestra); Olivier Tarpaga (Music)
This project aims to introduce the community to rich artistic and cultural material from the African continent via collaborations, new artistic creations, and performances. The Magic Grant will support a spring 2024 event featuring a suite of new music created and performed via a collaboration between the Princeton University Orchestra, the African Music Ensemble, and musicians who specialize in ancient African string instruments and balafon.
- The Animal Song Collective
Gavin Steingo (Music); Asif Ghazanfar (Neuroscience and Psychology)
This project brings together humanists and scientists to explore the idea of “animal song” from a cross-disciplinary and collaborative perspective. Researchers, writers, and artists will examine the topic in hopes of gaining greater understanding of its intricacies, from social synchronization and linguistic turn-taking to biosemiotics. The grant supports two weeklong workshops, in-person research in Cape Town and San Diego, and a symposium in fall 2024.
- Revisiting Paris
André Benhaïm (French and Italian)
This 200-level course will study Paris as an urban space, an object of representation, and part of a French cultural identity. This Magic Grant will support a fall break trip to Paris, where undergraduate students will explore the city’s historical memory, its contemporary life, and its cultural activity.
- Korean Language Learning in Virtual Environments: Exploring and Navigating the Metropolitan City of Seoul & UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Ho Jung Choi (East Asian Studies)
This grant will enhance the Princeton in Korea summer course by integrating virtual reality (VR) components to the language-learning experience. Students will explore the city of Seoul, which represents a blend of traditional culture and modern technology.
- Democratizing Culture: The State of the Arts in France
Florent Masse (French and Italian)
This grant will support the creation of a new course, cross-listed in French and Italian and the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Program in Theater. The course will explore initiatives by French cultural institutions to democratize culture, and includes a spring break trip to Paris, where students will visit major cultural institutions and meet with officials at the Ministry of Culture.
- The Building and Ecology of the Ise Shrines
Guy Nordenson (Architecture)
The Ise Shrine (Jingū), in Mie Prefecture, Japan, is a complex of Shinto shrines and other buildings that are rebuilt every 20 years. With few interruptions, the rebuilding has continued for over 1200 years. This grant will support a Freshman Seminar fall-break trip to Japan where undergraduate students will meet scholars at the University of Tokyo and visit the Ise Shrines.
- Building Life: Architecture, Science and Environmental Epistemes
Spyros Papapetros (Architecture)
This two-day international conference, which will be held at Princeton and the Museum of Modern Art, will extend the investigations of a homonymous graduate seminar on the parallel development of biological theories and architectural practices in the 19th and 20th centuries. The grant will support the conference, as well as facilitate an in-person visit to the “Emerging Ecologies” exhibition at the MoMA.
- Theater in Early Modern London: The Purpose of Playing
Bailey Sincox (Humanities Council, English, and Humanistic Studies)
This grant will enrich a new, interdisciplinary 400-level seminar in fall 2023, which provides a comprehensive, performance-centered introduction to English drama’s golden age (circa 1570-1640). Students will travel to the United Kingdom to experience first-hand theatrical spaces that they study in class, including the recreation Globe and Whitehall’s Banqueting House, the British Library, Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
- Climate Stories Incubator
Allison Carruth (Effron Center and High Meadows Environmental Institute); Barron Bixler (High Meadows Environmental Institute); John Higgins (Geosciences); Tim Szetela (Lewis Center for the Arts)
Led by Allison Carruth’s Blue Lab, the Climate Stories Incubator is a research-driven creative experiment to take stock of and narrate lived experiences of both climate change and climate action. This Collaborative Humanities Grant will support four major projects over two years, which include audio documentary, longform science reporting, creative nonfiction and still photography as well as digital animation, story mapping and data visualization. This project is also supported by the Dean for Research Innovation Funds.
- Princeton Food Project Phase II
Tessa Lowinske Desmond (Effron Center); Anne Cheng (English); Andrew Chignell (Religion); Hanna Garth (Anthropology); Daniel Rubenstein (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology); Shana Weber (Office of Sustainability)
Initially supported by a Magic Grant, the Princeton Food Project brings together scholars, activists, and thought leaders to explore, imagine, and think critically about food studies. This new, three-year Collaborative Humanities Grant will support lunchtime workshops on a range of innovative topics, co-sponsored events throughout the year, including a daylong symposium on food ethics.
- Aristotle in the Americas
Hendrik Lorenz (Philosophy)
This three-year project will build on existing links with institutions in Latin America by establishing a collaborative framework that includes faculty members and graduate students at Princeton, and in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. The Collaborative Humanities Grant will support a number of short-term graduate student researchers, as well as three workshops to be held in consecutive years in Princeton, São Paulo, and Mexico City.
- International Network for Comparative Humanities
Maria DiBattista (English and Comparative Literature)
This initiative supports a working group of literary scholars from both sides of the Atlantic dedicated to promoting the comparative study of humanities. The ongoing grant will support the further consolidation and expansion of INCH, including workshops to be held at the Princeton Athens Center, in collaboration with the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies.
- Rome Archive and Library Seminar
Anthony Grafton (History)
This renewed three-year Global Initiative provides partial support for a summer graduate seminar held in Rome, in partnership with the University of Notre Dame, where students will study archives in the Vatican Library, the National Library, and the Jesuit Archive, and allow curators and scholars to share their experience working with these materials.
- Timbuktu Grooves Festival
Michael Pratt (Music; University Orchestra); Olivier Tarpaga (Music)
The Edward T. Cone Fund in the Humanities Council will support this three-day music festival, which will feature a lineup of artists showcasing an array of ancient and contemporary African performing arts. The event is part of “Be Kunu: African Music at Princeton,” a project which aims to introduce rich artistic and cultural material from the African continent to members of the University community via collaborations, new artistic creations, and performances.
- Troubadours and Sonneteers: Global Culture, Performance and the Matter of Display
Nigel Smith (English)
The Edward T. Cone Fund in the Humanities Council will support this two-day conference in Spring 2024, which will be held on campus. The event aims to build institutional bridges between Princeton and Stanford, and advance medieval and early modern studies into new fields of knowledge via methodologies concerning notions of ‘global lyric.’
- Sinoscript as Performance and Negotiation: Organizational Workshop for a Handbook of Sinoxenic Literacy
Brian Steininger (East Asian Studies)
Supported by the Eberhard L. Faber 1915 Memorial Fund, this Spring 2024 two-day conference will bring together scholars to explore the field of Literary Sinitic across premodern East Asia and plan for the creation of a handbook aimed at articulating the current state of the field and setting the stage for new scholarly conversations.
- Art Hx: The Visual and Medical Legacies of British Colonialism
Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Art & Archaeology and African American Studies)
This two-year grant supports artists-in-residence, fellows, and community-focused programing for Art Hx, an ongoing project that explores the historical, and ongoing, entanglements of art, race, and colonial medicine through the curation of a digital database and research platform.
- Poetry and War: Translating the Untranslatable
Sandra L. Bermann (Comparative Literature)
Through a two-year research project, an online conference, and a Spring 2023 course in Humanistic Studies, “Poetry and War: Translating the Untranslatable” featuring a spring break trip to France, this Magic Grant supports interdisciplinary teaching and research to enhance understanding of the French Resistance through poetry and translation.
Beatrice Kitzinger (Art & Archaeology); Jamie Reuland (Music)
This three-year project, which was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, develops an interdisciplinary working group devoted to the study of the Middle Ages. It will foster collaboration between scholars and artists and promote the visibility of Medieval Studies through programming in the performing arts.
- Humanities + Data Science Summer Institute
Meredith Martin (English and Center for Digital Humanities)
The Humanities + Data Science Summer Institute, run by the Center for Digital Humanities, empowers scholars from the humanities and humanities-adjacent social sciences to engage with the conceptual, practical, and ethical aspects of data science.
- Environmental History Lab (EHL) of the Program in Medieval Studies
Helmut Reimitz (History and Program in Medieval Studies); Janet Kay (Art & Archaeology)
This three-year grant enhances the Environmental History Lab (EHL), an initiative from the Program in Medieval Studies. The EHL will host seminars and undergraduate workshops, as well as related courses and activities that emphasize the importance of environmental history for understanding the medieval past.
- Land, Language and Art
Sarah Rivett (English and American Studies) with Simon Morrison (Music, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Fund for Canadian Studies); Bryan Just (Art & Archaeology); Laura Kalin (Linguistics and Humanities Council); Tessa Lowinske Desmond (Effron Center); Daniel Rubenstein (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
This three-year project, from the Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton, supports initiatives to foster new methodologies and modes of knowledge production in three areas of research and learning that are central to Indigenous Studies: land, language, and art.
The Humanities Council’s mission is to nurture the humanities locally and globally, engage diverse perspectives past and present, and enrich public dialogue with humanistic approaches. The Council offers a wide array of funding opportunities for research, teaching, collaboration, innovation, and outreach. Information about eligibility and deadlines to apply can be found on the Council’s website.
*This article was updated in summer 2023 to include four additional grants.