Ongoing Magic Projects

In addition to supporting new projects in the humanities, Magic Grants can provide the initiating spark for new team-taught Breakthrough Seminars and for emerging efforts in collaborative humanities through the Humanities Council’s Global Initiatives and Exploratory Grants in Collaborative Humanities.


Black Beckett
Maria DiBattista (English, Comparative Literature)

A two-day conference in Spring 2023 inviting seven authors and scholars and one keynote speaker, Saidiya Hartman, to explore the interdisciplinary approaches to Nancy Cunard’s 1934 Negro: Anthology, as translated by Samuel Beckett focusing on Beckett’s perspectives on American race laws, slavery and segregation. The conference invites students from underrepresented communities and hosts a roundtable.

Food Studies Forum
Anne Cheng, (English)
Allison Carruth, (American Studies, High Meadows Environmental Institute)
Andrew Chignell, (Religion, University Center for Human Values)
Tessa L. Desmond, (American Studies)
Daniel Rubenstein, (Zoology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology)
Shamus Kahn, (Sociology, American Studies)

This projects brings together a constellation of events featuring innovative and inspiring scholars, artists, activists, and thought leaders who explore, imagine, and think critically about food studies.

The French Revolution: Political Theory and Culture
Flora Champy (French & Italian)
Greg Conti (Politics)

A Summer 2022 intensive, study-abroad, interdisciplinary course in Paris will introduce undergraduates to the ideas at the core of the French Revolution. The course will be innovative in its cross-disciplinary nature, associating methods from the humanities and political science to grasp a watershed moment of modernity.


Architecture Arboretum: Archival Exposé
Sylvia Lavin (Architecture)

This project will invent new ways of documenting the architectural arboretum and the ways in which it has and will continue to design the global habitat. Using design methodologies, machine learning, and crowdsourcing to extract trees from architectural drawings, the project will produce data to be investigated by graduate students in a Fall 2021 seminar and to be discussed at a virtual and cross-disciplinary conference on the Design of Trees.

Art Hx: Visualizing the Medical Legacies of British Colonialism
Anna Arabindan-Kesson (Art and Archaeology, African American Studies)

Art Hx explores the historical, and ongoing, entanglements of art, race and colonial medicine through the curation of a digital database and research platform that brings artists, writers, health professionals and scholars into dynamic conversations around archival objects and art works. More information.

Graduate Fellowships in Data Science and Humanities Data
Meredith Martin (English, Center for Digital Humanities) and Peter Ramadge (Electrical Engineering, Center for Statistics and Machine Learning)

This two-part pilot program will train up to eight graduate students in developing curricular materials and modules for humanities computing. Three “Data Science Fellows” will develop humanistic modules for the popular course “Introduction to Data Sciences” (SML 201) in the Center for Statistics and Machine Learning, with an eye toward eventually being able to lead their own precepts as AIs. Five “Humanities Data Fellows” will develop models for integrating humanistic approaches, datasets, or questions into the curriculum.

Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton (NAISIP)
Sarah Rivett (English, American Studies

This Exploratory Grant supports a new Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative at Princeton (NAISIP), beginning with the formation of a working group consisting of faculty, staff, and students from across the disciplines and the University, while working to establish and maintain partnerships with Indigenous communities. The collaboration will host a lecture series for the 2021–2022 academic year, a Lenape/Lunape language symposium, an Indigenous Pedagogy workshop, and a conference on storytelling and environmental change in Siberia and the American Arctic. More information.

REACTIVATING MEMORY – Shuffle Along and the Tulsa Race Massacre: A Centennial Symposium
Stacy Wolf (Lewis Center for the Arts) and Catherine M. Young (Lewis Center for the Arts)

A virtual Fall 2021 symposium will mark the centennials of two neglected but pivotal events in US history: (1) the successful, black-created 1921 musical comedy Shuffle Along, which faced racism on Broadway and beyond; and (2) the Tulsa Race Massacre, the burning of the neighborhood known as “Black Wall Street,” which happened one week after Shuffle Along opened. Considering these events in tandem, the symposium will consider Black entrepreneurship, racial capitalism, Jazz Age cultural expression, contemporary journalism, and archival gaps.


The Seminars of Jacques Derrida: An Online Archive
Katie Chenoweth (French and Italian)

This project will produce an online archive featuring the complete teaching materials of one of the 20th century’s most important thinkers. The digital archive, consisting of Derrida’s fully written-out lecture courses delivered at universities in Europe and the United States between 1960 and 2003, will provide open access to over forty years of previously unpublished writing.

Interrogating History: The Classical Black Theater Canon
Program in Theater (Lewis Center for the Arts)
Aiming to expand the classical canon by investigating lesser-known plays by Black writers, this project engages students and professors across disciplines in play readings and dynamic discussions with the theater makers of New York City-based collective CLASSIX. The collaboration’s first event featured recorded readings, by professional actors, of play excerpts written by Black people in the Federal Theater Project’s Negro Units of the New Deal era.

Computational Environmental History in Namibia
Emmanuel Kreike (History) and Tsering Shawa (Princeton School of Public and International Affairs)

The project will develop a spatial digital dataset for the computational history of an area in northern Namibia. Combining satellite and aerial photography, orthographic mapping, and experiments with 2D and 3D historical computer simulations, a transect of half a century of dynamic interaction between society and environment will be produced for analysis.  

Textual Materiality in Korea: Premodern to Postmodern 
Ksenia Chizhova (East Asian Studies)

Foregrounding textual materiality, this workshop offers an interdisciplinary, collaborative platform for scholars working on Korea-related topics. The workshop will result in a special issue, co-edited by the organizers of the Journal of Korean Studies.

Afro-Asian Lives and Cultures in Latin America (Public Virtual Workshop)                                         
Christina Lee (Spanish and Portuguese)

A Fall 2021 symposium on Afro-Asian Connections in Latin America will investigate national and religious identities in former Spanish and Portuguese colonies through concepts of mestizaje (racial mixing), focusing on personal and communal bonds forged between subjects of African and Asian descent from the mid­-nineteenth century onwards in Latin America.

Robotic Lacing
Stefana Parascho (Architecture) and Basile Baudez (Art and Archaeology)

Transposing the traditional craft of bobbin lacing into a robotic fabrication process, the project will not only automate the complex process of lace-making but also explore the design potential of a new lacing method and exploit its three-dimensionality for load-bearing applications. Ultimately, the developed technique will be implemented in a large-scale architectural prototype to test and showcase new applications for textile craft. 

Team-Teaching Grants in Humanistic Studies

Language To Be Looked At
Joshua Kotin (English); Irene Small (Art and Archaeology)

This seminar focuses on the intersection of language and visual art in the twentieth-century. We begin by examining modernist and avant-garde experiments in word and image and then investigate the global rise of concrete and visual poetry and text-based art movements after World War II.

Ancient Plots, Modern Twists
Yelena Baraz (Classics); Jhumpa Lahiri (Creative Writing)

This team-taught capstone seminar will examine ancient plots as generative forces for new creative work. We will ask how ancient Greek and Roman plots are appropriated, reused, and reimagined by modern and contemporary writers.

Curricular Innovation

The Classics and Activism
Dan-El Padilla Peralta (Classics) and Brooke Holmes (Classics

This new graduate seminar will bring together two lines of inquiry not traditionally put in conversation: first, the history and practice of activism as a force for reconfiguring academic knowledge; second, primary texts from Greco-Roman antiquity. By introducing activists as seminar co-teachers and by disseminating the seminar beyond Princeton, the seminar aims to incubate new modes of practicing knowledge of “the classics” as a public good. 

Reckoning: Complicated Histories and Collective Identities
Tiffany C. Cain (Humanities Council; Anthropology; Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts)

Through field experiences in a Fall 2021, Anthropology and Humanistic Studies seminar students will grapple with violent pasts through investigations of the cultural media surrounding memorials, monuments, museums, and collaborative heritage.

A History of Words: Technologies of Communication from Cuneiform to Coding
Melissa Reynolds (Humanities Council; History; Humanistic Studies; Society of Fellows)

The new course considers how we communicate–via inscription, graffito, letter, or blog post–affects the structures of our culture. Students will trace the evolution of written communication from ancient Sumeria to modern-day America. Through complementary “digital labs,” students will engage with primary sources representative of cultural shifts and develop criteria for analyzing digital archives.

Korean Language Learning in Virtual Environments: Exploring and Navigating the Metropolitan City of Seoul
Ho Jung Choi (East Asian Studies)

In a collaboration with Yonsei University in Seoul, a virtual reality pedagogy will be created for Princeton’s Korean language courses, using VR 360 video footages.

Multi-Year Projects and Global Initiatives

Borobudur: A Research and Teaching Project for Faculty and Students
Jonathan Gold (Religion)

Integrating research and teaching around the famous Buddhist monument of Borobudur near Yogyakarta, Indonesia, this project supports Princeton faculty, graduate students and undergraduates in solidifying networks and developing research projects both at Princeton and in Southeast Asia. There will be a team-taught undergraduate course and conferences in Indonesia (Summer 2021) and Princeton (Fall 2021).

Past, Present, and Future of Incarceration
Matthew Larsen (Religion; Society of Fellows); Wendy Warren (History)

Expanding the history of incarceration beyond the prison-industrial complex, this project includes a team-taught courses in Humanistic Studies, “Incarceration in Roman Antiquity” (Fall 2019) and a new Carceral Studies reading group, culminating in an interdisciplinary conference.

Tang-Song Transition Workshop
Anna Shields (East Asian Studies)

In its third year, the workshop uses resources in Princeton University Art Museum, Marquand Library, and Gest Library to take an interdisciplinary approach to an epochal shift in Chinese history, from China’s medieval to early modern period.

Piranesi on the Page
Carolyn Yerkes (Art and Archaeology)

Known as an artist, etcher, and architect, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) was also a maker of bound books. An exhibit in Firestone Library’s new galleries will demonstrate vividly how he combined his creative obsessions.

Comparative Antiquity, see Global Initiatives

The Princeton Project on the Ethiopian Miracles of the Virgin Mary, see Global Initiatives

Other New Projects in the Humanities

In addition to Magic awards, the Humanities Council supports faculty projects through:

Co-Sponsorship and Special Grants

Exploratory Grants in Collaborative Humanities

Working Groups

Global Initiatives

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