Priorities and Initiatives

A student from Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart began the morning session of day two of the International Symposium on Indigenous Communities and Climate Change by reading a “land acknowledgment” that the students had crafted for the symposium.

The Humanities Council supports groundbreaking initiatives that have the potential to change the way the humanities are conceived and taught.

As a catalyst for collaborative projects, and a coordinating force for those with shared interests, the Council enables faculty to develop new programs and to create new intellectual communities that broaden the scope of their activities.

We play an important role in institutional transition in the continual evolution of study in the humanities, hosting foundational groups in emerging and underrepresented fields of study. Our support provides the resources and connections necessary for growth, leading, in some cases, to programs establishing themselves as autonomous, independently funded entities.

Recent priorities and initiatives include the following:

New Media and Technologies

The Council has launched the new certificate Program in Journalism in academic year 2018-2019. Building on 60 years of support for teaching and practicing journalism, we expand student access to a range of courses that address the contemporary media landscape, investigate the world, and teach communication in a variety of media. Our continued contributions to sustain the growth of Film and Media Studies include new projects like the lecture series on “Thinking Cinema” and Media Studies, “Positions and Prospects.” As an early-stage supporter for the initiative that grew into the Center for Digital Humanities and several other projects using new technologies, we have advocated for students and researchers using new tools to investigate the questions of the humanities, not least including digital humanities options among curricular tracks in the Humanistic Studies certificate program.


Council funds have supported dozens of faculty to conceive and develop team-taught courses with new possibilities for creativity and scholarship between departments. Team-teaching is among the Council’s innovative support for projects that galvanize inventive and explicit cross-disciplinary or cross-divisional projects. The Council’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities (IHUM) is fully subscribed, while enrollments in a growing range of Humanistic Studies courses has grown by over half in the past five years.  The Council funds, either directly or through programs under its management, over a dozen discussion and reading groups on focused topical areas among faculty and graduate students that cut across disciplinary approaches. Our new grants in the Collaborative Humanities, led by Comparative Antiquity at Princeton, A Humanities Council Global Initiative, insist upon research spaces that forge substantive connection across established disciplinary lines.

Identity and Intersection

The Council supports initiatives that address the contemporary and historical constructions of the individual in the complex social matrices of group identities and their intersections. In support for the study of race, class, ethnicity, national identity, gender, and sexuality in we further and incorporate transformation in contemporary scholarship. We have been the primary supporter of the Princeton and Slavery Project, providing research grants for postdoctoral fellows and funds for innovative, digital, and media-oriented courses where undergraduates participated in the research project. The Council supports the Program in American Studies’ establishment of key personnel and curricula in Diasporas in America, Asian American Studies, Latino Studies and American Indian Studies, and new activity in Canadian Studies around indigenous peoples, media, and the environment. Our Gardner Magic Grants continue to support projects that address interactions of identities and the world, in 2018-19 they include the BiM Incubator of Architechnopoetics; Asia, Theory, Visuality; and Indigenous/Settler: Conference.


The Council is committed to scholarship, teaching, and experiences that explore the universe of human interpretative and critical techniques around the globe. These diverse perspectives, many of which transcend regional boundaries, are present in a range of curricular support, group travel, and research. Our established course development funding schemes have incorporated travel into many different kinds of courses now having reached five continents. Council support assists instruction in less commonly taught languages, such as Sanskrit, Medieval Latin, and American Sign Language. We have been a major supporter of L’Avant-Scène Theater Workshop activities on campus and abroad. The Program in Journalism’s growing slate of reporting trips have reached six countries. The Council regularly participates in activities at Princeton’s Athens Center for Research and Hellenic Studies, co-sponsoring meetings of scholars and immersive visits by students.

Anthropocene Humanities

At a global crossroads of extractionist use of the planet and the sustainability of biodiversity and human community, the Council supports emerging approaches in the developing field of environmental humanities. A Magic-supported Spring 2019 group trip to Bears Ears National Monument in Utah will examine legal protection, extraction, and the indigenous community who connect to this land. Indigenous participation in data gathering, journalism, and the impact of climate change on bellwether communities is the focus of the International Symposium on Indigenous Communities and Climate Change in December 2018, organized by Council Sponsored Programs in Canadian Studies and Journalism. Council support through the Magic project also assisted the creation of Nature’s Nation: American Art and Environment, a vital re-examination of the depiction of North America in art and current ecocriticism. In the field of medical humanities course development and reading group support has helped the Bodies of Knowledge group flourish, while Magic funds have supported an interdisciplinary working group addressing neuro-divergence, space, and engineering: Dancing with and Around Neurological Motor Challenges.

Public Humanities

The Council’s public series on the role of the humanities, our Annual Humanities Colloquium, each year addresses a strategic subject at the junction of scholarly practice and public debate. New Faculty Outreach grants make tangible Council support for faculty who seek to share their work or outlook with the community. Our investments and interest in new aspects to graduate training in the humanities that include public engagement grows into new areas of collaboration with the Center for Digital Humanities, Graduate School, and others. In autumn 2018 we are the first North American institution hosting the Being Human Festival, a showcase format for humanities practice developed in the United Kingdom.

Creative Arts and Humanities

In frequent collaboration with the Lewis Center for the Arts, Council priorities work on the interpretative interpenetration of the arts and humanities by funding visitors, course development, and fostering the continuity of impact from the moment of performance to interpretative afterlife in our communities. The Council’s Belknap Visitors and Belknap Global Conversations series have staked new ground. Fall 2018’s Belknap Visitor Susan Meiselas combines the communicating imagery of photojournalism with critical acclaim as a creator and conceptualizer of images. The Council’s Short Term Fellows have in the past two years included artists working in the fields of opera, traditional music, stage acting, direction, playwrighting, filmmaking, and the art of the graphic novel.


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