Our mission is to nurture the humanities locally and globally, engage diverse perspectives past and present, and enrich public dialogue with humanistic approaches.
We seek to foster creative scholarship, transformative teaching, and intellectual collaboration by bringing humanities departments and programs into dialogue with arts and sciences.
The Humanities Council is the academic home to the undergraduate certificate program in Humanistic Studies, the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in the Humanities, the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts, and the Program in Journalism, which brings distinguished journalists and nonfiction writers to teach undergraduate seminars each year.
We also support certificate programs in American Studies, European Cultural Studies, Linguistics, and Medieval Studies, along with initiatives in the Ancient World, Classical Philosophy, Canadian Studies, Film Studies, and Renaissance and Early Modern Studies.
The Council fosters intellectual exchange within and across the humanities and brings the campus together for major intellectual occasions such as the Gauss Seminars in Criticism, the annual Belknap Visitor in the Humanities Council, the Stewart Seminars in Religion, the Eberhard L. Faber IV Lectures, and the annual Humanities Colloquium.
The ongoing programs of the Council are overseen by an Executive Committee representing a broad spectrum of the Council’s activities. These activities include a program of Visiting Fellows—distinguished scholars from around the world who spend a period of time in residence in Princeton participating in the life of the University; the Council’s Research Professors, a small group of faculty members in the humanities and the humanistic social sciences who devote a year to intensive research and discussion; the Behrman Professors, who dedicate three years to teaching in the Humanistic Studies Program; the Old Dominion Faculty Fellows, members of the faculty from all four divisions who come together for monthly seminars; and the Behrman Fellows, associate professors who meet regularly for discussion. The Council also hosts a series of Faculty Seminars to share work in progress and for interdisciplinary conversation about recently published work.
The Edmund N. Carpenter II Class of 1943 Chair in the Humanities brings a senior scholar to Princeton on a permanent shared appointment between a department and the council.
Membership in the Humanities Council is open to chairs and directors of all humanities departments, centers, programs, and committees, as well as the dean of the School of Architecture, the dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and one representative from each of the other two divisions: natural and social sciences. This group meets periodically to discuss matters affecting the humanities at Princeton and to advise the chair, the deans, and the president on policy issues.
See a list of the Humanities Council’s participating members, including 16 humanities departments and more than 30 interdisciplinary centers, programs, and committees.
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:
Film, Journalism, and Digital Humanities
In 2018, the Council has launched the new certificate Program in Journalism, building on 60 years of support for teaching and practicing journalism. The program expands 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,” hosted by Steven Chung (East Asian Studies) and a new Media Studies lecture series entitled “Positions and Prospects,” led by Devin Fore (German). As an early-stage supporter for the initiative that grew into the Center for Digital Humanities and several other projects using new technologies, the Council supports students and researchers using new tools to investigate the questions of the humanities, not least including a digital humanities option among the five 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.
Race, 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, including the study of race, class, ethnicity, national identity, gender, and sexuality. As the initiating spark and primary supporter of the Princeton and Slavery Project, the Council provided research grants for postdoctoral fellows and funds for innovative, digital, and media-oriented courses. A longtime home to the Program in American Studies, the Council has supported key personnel and curricula in Diasporas in America, Asian American Studies, Latino Studies and American Indian Studies, along with 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, including the BiM Incubator of Architechnopoetics; Asia, Theory, Visuality; and the 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.
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 belwether 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.
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.
The Council Chair and Executive Director lead an administrative team that is responsible for day-to-day operations and activities.
To see a list of previous Council Chairs and Executive Directors, click here.