Center for 21st Century Studies selected for Mellon Foundation grant

Pictured here are Brazilian Indian chiefs of the indigenous group of the Kaiapos tribe. Photo courtesy of Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news

Pictured here are Brazilian Indian chiefs of the indigenous group of the Kaiapos tribe. Photo courtesy of Agência Brasil, a public Brazilian news

How does the proliferation of networked social media impact research in the humanities?

UWM’s Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) has been selected to participate in a major new grant that seeks to answer this question. The grant was awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), of which C21 is a member.

The $1.35 million grant will support an initiative called Integrating the Humanities Across International Boundaries, designed to foster new forms of collaborative research and partnerships among international universities.

Indigenous people are one possible topic for the research funded through the new C21 grant.

Indigenous people are one possible topic for the research funded through the new C21 grant.

This is the first time UWM has received this type of grant from the foundation, says Richard Grusin, director of C21. “They are strongly oriented to the humanities,” he adds, but seek out recipients rather than soliciting applications. “In past these [grants] have usually gone to Ivy League schools, elite private schools or flagship schools of state university systems.” This time, the foundation chose to work with the consortium of centers that includes UWM.

“It’s really an honor for us,” says Grusin.

CHCI is an international organization that includes more than 180 member and affiliate organizations in 23 countries and 46 states. C21 will be working collaboratively with three other CHCI centers on a pilot project called Integrative Graduate Humanities Research Education and Training (IGHERT) through 2017.

The three other partners are the Institute for Humanities Research, University of California, Santa Cruz; the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture, Justus Liebig University, Giessen, Germany; and Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, Canberra.

Non-native plants, like kudzu, could also be a focus of the studies. Kudzu, introduced to the U.S. from Japan, is considered an invasive species since it grows rapidly, overshadowing and killing other plants.

Non-native plants, like kudzu, could also be a focus of the studies. Kudzu, introduced to the U.S. from Japan, is considered an invasive species since it grows rapidly, overshadowing and killing other plants.


The goal of the pilot project is to study how scholars collaborate internationally using such tools as the Internet and social media. “We’re taking more traditional forms of research and seeing how they have changed in response to digital media.”

The funding will be used to support doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars and mentors at the four institutions in working together around a common topic in the humanities.  Researchers may come from anthropology, history or numerous other disciplines.

“This is modeled on interdisciplinary work in the sciences, which brings together teams of graduate students to work on areas of study that are new and emerging. The students will have the opportunity to work with and learn from others with similar interests across disciplines and time zones, and even hemispheres.”

The interdisciplinary theme for the pilot project is “indigeneity,” or what it means to be native to a particular place, and what is the impact of globalization, says Grusin. “This can encompass humans and nonhumans,” he explains.

Proposals might range from studies of aboriginal people in Australia, to research on Wisconsin tribes’ response to the Gogebic Taconite mine issue, to the impact of nonnative species like Asian carp or kudzu when transplanted to a new environment.

The program is soliciting applications from doctoral students interested in participating, starting in fall 2014. Doctoral students will receive two years of 12-month dissertation fellowship support plus three years of travel expenses to participate in the IGHERT sessions to be held at each of the participating centers.

UWM will have support for two scholars and two faculty mentors. “They will have the benefit of mentorship and collegiality to make what they do so much richer,” says Grusin.

In August 2016, C21 will host a summer workshop for all of the project’s international participants, focusing on the question of human and nonhuman belonging. The workshop will feature several public presentations that will be open to the UWM and local communities.

The goal is to foster collaboration among the graduate students and encourage them to present their findings concisely. “It’s sort of like academic speed dating,” says Grusin of the effort to bring scholars of different disciplines and nationalities together on a project.

The IGHERT program will stress communication, encouraging and preparing the researchers to find ways to archive their findings digitally, and present the results of their research to a more general audience.

“We will all gain a transnational perspective on these issues and learn from each other. It’s really exciting,” Grusin says.

Non-native plants, like kudzu, could also be a focus of the studies. Kudzu, introduced to the U.S. from Japan, is considered an invasive species since it grows rapidly, overshadowing and killing other plants.