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New Mellon Groups to Engage Digital Cultures and Social Justice

Two research collaborations have been selected to join the Mellon Research Initiative (MRI) program in the Humanities at UC Davis. The groups, one titled “Digital Cultures” and the other “Culture, (In)security, and Social Justice in the 21st Century,” will spend 2012-2013 planning for the three-year initiatives scheduled to debut in fall 2013. According to Jessie Ann Owens, Dean of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies (HArCS), the successful proposals, selected in a competitive call last spring, were chosen because they could best complement the current Mellon groups, build on existing research strengths across the division, and convene graduate students around new and exciting themes.

The Social Justice MRI will be co-directed by Amina Mama, professor and director of Women and Gender Studies; Ines Hernandez-Avila, professor and chair of Native American Studies; and Miroslava Chavez-Garcia, associate professor and chair of Chicana/o Studies. The Social Justice collaboration emerged in response to the “pepper spray incident” a year ago as well as the social conditions that framed campus protests. “The global divestment of public institutions is exacerbating social inequities, with the many effects being acutely felt in communities and regions with long histories of marginality,” the group argued. “The confluence of recent events on university campuses and in wider social arenas provides UC Davis with a unique opportunity to strengthen the interdisciplinary expertise of faculty and graduate students working with feminist, sexuality, critical race, ethnic, cultural and transnational studies paradigms.”

Led by Colin Milburn, associate professor of English and the Gary Snyder Endowed Chair in Science and the Humanities, and Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli, associate professor of Cinema and Technocultural Studies, the Digital Cultures MRI will help coalesce and strengthen the research already underway in diverse aspects of digital culture across the humanities and social sciences and facilitate the cross-disciplinary training of graduate students to prepare them for the job market of the future.

“Our initiative will have two goals: first, to develop research practices that rearticulate the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts with respect to the technosciences; second, to build local infrastructure that convenes students and faculty in order to stimulate high impact, collaborative research projects, thereby helping to recruit new students to UC Davis,” Milburn and Ravetto-Biagioli explained. “UC Davis is poised to become a world leader in these areas [of digital research], with faculty and graduate students from HArCS, Social Sciences, and the School of Law already addressing the cultural effects of new and emerging technologies.”

The first two Mellon Research Initiatives, Early Modern Studies and Environments & Societies, debuted in the fall of 2011, and will run through the end of the 2013-2014. This year, the Environments & Societies MRI will continue its weekly colloquium, inviting speakers in the field of environmental humanities to share works in progress with UC Davis faculty and graduate students in intimate roundtable discussions of pre-circulated papers. The Early Modern Studies MRI will host a handful of larger events across the 2012-2013 academic year, including a recent presentation held on October 10, 2012, by Steve Hindle, the W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at the Huntington Library.

For more information about the current MRIs and a schedule of events for 2012-2013, please visit their web sites:


UC Davis received a $1.485 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2011 to support four research initiatives. The initiatives, which are housed at the UC Davis Humanities Institute, are intended to explore and develop key ideas in the humanities at UC Davis; strengthen graduate education by helping recruit outstanding students and nurture their intellectual development; provide current faculty with opportunities for cross-disciplinary approaches from colleagues in their area; and provide vital experience for recent Ph.D.s in priority areas in the midst of the on-going crisis in hiring.

This page was last updated: October 22, 2012



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