Mellon Research Initiatives

In 2018-2019, two Mellon Research Initiatives will run concurrently: Racial Capitalism and Feminist & Arts Science Shop. In 2010, the UC Davis Humanities Institute received the first of two awards from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support interdisciplinary research in emerging areas across the humanities, arts, and social sciences. To date, the DHI has selected eight interdisciplinary Mellon Research Initiatives, four in the initial 2010 Mellon award and four under the 2014 renewal. Each Mellon Research Initiative receives a generous multi-year funding package that supports a two-year postdoctoral fellow, three years of event programming, and recruitment and research awards for graduate students. Find out more about the MRIs, both present and past, by following the links below.

Mellon Event Forms

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Current Groups


Racial Capitalism This initiative brings UC Davis faculty and graduate students together with outside scholars and activists to advance a research agenda that focuses on racial capitalism. The historical relationship between race and capitalism is one of the most enduring and controversial debates in U.S. historiography. Sometimes explicitly, often only implicitly acknowledged, it shapes fundamental questions about inequality, value, life, bondage, and freedom, among others, across the disciplines of race and ethnic studies, history, literary studies, law, economics, sociology and anthropology. Over the course of the next three years we will be staging dialogues across current work and chart new directions for the study of racial capitalism.


Feminist Arts & Science (HATCH) Our three-year Mellon Research Initiative will begin the process of creating a Feminist Arts & Science Shop at UCD. Our initiative draws on the European model of science shops that provide space for communities to participate in the creation of scientific and technological research agendas. We build upon this work by including the arts and specifically orienting our research agendas towards social justice ends. The UCD Feminist Arts & Science Shop will encourage the development of new science-making and artistic and humanistic modes of inquiry by providing a designated platform to co-create new ways of thinking about democracy and knowledge making in a community-engaged way.



Past Groups

Early Modern Studies

Environments & Societies

Social Justice Initiatives

Digital Cultures

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Comparative Border Studies

Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds



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xUC Davis’s community of early modernists prides itself on its interdisciplinary nature and vibrant, thriving research culture. Of particular note, UC Davis received a $1.4 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to support a three year Mellon Research Initiative in Early Modern Studies, which provided funds for programming and support for graduate students from 2011-2014. Also UC Davis is a member of the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies consortium, providing ongoing opportunities for faculty and graduate student research and professional engagement.

With our nationally recognized faculty and a group of highly immersed and motivated graduate students from across the humanities and social sciences, we regularly gather for lectures, workshops, and professionalization events. This website offers a glimpse into the ways early modernists get involved, network, and collaborate within the university and beyond.


Environments & Societies builds cross-disciplinary collaboration in the environmental humanities and humanistic social sciences to undertake the broad rethinking of human-nature interactions that are critical to meeting the environmental challenges of our era.


xThe UC Davis Mellon Research Initiative “Social Justice, Culture, and (In)Security” was established out of Hart Hall in 2012, following widely and diversely expressed social justice concerns arising from the UC Davis pepper spray incident of November 2011. This campus incident can be read as just one of many local iterations of the widespread social unease accompanying the ongoing reconfigurations of power, knowledge, and resources that are shaping and being shaped by globalization.

The first major public event launching this Social Justice Initiative was the campus rally at which Angela Y. Davis addressed over 2,000 concerned members of the Davis community who filled the graduation hall. Subsequently a number of Hart Hall’s senior faculty were awarded a Dean’s Mellons Grant for the periods 2013-2016, to be used to pursue the core concerns articulated among the race/ethnic and gender studies faculty and students at Davis. The co-directors of this three-year Mellon funded Social Justice Initiative are: Amina Mama, Inés Hernández-Avila, and Yvette Flores. The vision of this interdisciplinary project is create intellectual dialogue across multiple contexts and communities with a focus on social justice work.


xDigital technologies have revolutionized the practice of everyday life, becoming an integral part of work, communication, politics, economics, artistic creativity, and personal identity. The study of digital culture is among the most vigorous areas of research in the humanities and social sciences today.

The Mellon Research Initiative in Digital Cultures is designed around innovative research practices that rearticulate the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts with respect to the technosciences. The initiative will convene students and faculty through a series of workshops, conferences, lectures, and media events. We will focus on some the biggest challenges posed by digital technologies today, addressing the politics of surveillance, data mining, gaming and interactive media, intellectual property regulations, the commons, and participatory culture.


Colin Milburn, Department of English

Kriss Ravetto, Program in Cinema and Technocultural Studies

For more information, please contact:

Kris Fallon (Visiting Assistant Professor in Digital Cultures)

Ksenia Fedorova (Graduate Research Assistant in Digital Cultures)



This Initiative will focus on promoting interdisciplinary, comparative research on the making, unmaking, crossing, and fortification of borders – national, colonial, regional, and continental. Our central thematics are organized as follows, broken down by year: 1) Human rights, citizenship, and racialized belonging (Year 1, 2015-2016); 2) Mobility, militarization, and containment (Year 2, 2016-2017); 3) Protest cultures and transnational solidarities (Year 3, 2017-2018). Please see our Mission Statement to learn more about our guiding research questions and objectives.


The “Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds” Mellon Research Initiative brings together faculty and graduate students from across campus (Anthropology, Cultural Studies, African American and African Studies, English, Geography, Ethnomusicology, Linguistics, and Religious Studies) at UC Davis. It grew out of an interdisciplinary Davis Humanities Institute Research Cluster on contemporary “Indian Ocean Imaginaries.”  The Cluster focused visibility on faculty at UC Davis, who have separately approached Indian Ocean cultures and societies in several ways (for e.g. Adejunmobi 2009, 2007; Ng’weno 2001; Smith 2011; Srinivas 2008). Research projects of graduate students associated with this cluster engage with several cities, oceanic ecologies, warscapes, asylums, waste markets, musicscapes, and other sites in this region. The purpose of the Cluster was to create an explicit community of scholars focused on the Indian Ocean world, to provide a venue for mentorship of graduate students who work on parts of the Indian Ocean world, and to be a site for faculty and students to think about Indian Ocean imaginaries together in novel ways.






This page was last updated: March 11, 2019



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