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Humanities Institute


Mellon Research Initiatives

The UC Davis Humanities Institute invites applications for the next round of Mellon Research Initiatives in the Humanities. Applications are due on Wednesday November 2, by 5:00 p.m.; two proposals will be selected to begin in 2017-18.

The two active Mellon Research Initiatives, selected in a competitive process in the fall of 2014, are Comparative Border Studies and Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds. We are especially encouraged by the global reach of each of these initiatives, also evidenced by the international profiles of their Mellon Visiting Assistant Professors.

A Mellon Research Initiative is an intense and focused exploration, over a three-year period, of a particular topic of great institutional importance at UC Davis. Each initiative receives funding for three years of programming, a two-year Mellon Visiting Assistant Professor, director’s compensation and support for graduate recruitment and research. Proof of the program’s success, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation renewed its commitment in 2014 with an additional $1.725 million to support another four interdisciplinary collaborations through 2021.

Since the program’s founding in 2011, four collaborations have been launched in the areas of early modern studies, environmental humanities, social justice and digital cultures.

These initiatives have allowed UC Davis to work towards these simultaneous goals: 1) we have brought talented recent Ph.D.s to UC Davis through highly competitive searches, benefited from their energy and intellectual contributions to our community, mentored them during those critical post-graduate years, and sent them off to tenure-track jobs; 2) we have increased funding for graduate students, which has allowed us to recruit well and to provide summer funding—it is particularly gratifying that the Dean of Graduate Studies at UC Davis matched the Mellon award designated for graduate students, thus increasing its impact; 3) we have enabled senior scholars to create intellectual communities, both on campus and through invitations for conferences, colloquia and seminars. The bonds established through these initiatives will have an enduring impact.

The Digital Cultures Mellon group has been able to leverage their Mellon Foundation support to build a new community. They have new space, four new faculty coming on board in 2015-2016, and new graduate recruits. Indeed, according to its directors, the Mellon funding is already helping to lay the groundwork towards a Designated Emphasis (D.E.) in Digital Culture at UC Davis.

Rather than build an entirely new community, the Social Justice Mellon Research Initiative spent the last academic year breathing new life into a long-standing and renowned program in Native American Studies, the only program in the country to offer an undergraduate major and minor, a master’s, Ph.D., and D.E., all from a hemispheric perspective. The Social Justice Mellon Research Initiative was intended to build bridges across ethnic and gender studies programs, all co-located in Hart Hall at UC Davis. In year one, women and gender studies took the lead and designed programming around social justice in a feminist, global context. In 2014-2015, Native American Studies shifted the dialogue to encompass the theme of “Global Indigeneities” to address issues of indigenous identities, performance as a means of social action, and indigenous knowledge as a form of healing and revitalization.

The first two Mellon Research Initiatives (MRIs), Early Modern Studies and Environments & Societies, ended their Mellon programming in the spring of 2014. However, those collaborations are pursuing ways to continue and extend the work that they began as Mellon Research Initiatives. The Environments & Societies group will continue to offer its colloquium in 2016 in partnership with the Institute for Social Sciences. Also, the former co-director of the Early Modern Studies MRI, Gina Bloom, has partnered with the Digital Culture MRI on the development of a Shakespeare video game.

For more information about the current and former MRIs including faculty, graduate students, and event calendars, please visit their web sites:


This page was last updated: October 17, 2016



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