Historian David Biale Appointed Director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute

David Biale, a leading scholar of Jewish intellectual and cultural life, has been named director of the UC Davis Humanities Institute. He will begin in his new post on July 1, 2013. Biale succeeds Associate Professor of English Seeta Chaganti, who has been serving as interim director since January 2013.

Biale, the Emanuel Ringelblum Professor of Jewish History, is the author and editor of 10 books and 74 articles over his 36-year career. He is a three-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award and has held fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. His most recent book is titled Not in the Heavens: The Tradition of Secular Jewish Thought (Princeton University Press, 2011).

A faculty member at UC Davis since 1999, Biale founded the Jewish Studies Program and is currently serving as chair of the History Department. In 2011 he received the UC Davis Prize for Undergraduate Teaching and Scholarly Achievement, the highest honor the university bestows on its faculty.

“David Biale brings superb qualifications—intellectual as well as administrative—to this key position,” said Jessie Ann Owens, dean of the Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies (HArCS). “I want to thank the faculty recruitment advisory committee for their recommendation. David Biale stood out in a strong pool for his commitment to interdisciplinary work in the humanities and social sciences as well as his longstanding involvement in collaborative research. ”

In the last two decades, Biale has pioneered collaborative projects in the humanities. “In the 1990s, I assembled a team of 23 scholars to write Cultures of the Jews.  I did not want to replicate the traditional anthology in which the editor works individually with each contributor, but rather to create a common purpose, approach and template for each chapter,” Biale explained. “The result was a product whose coherence has won considerable acclaim, including the National Jewish Book Award.” More recently, Biale is serving as Project Director of an international team of nine scholars writing A New History of Hasidism. The team meets every summer in Leipzig, Germany, and is experimenting with collective writing, which is an exciting and challenging project, according to Biale.

At the UC Davis Humanities Institute, Biale will direct a diverse slate of core programs—faculty research seminars and research clusters—as well as public events and special initiatives, all designed to develop and nurture interdisciplinarity, collaboration, engaged scholarship, and intellectual community among scholars at UC Davis and beyond. Located administratively in HArCS, the research center serves faculty and graduate students across the humanities and humanistic social sciences.

The new director inherits a thriving organization, as Owens makes clear. “The DHI benefitted greatly from the inspired leadership of Carolyn de la Peña. Her tenure saw the establishment of the California Cultures Initiative, the Digital Humanities Initiative, the NEH-funded Civility Project, the Art of Regional Change and the Mellon Research Initiatives in the Humanities, among other projects, and expanded the reach of the DHI well beyond traditional borders.” Owens feels confident that in Biale, the DHI has found a leader who will build on this success while helping it to move in new directions.

“As an intellectual and cultural historian, my work has always drawn from other disciplines, especially literature and philosophy,” said Biale. “In leading the DHI, I look forward to working collaboratively with faculty, students and staff in determining how to strengthen what is already a very strong organization.”