The NEHC is pleased to announce the winners of the 2021 Request for Proposals. These are competitive seed grants for research initiatives in the humanities that seek to capitalize on the collaborative network of the Consortium.
Public Philosophy Writing Workshop
Philosophers have a lot of insight to offer the public, but we aren’t great at expressing our ideas to those outside of academia. Professional philosophical writing can be dense, technical, and field-specific; while important to those in academics, this writing is rarely read by those outside of academics. Yet philosophical thought is important to more than just academics; it infiltrates public debate and public policy and can inform a wide range of topics, both straightforward (e.g., the ethics of mandatory vaccination policies) and more subtle (e.g., understanding the harms of homelessness by thinking through the depth feelings of loneliness and meaningless present). This project aims to to organize a 3 day, 2 night public philosophy writing workshop for philosophers from NEHC member institutions. The workshop would bring together a group of 8 philosophers interested in writing for a public audience.
Northeast Workshop to Learn about Multicultural Philosophy: NEWLAMP
Most undergraduate students in North America only read and discuss “Western,” Anglo-European philosophy in their philosophy courses. The problem is not that philosophy professors are generally unwilling to teach traditionally underrepresented areas such as Latin American, Indigenous, East Asian, South Asian, and Islamic philosophy. Rather, the problem is that most lack the familiarity needed to competently teach work in these areas. The Northeast Workshop to Learn About Multicultural Philosophy (NEWLAMP) project will be a yearly week-long summer workshop aimed towards remedying this problem, by teaching philosophy teachers about a given underrepresented area, so that they can then teach it in their general undergraduate courses. Each year, NEWLAMP will focus on a different area, starting with African, Africana, and Black American social and political philosophy in the summer 2022. The NEHC principal investigators will take turns hosting the workshop in their respective institutions.
Stories Told in Space: Realizing the Narrative Potential of Spatial Storytelling
There is a tension at the heart of spatial storytelling, or what are called “story maps.” Maps place what we perceive as facts on a two‐dimensional plane. People expect maps to be factual and correct. Maps also give us a synoptic view of whatever they depict, as if we are viewing the world from above, taking it in all at once. Stories, in contrast, have the sense of being fluid, not fixed. They unspool as we read. Narratives infer as much as they state, take diversions, embellish with description, give readers glimpses or fragments. These two expressive forms seem opposed, yet many people now embrace the notion that maps tell stories. We believe the narrative potential of maps has just begun to be realized – that maps could be more evocative, tell richer stories, if we found visual equivalents of narrative complexity. At the same time, written narratives could more fully incorporate the spatial awareness that maps convey. Our goal is to improve contemporary story maps by answering two related questions: How can the visual tactics of maps take on qualities of narrative? And how can the spatial power of cartography be harnessed to tell richer stories?
Fact, Fiction and Disinformation: A Computational Analysis of Fossil Fuel Writing Across Genres
As we see all around us, the denial of climate change, vaccines, election results, racial injustice, and even science in general have grave consequences for public health, democracy, and the very fabric of our society. These forms of denial are driven by misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda online, a significant portion of which is in written form (e.g., social media posts seeking to discredit COVID vaccines). While these societal problems are tremendously complex, we are investigating one key aspect of them: the goal of our project is to examine the language of misinformation and disinformation by comparing it with other genres of writing on the same topic, using methods from computational linguistics and literary analysis. Our particular case study is writing about fossil fuel, especially oil and coal; our team has secured a large dataset of published fiction concerning oil and coal (“fossil fuel fiction”). We will be analyzing and comparing the language of these fictional works, newspaper articles, op-ed pieces, amateur writing, and finally false information (including that disseminated by the fossil fuel industry) about fossil fuels.
Building a Networked Digital Archive of NEHC Writing Programs
The goal of this project will be to build a networked digital archive of writing program materials from NEHC consortium members. This effort connects multiple humanities disciplines, including digital humanities, writing & rhetoric/English, and history. It is an innovative project that will demonstrate the potential of digital archives to expand our knowledge of writing and literacy programs in institutional, regional, and national histories across institutions. We endeavor to tell the stories of our institutions’ and writing programs’ pasts in a new era: one capitalizing on the power of digital access to democratize information. This project offers the opportunity to rethink what it means both to curate and store these texts as data, and also to permit us to assess historical texts comprehensively using digital tools and platforms in hopes of understanding our histories so that we can continue to facilitate advanced literacies in our students’ student learning and increase the strength and viability of writing programs for the future.
Journaling the Pandemic: A Multimedia Exhibition
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the fabric of everyday life across New England and around the world. Given the right tools, how might ordinary people chronicle the impact of the pandemic in their lives? How might a trove of everyday, first-person reflections on the changing texture of pandemic reality, using the ordinary tools of 21st century digital life, enrich and challenge understanding of ourselves and our society? This project will engage these questions in the form of a photography exhibition designed to showcase contributions to the Pandemic Journaling Project (PJP), a public humanities initiative launched in May 2020 as a collaboration between faculty at two NEHC member institutions: Dr. Sarah Willen, Associate Professor of Anthropology and 2021-22 Future of Truth Fellow at UConn’s Humanities Institute, and Dr. Katherine A. Mason, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Brown. The exhibition will be presented both in person and online. The in- person exhibition will be installed in two locations – downtown Hartford, Connecticut (in collaboration with UConn Hartford and likely the Hartford Public Library), and Providence, Rhode Island (in collaboration with Brown’s Population Studies and Training Center) – and accompanied by at least one open community conversation in each. In Connecticut, we also will co-organize a public forum with partners at the Connecticut State Legislature.