The Whitney Humanities Center is an interdisciplinary institution that reflects Yale University’s longstanding commitment to the humanities. The Whitney promotes research and scholarly exchange across fields and supports especially the activities of faculty and students whose work transcends departmental boundaries.
It does this in many ways, from hosting international conferences, colloquia, and lectures that bring prominent visitors to the university to providing research and publication grants to individual scholars; from supporting the focused interdisciplinary work of the Humanities/Humanity workshops to sponsoring working groups of faculty and students devoted to the informal exchange of ideas on topics of shared interest.
The Whitney is home to a broad-based intellectual community defined by a distinguished fellowship that meets weekly. It houses Yale’s Humanities Program, an interdisciplinary council of scholars from many departments responsible for two of Yale’s most prestigious interdepartmental undergraduate programs: Directed Studies and the Humanities major. Other programs and centers sponsored by the Whitney include the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities, the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism, and the Center for Historical Enquiry and the Social Sciences.
Beyond this, the Whitney hosts a wide array of events proposed by departments and programs from across the university. Highlights of each year’s activities at the Whitney include the prestigious Tanner Lectures on Human Values, given in recent years by such notable figures as Judith Butler, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Bruno Latour, and Achille Mbembe; the Finzi-Contini lectureship in comparative literature, which has been delivered by such renowned writers as Amitav Ghosh, Maxine Hong Kingston, and W. S. Merwin; the much-anticipated series of public lectures associated with each year’s Franke seminar in the humanities and Shulman seminar in science and humanities; the lively and diverse Music at the Whitney concerts featuring undergraduate musicians and guest artists; exhibits by artists affiliated with Yale or the larger Yale—New Haven community; and the screenings, festivals, conferences, workshops, and visits by distinguished filmmakers sponsored throughout the year by Films at the Whitney.
Since 1981, the Whitney Humanities Center has been housed in what was formerly the Trinity Parish Church House. Yale University acquired the building in 1980 as a gift from John Hay Whitney, BA 1926, MA HON. 1956, and its three floors accommodate an art gallery, conference rooms, seminar spaces, offices, and support facilities, as well as a state-of-the-art lecture hall and auditorium.