Humanities/ Humanity

HUMANITIES/HUMANITY is a program convening small groups working to advance conversation and thought about foundational themes or topics connecting several or many disciplines. Each year Humanities/Humanity funds a number of exploratory initiatives, in which distinguished national and international teams of scholars gather at the Whitney Humanities Center for one or two meetings of two or three days each. The themes explored in these workshops are framed by the Yale faculty that envisage and propose them, in interaction with the group they convene. Workshop leaders collaborate with their invited participants to devise a program of readings and other preliminary materials to be studied before the group meets.

After each workshop the group or some subgroup of its members will submit a paper or report discussing the outcome and implications of the conversations, normally by the end of the summer following the workshop. This will be published electronically and with open access on the Whitney site.

Applications for Humanities/Humanity funding will adhere to several general guidelines:

  • Applications must originate from a multidisciplinary team of at least three ladder faculty at Yale, from three different departments, at least one of them in the humanities; applications involving scholars at different stages of their careers will be particularly welcomed.
  • Applications must describe clearly, if preliminarily, the topics and issues to be discussed in the workshop and their significance, in a proposal of 1200-1500 words.
  • Applications must propose a roster of 8-15 participants in the seminar (inclusive of Yale faculty applicants); before the application is submitted the conveners should ascertain that non-Yale invitees are willing to participate.
  • The roster of participants should be accompanied by brief CVs, not exceeding three pages, from each of the Yale sponsors, and by a few sentences describing, for each of the invited participants, their contributions in the areas the workshop will explore.
  • Applications must include a detailed budget not exceeding $16,000 and a proposed calendar of one or two periods when the workshop will convene.

Humanities/Humanity: A Rationale

Humanistic thought today is witnessing a transformation of method and scope, burgeoning with innovative aims and strategies as it embraces ever-wider terrains of knowledge. Its multidisciplinary reach has lengthened to create productive interactions with fields once thought to be far from the humanities. The potential of these interactions to reshape research agendas and pedagogical strategies and goals calls out for collaborative exploration.

Transformation in the humanities is not new, of course. The late twentieth century saw the growth of initiatives devoted especially to discerning and elaborating human difference—difference of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, as well as of cultural constructions of myriad sorts. This involved both new theoretical perspectives and an expansion of the repertories or archives of cultural achievement humanists encounter.  

The present transformation may be seen to carry forward these initiatives at the same time as it broaches new ones, enriching the emphases of humanistic knowledge once again. It builds on the achievements of the earlier exploration of difference, deepening it and at the same time uncovering broad human commonalities and shared experience. The humanities of pluralism, in other words, are reasserting their commitment to understand the humanity of likeness, shared capacity, and common aspiration that was always implicit in them.

This new development comes from many quarters, arising especially, perhaps, from novel approaches to the analysis of deep-seated conceptual forms, expressive patterns, and configurations of practice. Many examples of these approaches might be cited: emergent complexity in dynamic cultural systems, cultural geographies, the play of scale in human histories, the relations of material and virtual media, the connections and distinctions of information and semiosis, the interplay of aesthetic presence and aesthetic interpretation, and a revisiting of the nature of historicity in and beyond the humanities. These approaches are not new in themselves, but each is entering in new ways into humanistic thought. Many more innovative areas might be suggested by Yale faculty from the vantages of their own research programs, and it is the aim of Humanities/Humanity to support them.