What is the Humanities in the World Initiative?

In accordance with the priorities expressed in Boston University’s current Strategic Plan, BUCH will support  research that transcends national and cultural boundaries. The Humanities in the World Initiative will promote and expand humanities research at BU that attends to global and diasporic concerns, as well as transnational and local patterns of cultural transformation and movement that shape everyday life.

New global human and ethical challenges have emerged in this revolutionary technological moment. To address these challenges, this initiative will draw existing humanities research at BU into the orbits of internationally-oriented, often collaborative research currently pursued at BU in the social and natural sciences, contributing expertise in linguistics, languages, ethics, religion, history, and philosophy to ongoing interpretive humanistic concerns with popular culture, the arts, and new media.

What is the initiative’s overarching goal?

Working in concert with the Humanities Leadership Initiative and the Digital Humanities Initiative, the aim is cross-fertilization of our shared human task of creating a public commons, one that can participate in the never-ending task of creating sustainable, humanly connected spaces – physical and digital – for the present, the past, and the future. The task of cultivating a communal sense of reality, imagination, and sensitivity to the complexities of forms of life has always fallen to the humanities. It is imperative in this fractious era to develop a sense of what it is to pursue happiness and well-being. The Humanities in the World Initiative will channel the depth of the humanities toward livable, meaningful, and sustainable futures.

What kind of work will the initiative support?

The Initiative will also support collaborations in the humanities that seek to embed research in the world of everyday life, e.g., through analysis of local diasporic culture, human vulnerability, effects of gender and socio-economic differences, radical scepticisms, ethical aspects of AI, and interpretation of the role of popular culture in democratic life. Such interdisciplinary, collaborative initiatives are being increasingly funded in public humanities. The Humanities in the World initiative recognizes the globalization of humanistic challenges and seeks to foster research that augments and develops human resiliency, visibility, expression, and flourishing in an increasingly diverse yet globalized world.

How will the Global Humanities Initiative build on existing activities and modes of support?

At the level of institutional engagement, BUCH already serves as a platform point for local and international initiatives, faculty exchange, and partnerships with research projects and large-scale international grants at other institutions, often partnering with local institutions (e.g., the French Consulate of Boston, the Spanish in Boston project) and with BU area studies centers to sponsor visits by leading researchers in the humanities, writers, and artists.

At the level of individual scholarship, BUCH already provides funding to BU faculty to build on their research and cultivate connections with like-minded colleagues in other countries. Fellowship recipients have received invitations to deliver lectures at foreign universities and developed programming at BU involving researchers sharing interests across the boundaries of many countries. The Initiative will document and further these successes more rigorously, disseminating information about collaborative projects and research trends more routinely, thereby making possibilities for international collaboration a salient criterion for awarding fellowships.