Integrating Humanities across National Boundaries: A CHCI Pilot Program Made Possible by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

In January 2013, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded CHCI a three-year grant of $1.2 million for Integrating the Humanities across National Boundaries, a three-year pilot program designed to foster new forms of collaborative research and partnerships among CHCI's international membership  The objective of the program is to advance innovative programmatic ideas and new forms of collaborative research across national, regional, and disciplinary boundaries.  The grant helps to identify new priorities and potential roles for CHCI, and explore the ways in which a networked consortium can further scholarly innovation in the humanities on a global scale.  In January of 2014, the Mellon Foundation awarded CHCI an additional three-year grant of $1.35 million to support a second pair of pilot projects through 2016.  The four collaborations funded by these two generous grants are as follows:

1. Religion, Secularism, and Political Belonging (RelSec).  The RelSec project links CHCI member organizations at the University of Arizona, Portland State University, Utrecht University, Tel Aviv University, and The Chinese University of Hong Kong,  The project centers on mutually coordinated research projects that investigate how religious and secular formations organize the practices of political belonging across the globe.  In the three years of the project, the participating CHCI organizations have convened research teams to conduct investigations anchored to each site along these thematic lines.  They have also met for symposia and workshop meetings at CHCI annual meetings and at each participating site.  As the project progresses, the project partners are sharing their foundational readings and ideas with each other and the CHCI membership on the RelSec website at

2. Humanities for the Environment (HfE).  The HfE project, which emerged out of an existing CHCI member network, is animated by questions about the role of the humanities in the Age of the Anthropocene, a concept developed by scientist Paul Crutzen to identify a new era in which human activity is significantly reshaping the geological future of the planet.  Participants in the HfE project ask how, in this moment, we might re-apprehend longstanding definitional protocols of the humanities, such as the epistemological distinction between 'human' and 'natural' history, together with the multitude of responses the arts and humanities disciplines have given to the fundamental question of what it means to be human within a moment of planetary crisis.

Rather than attempt to define a single research agenda adequate to that demand, the HfE project has established three research 'observatories' in Australia, Europe, and North America, involving CHCI-member organizations at the University of Sydney, Trinity College Dublin, Arizona State University, Clark University, and Wake Forest University. Each observatory spent the first two years of the project addressing a particular thematic strain with the Anthropocene humanities.  In May 2015, representatives from each observatory convened near Phoenix, Arizona for an international conference.  They were joined by representatives of newly forming observatories in Africa and Asia, with a view toward continuation and growth of the project beyond the current grant period.  In addition, the project website at is a major collaborative effort to collect and share the work of the observatories.

3. The CHCI Medical Humanities Network Program (MedHum).  This program aims to further the development of medical humanities as a subject of study.  The project's larger goals are to contribute to the ways medicine and the humanities are taught and practiced; to provide new models for research within and across fields; and to foster collaborations between scholars working in humanities departments and their colleagues in the health sciences.  The six partnering humanities centers are located at Columbia University; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; King's College London; the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Dartmouth College; and The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Each is conducting specific research on aging, undergirded by collaborative reflection on issues of evidence, value, and evaluation.

4. Integrative Graduate Humanities Education Research and Training (IGHERT).  This project brings together faculty, doctoral students, and post-doctoral scholars in a series of structured collaborations to undertake jointly mentored, international research.  It brings together four CHCI-member organizations at the University of California, Santa Cruz; The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Justus Liebig University, Giessen; and Australian National University, Canberra.  Together they are engaging graduate students in a series of collaborative training and research activities and will test, refine, and assess a scalable model of skill training and digital archiving that can be applied in multiple contexts and to multiple themes.  The IGHERT program further aims to attune the participants to the larger public contexts in which expert knowledge in the humanities is meaningful and to equip them with the written and oral skills necessary to communicate with these public constituencies more effectively.