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MELLON RESEARCH INITIATIVES The 2013-2014 academic year was an intensive one for the Mellon Research Initiatives in the Humanities, a multi-year series of interdis- ciplinary collaborations administered by the UC Davis Humanities Institute. For the first time, four Mellon Research Initiatives ran concurrently as two of the groups came to a successful close and another two launched their first year of programming. There were many highlights, including an exciting new digital project seeded between two of the collaborations, a tenure-track offer for one of two new Mellon Visiting Assistant Professors, successful graduate student recruitments in key departments, and an ambitious two-day, multi- media conference on the “Contours of Algorithmic Life” organized and mounted entirely by graduate students.


Each of the new Mellon Research Initiatives, one titled Social


Justice, Culture and (In)Securi- ty and the other Digital Cultures,


spent their first year broadening their audiences, both on and off campus, and bringing fresh approaches to their events and work- shops. The Social Justice group, with core faculty and students in the women’s/gender and ethnic studies programs in the division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, spent the fall defining the field of social justice through panels and workshops. In spring 2014, the initiative partnered with Syracuse University’s Democratizing Knowledge Collective (another Mellon-funded program) to host a roundtable discussion on transnational feminism in hopes of finding methods and theories to sustain feminist academic work around the globe.


The Digital Cultures Mellon Research Initiative organized and collaborated on four conferences, two workshops, and nine talks on topics ranging from aerial surveillance to gaming and public culture. The co-directors reported both large public events with prominent guest speakers to campus, and highly valuable workshops and talks in smaller venues. It was particularly these smaller settings that gen- erated further research and possible collaborations.


Although these public events may be the most visible, the Mellon Research Initiatives have had the greatest impact on interdisciplin- ary graduate training. The Social Justice group supported two


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graduate students in 2013-2014 in Native American Studies and Geography, both from indigenous or ethnic minorities, and award- ed summer funding to six more students whose projects combined feminist and critical race perspectives on social justice. In the area of Digital Cultures, students presented no fewer than eight dissertation prospectuses in an array of departments, such as cultural studies, music, performance studies, anthropology, Spanish, and comparative literature, that have engaged with topics coming directly out of its Mellon seminars. All told, the Digital Cultures group supported no fewer than 16 graduate students in 2013-2014 with some form of funding, including summer research or travel awards, graduate research appointments, or conference funding.


The two original Mellon Research Initiatives—Early Modern Studies and Environments & Societies—wrapped up their third and final year of programming but made clear that their work is far from completed. Both groups are seeking external funding to extend all or some aspect of the work they began as Mellon Research Initiatives. The co-director of the Early Modern Studies group, in partnership with the co-director of the Digital Cultures Mellon Research Initiative, has applied to the NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities) Digital Projects for the Public program to support the development of an immersive Shakespeare video game that would instruct users about Shakespeare and the performative aspects of early modern theater. In addition, the director of the Environments & Societies Mellon Research Initiative submitted an NEH Collaborative Research Grant in January 2014 to update a seminal essay collection in the field of environmental humanities and is exploring ways to sustain the work of environments and societies through its own center on the UC Davis campus. Thus, the Mellon Initiatives have served as vital catalysts for further collaborative work.


The Mellon funding for early modern studies and environments and societies has made UC Davis a leading venue for scholarship in both of these interdisciplinary fields. Each of these groups took a different approach to building that reputation, whether it was through intensive weekly colloquia held throughout the academic year or larger public events featuring major figures in the field. In its final year, the Early Modern Studies Mellon Research Initiative aimed to build even stronger bridges between early modern studies and other research areas by partnering with other campus entities on each of its major public events, such as the Middle East and South Asia studies Program, the Digital Cultures Mellon Research Initiative, and a performance studies research cluster.


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