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Director’s Letter


2013–2014


I AM PARTICULARLY PLEASED to offer to you this Annual Report of the Davis Humanities Institute for the academic year 2013–2014. This was my first year as director of the institute and I was excited to participate with enthusiastic faculty, graduate students and staff in developing new ways to serve the humanities at UC Davis. There is much talk nationally about the so-called “crisis in the humanities,” reflected in shrinking enrollments and fewer job openings. These are, no doubt, challenges that the discipline must meet. But on the ground, as it were, I find that the humanities are flourishing at our institution. Faculty members are engaged in inventive research while graduate students are pushing the envelope even further in original directions. One of the joys of observing the humanities from the vantage point of the institute is that one can appreciate just how strong the various fields of humanities, humanistic social sciences and the arts are at our university.


The Humanities Institute serves as the hub for all humanistic research at UC Davis. We run competitions for a variety of extramural, individual and collaborative grants. During the last year, we selected two applications for NEH Summer Stipend grants, one of which, by musicologist Carol Hess, was successful in this competitive process. We also ran a competition for a Mellon Sawyer Seminar to begin in fall 2015 and were delighted to learn that Kriss Ravetto-Biagioli of Technocultural Studies and Anupam Chander of the Law School were funded for a project on Surveillance Democracies. We staged a competition as well for HArCS dean’s fellows that provided summer support for graduate students in Ph.D. and M.F.A. programs. Finally, we participated in the writing of a renewal grant for the Mellon Research Initiatives in the Humanities, which was also successful.


The Humanities Institute has launched a vigorous profession- alization program. We convened a grant writing workshop for faculty and graduate students and another on how to publish an academic book. This last workshop brought Eric Schmidt, an


editor for UC Press, to the campus. We then followed up with an additional workshop in which three faculty presented their book proposals for discussion and criticism. Finally, working with English professor John Marx, we mounted an “Alt-Ac” (“Alternative Academics”) event attended by some 90 graduate students.


The institute also sees as its mission to promote collaborative work in the humanities in addition to the single-authored scholarship much more common in our discipline. In addition to staffing four Mellon Initiatives this year, we also selected Research Clusters designed, like the Mellon Initiatives, to create bridges across disciplines around themes of common interest. And we hosted a Faculty Research Seminar in the spring on the theme of time across disciplines. For next year, the Faculty Research Seminar has been redesigned to give six faculty members a quarter leave to complete book projects while in residence at the institute.


Finally—but not last!—I would like to salute our talented and dedicated staff. When I became director a year ago, we had lost all of our staff, with the exception of Associate Director, Molly McCarthy and Webmaster, Elliot Pollard. Molly and I worked together to rebuild the staff and we are stronger than ever. We are now equipped to staff events for a wide variety of activities, including those of our research clusters. And Molly will continue to provide excellent assistance to faculty and graduate students in writing grant proposals. So, our approach to the “crisis in the humanities” is not to lament but to work harder and with greater conviction that what we do is essential to the mission of the university and to society.


David Biale Director


UC Davis Humanities Institute


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