The Humanities Collaboratory is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2016 project grants. Funding of more than $500,000 has been awarded to “Hyecho’s Journey,” an interdisciplinary investigation of the travels of an eighth-century Korean monk, and “Precarity Lab: A Thick Humanities Collaboration on Digital Inequalities,” a study of the inequalities and insecurities generated by digital technologies in the contemporary world.
The Humanities Collaboratory supports intergenerational teams of faculty, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students over a two-year period as they conduct innovative research projects that will produce new knowledge as well as model new collaborative methods for humanities research. The project teams will publish their research results in a variety of media for multiple audiences, and the collaborative structure of the projects also suggests new ways of training graduate student in research and professional development.
“Hyecho’s Journey” explores the travels of a young Korean monk who traveled throughout the Buddhist world in the eighth century. Using the monk Hyecho’s travel journal, the project will follow in Hyecho’s footsteps virtually, mapping his journey’s trajectory through his encounters with Buddhist art and the material cultures of the regions he visited. The project models a new approach to the study of Buddhism, offering a picture of the entire Buddhist world at a single historical moment, seen through the eyes of a single monk. This view of Buddhism as a network of interlocking traditions that cross national and cultural boundaries counters a more traditional historical narrative that traces the development of Buddhism as a movement away from an original center. Team members plan to create an interactive map and app that will be featured at a three-year exhibition at the Freer|Sackler Galleries in Washington opening in October 2017; they also expect the research to result in a monograph, a new undergraduate course, a study abroad opportunity, and a graduate student conference on collaboration.
Donald S. Lopez, Jr., Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, is the project’s principal investigator, and the Hyecho’s Journey team includes Professor Kevin G. Carr (History of Art), Professor Carla Sinopoli (Anthropology and Museum Studies), Keiko Yokota-Carter (Asia Library), and graduate students Rebecca Bloom (Asian Languages and Cultures and Museum Studies), Chun Wa Chan (History of Art), and Ha Nul Jun (Asian Languages and Cultures).
The Precarity Lab team uses the notion of precarity to describe populations that have been disproportionately affected by the forms of inequality and insecurity generated, along with new affordances and possibilities, by digital technologies. Studying the way that precarity unfolds across disparate geographies and cultural practices in the digital age, lab members bring together a diverse set of sites and practices in their research, including the placement of Palestinian Internet cables, the manufacture of electronics by Navajo women, the deployment of drones on the U.S.-Mexico border, and the techno-cultural productions of Chinese makers. Using the notion of “thick humanities” to evoke a claim for central place of the humanities in large-scale and multi-sited research, team members will explore how these sites and practices are related to each other, interrogating the connections and frictions among them, and seeking to understand how they are configured by larger flows of capital, bodies, cultural practices, trade, and labor. Team members anticipate that the research will produce a multi-authored monograph and digital-born critical mapping project.
Lisa Nakumara, Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture, is the project’s principal investigator, and the Precarity Lab’s research team includes Professor Irina Aristarkhova (Stamps School of Art and Design), Professor Anna Watkins Fisher (American Culture and the Residential College), Professor Tung-Hui Hu (English and the Zell Writers’ Program), Professor Silvia Lindtner (School of Information), and graduate students Iván Chaar-López (American Culture) and Meryem Kamil (American Culture).