Slots: 3 total.
Internal Deadline: April 8, 2022, 5pm PT
Registration Deadline for Applicants: April 20, 2022
External Deadline: May 16, 2022
Award Type: Grant
Anticipated Award Amount: $250,000 to $300,000 for up to three years.
Who May Serve as PI:
Any organization that responds to this Call for Concepts must:
- Be a four-year, non-profit, accredited, degree-granting institution in the US that offers liberal arts education. (For a full list of ineligible higher education institutions, see the Eligibility section of the Call for Concepts guidelines.)
- Offer multiple degrees in humanities and/or humanistic social science disciplines
- Enroll more than 1,000 full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates
Process for Limited Submissions
PIs must submit their application as a Limited Submission through the Office of Research Application Portal: https://orif.usc.edu/oor-portal/.
Materials to submit include:
- (1) Single Page Proposal Summary (0.5” margins; single-spaced; font type: Arial, Helvetica, or Georgia typeface; font size: 11 pt). Page limit includes references and illustrations. Pages that exceed the 1-page limit will be excluded from review.
- (2) CV – (5 pages maximum)
Note: The portal requires information about the PIs and Co-PIs in addition to department and contact information, including the 10-digit USC ID#, Gender, and Ethnicity. Please have this material prepared before beginning this application.
In the interest of maintaining a grantmaking portfolio that supports inquiry into issues of vital social, cultural, and historical import, the Higher Learning program at the Mellon Foundation invites ideas for research and/or curricular projects focused on any of the three areas outlined below:
- Civic Engagement and Voting Rights
- Race and Racialization in the United States
- Social Justice and the Literary Imagination
Civic Engagement and Voting Rights
Differential access to the ballot box has been a defining feature of the US polity throughout the nation’s history, and contestation over voting rights has only intensified during the last decade. Because broad participation in the democratic process is essential to the achievement and maintenance of a just and equitable society, it is crucial that we understand both current and historical challenges to its realization. The Higher Learning program thus invites ideas for scholarly and/or curricular projects that illuminate the significance of voting rights controversies in any period of US history, from any of the various angles of approach that characterize work in the humanities. While proposals might address many different issues related to struggles for enfranchisement—including property requirements, poll taxes, literacy tests, race- and gender-based prohibitions, redistricting systems, voter registration and ID protocols, felony disenfranchisement laws, and recent instances of election interference from the federal executive branch—we especially welcome those that focus on the role of college and university communities in expanding voter access, whether historically or in the contemporary moment.
Race and Racialization in the United States
Recent national controversies have reminded us both that race is a primary fault-line in US society and that, consequently, serious consideration of its significance remains a matter of intense urgency. Figuring simultaneously as genetic inheritance, physical appearance, historical construction, social custom, cultural practice, and systemic law and policy, among other things, race is a complex and incoherent phenomenon that accordingly demands analysis along multiple axes. In keeping with Mellon’s mission of building just communities empowered by critical thinking, the Higher Learning program aims to promote rigorous humanities scholarship and pedagogy on past and present effects of racial differentiation across the entire spectrum of national life. We seek fresh perspectives that can expand and deepen the national conversation, recognizing that conventional tools used in analysis of race—e.g., chronologies, geographies, linguistics—have inevitably been shaped by the very phenomena they purport to study, and recognizing, too, that deep study of US racialization may well extend far beyond the nation’s boundaries. We welcome ideas for collective research, curricular innovation, and/or program development focused on any aspect of race and racialization in US culture and society, and are particularly interested in projects that would investigate the relationships and tensions between the social-structural constitution of race, on the one hand, and subjective experiences of it, on the other.
Social Justice and the Literary Imagination
Poetry “makes nothing happen,” and “yet men [sic] die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”* As part of its social justice work in the humanities, the Higher Learning program welcomes concepts dedicated to the role of the literary imagination in making and remaking worlds and societies, past and present. Literature has the power to convey more complete, accurate, and emotionally resonant narratives of the human experience than tend to circulate in mainstream discourse. In the contemporary context, for example, Toni Morrison’s fiction, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novels, and Joy Harjo’s poetry all harness the artifice of literary forms to make their communities’ stories visceral and clear without sacrificing complexity; comparable effects have been achieved by literary works in all historical periods. Literature can also speculate about what else could be: proposing social thought experiments and dreamed-up inventions in science fiction, fantasy, and other genres that invite readers to encounter the world with fresh eyes and dare the next generation to build different systems than the ones they have inherited. Through the combination of such revelatory, reparative, and imaginative work, literature has a role to play in laying the foundations for more just and equitable futures. Inquiries might outline curricular development, new scholarship, community engagement, writer convenings, and other efforts that highlight and advance the role of literature—from canonical works to less-studied popular writing—in truth-telling and social change.
Visit our Institutionally Limited Submission webpage for more updates and other announcements.