Humanities Labs

Humanities Labs are multi-year programs designed around a theme and intended to drive change and innovation in our undergraduate humanities curriculum through new courses and student research opportunities. A defining characteristic of a humanities lab is the team physically sharing a space and technology (digital, cartographic, etc.), creating a knowledge production environment typically associated with the sciences.

There are currently two Humanities Labs in operation at the Franklin Humanities Institute:  Audiovisualities and Global Brazil.

Story Lab

We live in an age when stories—whether in the form of myths, novels, film and television series, virtual reality games, news narratives and commercial branding, among many others—are more vital than ever. Proceeding from a conviction that there is an urgent need to talk about, reflect on, and critically engage with the phenomenon of storytelling, Story Lab will offer a dynamic space for exploring what it means to make story, embody story, analyze story, talk story, and live story.  The Lab will offer an opportunity to study and foster a space for storytelling, connecting research with expression.  It will be co-directed by Professors Eileen Chow (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), Carlos Rojas (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies), and Clare Woods (Classical Studies). 
Story Lab will offer a richly interwoven program of research, creative expression, course work, and civic engagement involving faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates.  The Lab will also reach beyond literary and cultural productions to consider how stories are marshaled for use in the sciences, in public policy, in business, law, and politics. In its first year, Story Lab will commence with the following three research clusters -- Environmental Narratives, Fandom and Production, and Storytelling and Migration. In addition, it will host a weekly writing workshop on its premises for those who wish to come together to write (and share) stories.

Audiovisualities Lab

Audiovisualities is jointly directed by Guo-Juin Hong (Associate Professor of Chinese Literature and Culture; Interim Director, Program in the Arts of the Moving Image) and Jacqueline Waeber (Associate Professor of Music).  The Audiovisualities Lab explores the connections between image and sound, in practice and in theory.

Through projects, classes, workshops, and other programs, the Lab aims to provide a structure for encouraging teaching and research in the booming field of sound studies, complementing and challenging the existing primacy of visual studies. By situating sound studies and visual studies together, this Humanities Lab engages with film theories and moving image practices, musicology and ethnomusicology, media studies, literature, philosophy and history, cultural anthropology, as well as cognitive psychology and neuroscience, ecology and environmental studies—to name just a few. The Lab’s ambition is to lay the grounds for future studies and practices that understand image and sound together as two major sensoria whose interconnected and sometimes contentious relationships shed new light on human experience.

To learn more, please visit the Lab's page.

Global Brazil Lab

The Global Brazil Lab is directed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty: Paul Baker (Professor of Earth and Ocean Sciences), John French (Professor of History and African and African American Studies), and Esther Gabara (E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Romance Studies and Art, Art History & Visual Studies).

The Lab’s featured courses in Fall 2014 will include “Global Brazil” and “Capoeira: Culture and Practice.” Students will also have the opportunity to participate in faculty-led research projects focused on art and popular culture (with the goal of planning a public exhibit on Pop Art in Brazil and the Americas); biodiversity, energy, and human development in the Amazon; and political inequalities and democratic social movements.

The Global Brazil Lab will be closely aligned with the new Brazilian and Global Portuguese Major in the Department of Romance Studies, with the Duke Brazil Initiative, and with the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.

To learn more, please visit the Lab's page.

The first Humanities Lab at Duke began with the 2010-11 academic year – the Haiti Lab.  In the 2011-12 academic year, the Haiti Lab was joined by two additional labs: BorderWork(s) and GreaterThanGames.  During the 2013-14 academic year there were two labs - BorderWork(s) in its final year and Audiovisualities is in its first year.

The Humanities Labs program brings together groups of faculty and students from throughout Duke University who share discipline-crossing research and pedagogical agendas rooted in the humanities.  They are supported by a Library Humanities Academic Technology Consultant and Research Assistants trained in pedagogically oriented technologies.  The Labs are located in, and additionally supported by, the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Each Humanities Lab is built around a theme or broadly defined idea as articulated by a core team of four to five faculty members from the humanities, interpretive social sciences, and other Duke schools and research units.  Each lab (which can run for a period of 1 or 2 years, sometimes extended to a third) also encompasses an expanded group of faculty members, graduate assistants, and a team of undergraduates working on a set of shared research projects.  Undergraduates can align their participation in the labs to their independent study projects or in relation to honors projects.  In each year of each lab, participating faculty members design and teach undergraduate courses that build on or relate to the lab’s research project.

The Humanities Labs actively employ technology as a tool for research, research dissemination, pedagogy, and collection/archive development.  The labs also draw heavily on the unique strengths of the Duke faculty in order to ensure that media and technology are objects of critical study in the course of each lab.

In simultaneously focusing the work of the labs on research and pedagogy, we are seeking to bring the innovative, interdisciplinary research the Franklin Humanities Institute has long supported more fully into the undergraduate experience of students at Duke and, indeed, to invite undergraduates to participate as researchers themselves, helping to define emerging and future areas of humanities scholarship. By drawing on faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates from across the disciplines and schools, the labs seek to vitally supplement the humanities-driven research opportunities and pedagogical experiences of faculty and students across the full landscape of the university.

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