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The Institute for the Arts and Humanities (IAH) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will share in a $1.35 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) to advance the study of medical humanities.

The grant will fund the second phase of Integrating the Humanities across National Boundaries, an initiative designed to foster new forms of collaborative research and partnerships among the organization’s international members via two pilot projects.

“The IAH has been working to develop the medical humanities at UNC even as it has pursued the opportunity to become part of this evolving international network,” IAH Director John McGowan said. “The Mellon funding is going to consolidate our progress on both fronts, and is an affirmation of all the hard work we’ve done so far.”

The IAH is one of six CHCI member centers and institutes that will lead the research through 2017 on one of the pilot projects, the CHCI Medical Humanities Network Program. The project aims to further the development of medical humanities as a subject of study. Its larger goals are to contribute to the ways medicine and the humanities are taught and practiced; to provide new models for research within and across fields; and to foster collaborations between academics working in humanities departments and their colleagues in the health sciences.

The six partnering humanities centers are the IAH, Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University, Centre for the Humanities and Health at King’s College London, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of the Witwatersrand, Leslie Center for the Humanities at Dartmouth College, and the Research Institute for the Humanities at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Each partnering center will conduct specific research on aging, undergirded by collaborative reflection on issues of evidence, value and evaluation.  At UNC, researchers from the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine will conduct a study that explores how asking the elderly to write or narrate orally as a structured practice can contribute to well-being.  The study is designed to see whether claims made about the beneficial effects of narrative are justified, and to see whether there is a significant difference between regular writing as contrasted to face-to-face oral communication.

The second project, Integrative Graduate Humanities Research Education and Training, brings together faculty, doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars in a series of structured collaborations to undertake jointly mentored international research. The four institutional partners are the Institute for Humanities Research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Center for 21st Century Studies at The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture at Justus Liebig University in Giessen, and the Humanities Research Centre at Australian National University, Canberra. Focusing on the interdisciplinary theme of indigeneity, researchers will engage graduate students in a series of collaborative training and research activities and will test, refine and assess a scalable model of skill training and digital archiving that can be applied in multiple contexts and to multiple themes.

Two three-year projects (2013–2015) were funded in the first phase of the Integrating the Humanities across National Boundaries program. Humanities for the Environment involves five CHCI-member partners forming collaborative “Observatories” – one each in North America, the Australia-Pacific region and Europe – to research the role of the humanities in a period of planetary crisis and change. Five CHCI-member partners are also working on Religion, Secularism  and Political Belonging, which focuses on discovering new approaches to religious and cultural criticism and understanding.

Established in 1988, the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes is an international organization headquartered at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. It is a network for the circulation of information, ideas and best practices related to the programmatic and organizational dimensions of humanities centers and institutes. CHCI is currently comprised of more than 180 member and affiliate organizations in 23 countries and 46 U.S. states. CHCI members are engaged in a wide range of programs, including research support, public humanities programs, fellowship programs and advocacy on issues of educational and cultural policy, digital humanities programs, partnerships with arts organizations and the development and maintenance of research collections. Many CHCI members are powerful agents of growth, change and transformative interdisciplinary research on their campuses and within their communities.

The Institute for the Arts and Humanities offers programs and activities that support UNC faculty at every stage of their careers. The IAH funds individual and collaborative research, showcases faculty work, develops faculty leaders and teachers, and facilitates the formation of collaborative, interdisciplinary communities that promote intellectual exchange. The medical humanities project is part of the Institute’s ongoing exploration of innovative ways of understanding and practicing the humanities.

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