University of Virginia, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Mission & Goals

The Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures (IHGC) offers a vision at once local and global, and a mission both academic and socially engaged. The Institute aims to:

  • Generate exciting research and curricular innovation in global humanities and the Global South
  • Attract the world’s best researchers to Virginia
  • Create a broad cross-disciplinary research community
  • Build collaborative partnerships with institutions nationally and internationally
  • Offer a conducive training ground for doctoral and postdoctoral scholars
  • Support undergraduate curricular and co-curricular initiatives
  • Promote the arts
  • Foster civic training
  • Facilitate extensive public engagement
  • Advocate the value of the humanities in the public sphere.

Global Humanities

At the center of our ambitions stands a Global Humanities Initiative. In partnership with faculty around the world, the Institute will assemble leading scholars to discuss the present state and future prospects of the humanities: methods of research and circumstances of teaching, institutional openings and constraints, self-assessments and proposals for new engagements.

The humanities today are critically oriented towards generating new universals of human belonging even as they negotiate vast terrains of cultural difference locally and globally. The ‘human’ in the humanities today is indelibly colored by the ‘ethnos’ of the global others, even as it strives to articulate its provenance through a language of the ‘commons’ in the name of our planetary fragility and a post-human consciousness. This shift offers unprecedented opportunities to rethink the very fundamentals of our humanistic disciplines, a task that the IHGC proposes to undertake in all earnest. Themes and areas of focus that the Institute aims to promote include:

  • The Global South
  • Climate Change and the Environment
  • Human Rights and the Post-Human Turn
  • Media Ecologies, Visual Cultures and Technology
  • Literary and Language Worlds
  • War, Violence and Humanitarianism
  • Global Health & Medical Humanities
  • Comparative Religions
  • Pre-modern and Early Modern Global Cultures
  • Oceanic Connections
  • Art and Performance
  • Epistemologies and Institutions

The Institute will generate a suite of programs to engage undergraduate students on one end of the participatory spectrum and the world’s leading researchers and creative artists on the other. While drawing on every kind of local expertise available, these goals will be informed throughout by a deep commitment to addressing pressing global issues that give new meaning to Thomas Jefferson’s founding vision for Virginia as ‘the future bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere.’  

Humanists are primed to offer historical insights that situate contemporary knowledge worlds in a continuum with deep reflections across centuries about the nature of the human sciences, of philosophy, philology, rhetoric, the arts and letters; about civic responsibility; about distinctions between nomothetic and ideographic forms of knowledge, between poesis and mimesis, the expressive and the pragmatic. The IHGC is committed to offering a vibrant platform for exploring the historical lineages of contemporary globalization.

As humanists we constantly negotiate the sensitive terrain between expertise on the one hand and performative expectations in the public realm on the other. Irrespective of whether it accords with our taste or temperament as scholars, the various publics around the world do appear to increasingly feel they have a stake in fully grasping what we humanities scholars do. Our Institute will play a critical role in navigating this expectation and translating to worlds at large the value of what we do.

The humanities serve to define our world in myriad ways: its intellectual and cultural aspirations, its aesthetic values, its comprehension of the past that formed it, and its central ethical, moral, and theological dilemmas. With an enduring commitment to the humanities as both a domain of research innovation and an idiom of institutional self-scrutiny, the IHGC seeks to play a leading role in the shaping of higher education on the global stage. As our institution grows and transforms in the years ahead, it is time to re-imagine its relation to the world in terms more befitting our global century: as an engine of collaborative innovation and institutional transformation driven in great part by a culture of excellence in the humanities.