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

Mellon Global South Initiative

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Global South Initiative provided five years of advanced research funding and curriculum innovation across the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences by reconfiguring traditional disciplinary and cartographic alliances based on area studies models and nation-making paradigms. The initiative helped to reconsider both the contemporary moment of globalization and the centuries-long history that produced it, even as it positions the South in some senses as a window from which to grasp the conditions of intelligibility of our global present: historical, cultural, aesthetic, political, environmental, biomedical and technological.

The Global South refers both to a post-Cold War cartographic conception that embraces Africa, Latin America, Asia, including parts of the Middle East and the Pacific Islands; and politico-cultural spaces shaped by global histories of capitalism, empire, race and diaspora. In this regard, the American South, the Caribbean, the border zones of Latino/Latina Study and immigrant communities of European nations and cities are as much part of the Global South as are Nigeria and Argentina.

Humanities Laboratories are conceived as new spaces for collaborative, discovery-driven and experimental work at UVA. Few fields are better suited to this mode of experimental inquiry than the Global South whose meaning, remit and politico-cultural purchase, not to mention its ethics, are far from settled. An ambitious, multi-scalar agenda for curriculum development and advanced research on the Global South requires a sustained interrogation of its theoretical and cartographic provenance across a vibrant interdisciplinary space. The Global South has multiple resonances across different disciplines. An economist’s understanding of it does not converge with that of a historian or a literary scholar. The labs will be sites for such critical, cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary interrogation.

The proposed Labs generate new experiential forms of learning and advanced research on aspects of the Global South involving teams of faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students. The thematic range includes:

  • race and ethnicity
  • diaspora, migration and immigration
  • global health
  • urban lives and landscapes
  • mediascapes and cultural flows
  • literary and language worlds
  • cartographies and spaces
  • oceanic connections
  • global religions
  • climate change, food security and environment
  • revolution and political thought
  • war, violence and humanitarianism
  • cultures of human rights
  • art and performance
  • pre-modern and early modern global cultures
  • digital access and inequities.

Led by senior researchers the laboratories foster vertical integration of undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, librarians, curators, and technologists around teaching and research initiatives, while at the same time developing horizontal links across multiple disciplines, both cognate and distant.  In addition, they engage collaboratively with institutions elsewhere, both nationally and internationally, and will serve as critical sites for training our undergraduate and graduate students to embrace the new exigencies of a complex and rapidly changing twenty-first century world, both productively (with complex collaborative intellectual and practical skills) and humanely (with nuanced intercultural knowledge and social imagination).