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

Public Humanities Lab

The Graduate Student Public Humanities Lab is ​an interdisciplinary, graduate student-led initiative within the IHGC, which aims to develop collaboration among departments, to address specific issues in working groups dedicated to these topics, and to provide a common space for scholars and the wider community to generate lively discussion, research, and advocacy initiatives over the course of the coming year. Eight core members from across the University of Virginia compose the Public Humanities Lab, and lead the lab’s four working groups as principal investigators.

Working Groups, 2018-2019

Circulating Spaces Season 2, Podcast Series: In the Fall of 2018, Circulating Spaces launches its second season, titled “The Global Reach of Public Media.” Episodes will explore developments between literature and new media, online publishing, and migrant writers. The second season animates the concept of the “living humanities” through its focus on contemporary, alternative modes of artistic production, as well as the transformation of literature across media. For more information, please visit the Circulating Spaces website at To subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, visit

Primary Investigators:
Ankita Chakrabarti
Christian Howard

Feminism Reading Group: Drawing on Sara Ahmed’s Living A Feminist Life, which argues that “feminist theory is generated from everyday life and the ordinary experiences of being a feminist at home and at work” and borrowing its name from bell hooks, the Public Humanities Lab’s “Feminism Is For Everybody” reading group will consider what it means to live/practice feminism(s) in ordinary life. How can feminist concepts of living be rendered as an approach to what public humanities could be? We return to canonical feminist texts that focus on feminism as lived experience. We aim to re-explore “the personal is political” within the current political and social climate. Texts include Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde; Feminism is for Everybody, bell hooks; The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood; The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros; This Is How You Lose Her, Junot Díaz; and excerpts from The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir and Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Gloria E. Anzaldúa.

Primary Investigators:
Astrid Lorena Ochoa Campo
Samantha Wallace

Juxtaposition as Inquiry: Traditional bibliography has long recognized the effectiveness of juxtaposition as a technique for doing historical research. Putting dispersed materials together to recreate a particular moment in history is fundamental to the approach of descriptive bibliography and putting technical knowledge together with materials from different times is as fundamental to analytical bibliography. This group will examine ways of doing and demonstrating this technique of juxtaposition for wider audiences. Building on the virtual shelf browsing technology of the Rotunda Library Online and the collation technology of PocketHinman, we will further develop both of these approaches while considering how the core technique of juxtaposition operates in both and can be further generalized for a wider audience. In both cases, our effort will be focused on enhancing the particular while understanding them as part of a larger, more general, approach to the study of the history of texts.

Primary Investigators:
James Ascher
Sam Lemley

Art in Public: The group builds upon our work last year on the collection of racially and politically charged objects in order to explore the everyday encounters with history and historiography found in public and touristic spaces through two separate, though intertwined interventions: one activist-oriented, one research-oriented, both committed to dismantling white supremacy. This year we launch an activist effort called The Monuments Working Group @ UVA which seeks to intervene in the ongoing debates about the statues to Confederate figures found on Richmond’s Monument Avenue through petition and a planned action coinciding with the Monument Avenue 10k race on April 13, 2019. Please see the below call for participants for more information on how to get involved with this project. We also aim to examine the ways that practices surrounding living history – such as open air museums, historical re-enactments, plantation tourism, and revisionary cosplay – collide with other material traces of the past. Though these activities are often criticized for their romanticism, nationalism, or kitsch, we recognize that they are a significant part of the “living humanities,” serving as formative sites of encounter between people and the contested narratives and affective domains of our histories. Programming for this year will include a site visit to a significant Living History museum with a discussion about museum theatre and interpretation to follow (more information forthcoming). Please email Kelli Shermeyer ( for more information on this project.

Primary Investigators:
Justin Greenlee
Kelli Shermeyer