Humanities Without Walls

Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and based at the Humanities Research Institute (HRI) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Humanities Without Walls aims to create new avenues for collaborative research, teaching, and the production of scholarship in the humanities, forging and sustaining areas of inquiry that cannot be created or maintained without cross-institutional cooperation. Since 2015, HWW has supported several research projects based at the Center for the Humanities and in humanities and humanistic social science departments at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

HWW Projects at the Center and UW-Madison

This is an accordion element with a series of buttons that open and close related content panels.

2022: Holding History

In 2022-2023, the Center for the Humanities, with support from Humanities Without Walls, provided a short-term project grant to boost the initiatives of Holding History.
Holding History is a student-driven public humanities program focused on the history of media and book arts.

Since 2015, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Holding History has introduced intergenerational audiences to book objects, historical media, and special collections archives. We host an annual slate of collaborative special events & interactive experiences—from hands-on papermaking workshops on campus mall to science-fair-style events in rare book libraries where students invite audiences to turn the pages of centuries-old books.

These bookish conversations continue in digital form on our website through The Bookish BlogHH-produced videos about book history & bookmaking, & the Holding History Podcast.



2021: Ethics of Care

Suddenly and not so suddenly, “care” is everywhere. A longstanding concern among activists and scholars interested in feminism, race and ethnicity, reproductive justice, education, disability, art and performance for social change, environmental studies, domestic labor, immigration/migration, and queer and trans health, among others, care is increasingly threading through a wide range of intellectual work, particularly in sites joining theory and practice.

The Ethics of Care Initiative is a collaborative initiative that encompasses faculty, graduate students, scholars, and our local community, ranging from independent initiatives to grassroots organizations focused on themes of care in its myriad forms.

This initiative has received generous support from The Center for the Humanities, the Humanities Without Walls Consortium, & The Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies.

2018: Hydrologies of the Anthropocene

A collaboration between UW-Madison Professor of Community and Environmental Sociology Samer Alatout, University of Illinois-Chicago Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and English Rachel Havrelock, and UW-Milwaukee Professor of Sociology and Urban Studies Jennifer Jordan, with supporting graduate students from each institution, this project investigates the industries, investment, and remediation efforts taking place on the Chicago, Milwaukee, Wolf, and Menominee Rivers today, and the relationship of this contemporary work to the rivers’ complicated pasts. Blending geographic, literary, historical, and ethnographic approaches, the project will illuminate the layered and often forgotten histories of the rivers and reveal the social paths of invisible contaminants, and present powerful examples of how decisions regarding development, commodification, and remediation have shaped geography and riverine communities.

The faculty members and supporting graduate student researchers working on Hydrologies of the Anthropocene will read planning proposals, analyze archival records, and interview residents along the rivers, developing together a set of narratives that are largely missing from the ongoing debates about what to do with precious fresh water in the face of climate change. The researchers will visit rivers throughout the Midwest and host town-hall meetings to better understand tribal, state, and federal attitudes toward activities along the river.

Outcomes of the project will include academic journal articles and a book project. In addition to sharing findings and information on a forthcoming website, the group aims to provide a platform for community groups currently excluded from the processes of river planning.


  • Samer Alatout, Project Leader and Co-PI (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Elena Hight, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Nicole Krause, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Rachel Havrelock, Project Coordinator and Co-PI, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Kathleen Blackburn, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Edith Tovar, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Jennifer Jordan, Project Consultant, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

2017: Building Sustainable Worlds: Latinx Placemaking in the Midwest

How do Latinas/os in the Midwest create communities and environments to sustain themselves, often amidst culturally and socially hostile climates? How are Latinas/os, long drawn to the region for industrial and agricultural work, impacted by the physical and material climate and environments of the region? And how do Latinas/os reflect upon, react to, and transform these cultural and physical environments to create sustainable communities?

This research challenge will bring together scholars from across the Midwest to explore the significance of Latinx Midwest efforts at placemaking, as these appear in formal and everyday performance, literature, and cultural and arts centers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Midwest is a twelve-state region; however, our understanding of the Latinx Midwest recognizes the long history of translocal, transregional, and transnational identifications that bind many Latinx communities to other parts of the U.S., and to places and countries throughout the Americas.

2017: Garden for a Changing Climate

Garden for a Changing Climate is collaboration between University of Illinois at Chicago faculty Hannah Higgins, UW-Madison faculty Noah Feinstein, UW-Madison graduate students Alexandra Lakind and Corinna West, Gallery 400 (of Chicago) director Lorelei Stewart, and Chicago-based artist Jenny Kendler. The project fuses interdisciplinarity, formal and informal education, museum commissioning and programming, and the creation of a new artwork using a central effect of climate change to demonstrate how interdisciplinarity across art, science, education, and social science can model pedagogy in an arts-based interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum and create effective education about the changing climate, its impact on their lives, and how they can join mitigation efforts. In addition to presenting a large-scale public artwork at several sites throughout the city, the project will provide a CPS classroom curriculum for student engagement; facilitate coursework at UIC and UW-Madison; and present a series of public programs to educate communities of Chicago residents on the impact of climate change and about potential ways to join in climate change mitigation.

2017: Political Ecology as Practice

This project investigates the reciprocal relationships between the emergent theories of the Anthropocene, climate change, and the global environmental crisis, versus the experience of local ecological conflicts in various regions of the world. It will address two core questions: how do the theories of the metropolitan center derive from regional ecological conflicts? Conversely, how do these theories impact various communities in their relationship with land, resources, and biodiversity? First, the project will bring together scholars of the academic world to discuss global theories of the Anthropocene and its new ontologies of time, materiality, and technology, while investigating their links to regionally specific practices and discourses. Secondly, the project will initiate a multi-sited, comparative study of place-based ecological politics through a series of fieldwork initiatives led by faculty and graduate students in collaboration with artists. The fieldwork initiatives are developed from existing projects of collaborating institution researchers, and involve field observations, visual documentation, interviews, and creative interventions such as public engagement events and art installations. The results of the field initiatives will be presented in public exhibitions, lectures and publications. Multiple modes of presentation and dissemination will derive inspiration from the innovative format of the field initiatives and collaboration with the arts.


2016: Inter-Consortium Projects

A Comparative Study of the Great Lakes and the Jordan Valley: Articulating Water Needs, the Right to Water, and Water Sovereignty in the Quest for Water Justice

Samer Alatout, University of Wisconsin Madison
Rachel Havrelock, University of Illinois at Chicago (PI)
Stephen Gasteyer, Michigan State University

The New Ethics of Food
Robert Streiffer, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Jesse Steinberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Gretel Van Wieren, Michigan State University (PI)
Paul Thompson, Michigan State University
Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University
Christopher Long, Michigan State University
Laurie Thorp, Michigan State University
Dean Rehberger, Michigan State University
Stephen Rachman, Michigan State University
Helen Zoe Veit, Michigan State University
Thomas Padilla, Michigan State University
Zachary Piso, Michigan State University Nancy
Tuana, Pennsylvania State University
Robert Livingston, Ohio State University
Gregory Hitzhusen, Ohio State University

Performing History: Documenting and Enacting the Asian American Midwest
David Furumoto, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Timothy Yu, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Victor Jew, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ji-Yeon Yuh, Northwestern University (PI)

2015: Inter-Consortium Projects


A History of World Music Recording
Ronald Radano, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Philip V. Bohlman, University of Chicago (PI)
Harry Liebersohn, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
James H. Nye, University of Chicago

Hmong Memory at the Crossroads
Ian Baird, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Safoi Babana-Hampton, Michigan State University (PI)
Michael Rothberg, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Mai Na Lee, University of Minnesota
Catherine Perry, University of Notre Dame
Swarnavel Eswaran-Pillai, Michigan State University
Marsha MacDowell, Michigan State University
Charles Keith, Michigan State University
Marjan Helms, Michigan State University

The Importance of the Last Generation: Midwest Heritage German Speakers
Joseph C. Salmons, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael T. Putnam, Penn State University (PI)

The Midwaste: Midwestern Wasteways and Global Futures
Sarah A. Moore, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Andrew Herscher, University of Michigan (PI)
Anne Berg, University of Michigan
Gabrielle Hecht, University of Michigan
Stephanie Foote, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Zsuzsa Gille, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Phaedra C. Pezzullo, Indiana University
Sam Grabowska, University of Michigan

2014: The Global Midwest

This 2014-2016 project linked consortial partners in a common commitment to research and dialogue around a set of important, mutually articulated problems of broad public interest. Its principal long-term objectives were to reveal and rethink the Midwest as a major force in this century’s global economy and culture for scholars, policy-makers, government officials, social scientists, and an enlightened public and to demonstrate how the “applied humanities,” through collaborations of artists, scholars in the humanities, and scientists (both social and natural), can contribute to the work on grand intellectual challenges.

Before issuing its first call for Global Midwest proposals, the Humanities Without Walls consortium gave a small seed award to each of the fifteen campuses in the consortium. These awards were intended to stimulate and support the development of collaborative research projects on the broad theme of the “Global Midwest.” The UW-Madison Center for the Humanities granted seed awards to the following projects:

The Asian American Midwest and Mapping the Global Hmong
Ian Baird (Geography)
Victor Jew (Asian American Studies)
Lori Kido Lopez (Communication Arts)
Timothy Yu (English and Asian American Studies)

Living with Waste: New Global Economies in the Midwest
Sarah A. Moore (Geography)
Robert Roth (Geography)

Vernaculars of the Global Midwest
Anna Andrzejewski (Art History)
Jeanette Casey (Music Library)
Susan Cook (School of Music)
Jim Leary (Folklore and Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures)
Thomas Purnell (English)
Eric Raimy (English)
Joe Salmons (German)