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Humanities Without Walls 2021

The Grand Research Challenge Initiative

Application deadline: November 15, 2021, Midnight CST

The Humanities Without Walls (HWW) consortium invites applications for funding from cross-institutional teams of faculty and graduate students wishing to collaboratively pursue research topics related to the Grand Research Challenge Initiative: Reciprocity and Redistribution.

Project period: January 1, 2022–December 31, 2024
PI eligibility:
 Tenure-line faculty in the humanities or humanistic social sciences
Award amount: Up to $150,000

NOTE: Before applying for HWW grants, Weinberg faculty must contact Tom Burke, Assistant Director of the Kaplan Institute (, and Gina Berardesco, Senior Research Administrator in the Weinberg Research Administration Office (

The Grand Research Challenge Initiative

What does humanities collaboration look like when it is multi-sited as well as interdisciplinary: when scholars from a variety of institutions and communities come together to partner not just in discrete research projects, but in the broader context of rethinking the direction of humanities research and education as well? And what can humanities research and practice do to turn our attention to the most compelling and urgent questions of our time—global displacement, police violence, water and food justice, multiracial community-building, racial disparities in health, indigenous art and activism—so that scholars move continuously across that porous boundary between the academic and the world? How, in short, can we design a humanities ecosystem that is truly “without walls?”

Humanities Without Walls (HWW) has been testing these propositions since 2014. A consortium linking 16 research universities in the Midwest and beyond, HWW has developed a range of interdisciplinary research teams through over three dozen unique collaborative project awards. These teams, funded by Grand Research Challenge Awards in the first two iterations of the grant (2015-2018), showcase what is possible when humanists have resources dedicated to imagining their research in ways that move beyond the single investigator model or the monograph as a singular outcome.

In 2021, HWW remains committed to supporting models for partnership and collective thinking about the nature and character of humanities work in the world at scale. We do so because we believe this is a strategic method for building racial and social justice, as well as diversity, equity and access, into the structural heart of truly transformative work. In this 2021 Grand Research Challenge competition cycle, we not only renew our commitment to these principles, we reiterate it by explicitly calling for proposals that prioritize reciprocal and redistributive collaborations with external partners, whether those are local/regional education institutions or community organizations. Our aim is to develop sustainable practices which guarantee that equitable, non-extractive structures and ways of working are embedded in intellectual collaborative projects—so that they will occupy a more prominent place in the long-range transformations of academic culture in the humanities to which HWW contributes.

HWW 2021: Reciprocity and Redistribution

Humanities Without Walls invites applications for interdisciplinary, collaborative, research-based projects in the humanities and arts that build a clearly communicated commitment to methodologies of reciprocity and redistribution into their project design and proposal narratives, regardless of the research topic or theme they focus on.

Reciprocity and redistribution are methods for engaging collaborators in genuinely equal and ethical partnerships—partnerships that are not one-directional (i.e., only from campus outward) or faculty-centered (i.e., hierarchical in ways that privilege presumptively white western scholarly expertise over other forms of knowing).

Reciprocity and redistribution are strategies for equity-based change by design. These strategies aim to challenge the academic status quo by enabling community partners to participate on their own terms; to co-design and co-create transformative projects; and to be equitably resourced for their time and contributions.

A commitment to practices of reciprocity and redistribution also opens up possibilities for new forms of collaboration between faculty and graduate students and staff; between HWW partner universities and regional and community colleges; between HWW projects and Predominantly White Institutions and Minority Serving Institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Tribal Colleges; and/or between each campus and its variety of public and community stakeholders.

Taken together, reciprocal and redistributive methods are aimed at attracting a diverse set of HWW intellectual leaders and cultivating socially and racially equitable methods for sustaining their vision and their work.
Through modes of research partnership that are reciprocal and redistributive, collaborators will demonstrate that “humanities without walls” is not only a metaphor but also a strategic commitment to imagining and doing academic work more inclusively—with universal access, social equity and racial diversity always front of mind.

Applicants may propose research designed to serve public policy or other applied outcomes, though this is not required. Above all, applications should nominate a clear and concise research problem and embed reciprocal and redistributive strategies and practices in the addressing of that research problem.

RFP Details

For full details and the most up-to-date application information, please visit the Humanities Without Walls website.

View past HWW-funded Grand Research Challenge Projects here.

The RFP is also available as a downloadable PDF

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