CALL FOR APPLICATIONS: RRG-Working Group, 2013-14:
"The Work of the Humanities/The Humanities as Work"

The University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) invites proposals to participate in a one-year Residential Research Group-Working Group hybrid.

Who Can Apply: UC Faculty, UC Post-Docs, and UC Graduate Students.
Level of Award
: Variable; see below.
Funding Source
: UC Humanities Network
: January 11, 2013 (11:59 pm PST). Apply online via FastApps.
Residency quarter
: Fall 2013, with virtual collaboration continuing through Spring 2014.
: To be selected by UCHRI Advisory Committee


Paradoxically, at a time the humanities has become increasingly devalued, the set of skills it represents is crucially important to economic capacity, political judgment, and civic life. The emphasis across the humanities in understanding the historical and interpretive dimensions of social structures, events, developments, habits, practices, and processes—in short on the work of their production and reproduction—supports more reflective and measured judgments for policy-making and social arrangement. In particular, understanding how conceptions, arrangements, and impacts of work have manifested and transformed over time enables comprehension and anticipation of necessary changes, better preparation, and more productive possibilities. The deep history of work—from say medieval and early modern conceptions onwards—offers a more calibrated sense of how work has been understood, what work looked like in the past, what work humanistic endeavor engaged in, how it was valued and what it was taken to achieve. This has important curricular implications too, in thinking how best to promote the transferable and flexible skills for which humanities training is best known.

These issues are raised in the face of intensifying structural pressures on higher education, with particular challenges for the humanities. Whether or not undergraduate humanities majors and minors are diminishing (and there is conflicting evidence here), it is incontrovertible that tenure track positions in the humanities have diminished significantly in the past few years. Increasingly humanities graduates are having to find employment elsewhere, most likely outside of university teaching (unless prepared to subject themselves to lives of casual academic employment and vulnerable adjunct status for very low wages). More generally, spiraling un- and underemployment in the global North (in the US the underemployment rate runs conservatively at 17 percent today) has inched up closer to the kinds of rates that have long existed in the global South. How work and workarounds are thought about in the latter class of cases can be revealing for how they might be considered in the former.

This group will link larger questions about the transformation of work in the 21st century to specific questions about the work of humanists within the university and to the research and pedagogical practice of doing the humanities. What have been the impacts on pedagogy, research, working conceptions and conditions across the university in general, and for the humanities more specifically? What work do the humanities do, and what do or can they add to work more broadly? If the humanities are to remain germane to the doing of work in the 21st century, in a world of increasingly robust and competitive global labor markets, what skills and considerations do we need to cultivate in our students? In particular, how might these shifts in the concept and practice of work impact what and how we teach in the humanities, what professions we train our students for, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels? How have new digital technologies transformed how humanists approach their work, what they focus on, how they conduct their research, what outlets they seek, and how the work is being assessed?

The Hybrid RRG-Working Group Structure

Residential research groups (RRGs) and working groups (WGs) are both familiar structures supporting humanities research across the UC. Both convene groups of scholars to work in collaboration on interdisciplinary topics of special significance. Both are in essence teams of researchers, often from multiple campuses and for the most part unknown to each other prior to their selection, and assembled - either for a one-quarter residency or for a full academic year of occasional meetings and ongoing virtual engagement - to work on a commonly defined research agenda.

This call initiates a hybrid version of the two structures. Bringing together elements of both, this hybrid RRG-WG will be composed of up to 10 humanities faculty and graduate students for a full academic year of sustained engagement. In fall 2013, the group will come together for several intensive short residencies (5-10 days) at UCHRI; over winter and spring 2014, the group will work together virtually as well as attend face-to-face meetings (including a three-day Society of Fellows retreat in winter and the Initiative's culminating conference in spring.)

Expected outcomes of this RRG-WG group include collaborative production of a White Paper and a set of policy recommendations; participation in the Society of Fellows retreat in winter 2014; and a presentation of research findings at the spring UC Humanities Initiative-Society of Fellows 2014 conference.

During the residency quarter (Fall 2013), the award will be UCHRI's regular replacement costs for faculty and a stipend for non-faculty.

UCHRI's facilities for participating scholars include private offices with e-mail/Internet access, seminar and conference rooms, a multi-media room, and a reference library. Furnished apartments are provided free of charge to fellows by the Institute for use on an as-needed basis during their residencies, resources permitting.

During subsequent quarters, the Working Group will receive up to $15,000 of funding that may be used for range of project-related expenses, including reasonable participant travel and meeting costs, honoraria for guest speakers and consultants, site visits, and other expenses related to running the group and producing the final collaborative outcomes. These funds may also be used for individual participant stipends, up to $1,000 per participant, which may be taken as summer salary or as research support funds. The Working Group should work collaboratively to determine the best use of these support funds for their proposed project. UCHRI will provide modest research and logistical support for the group.

Group conveners will be selected by the UCHRI Advisory Committee from among the applicants.

Awards will be announced no later than March 2013.


Applications are accepted exclusively online via FastApps no later than 11:59PM on January 11, 2013.

Required documents include:

  • Application abstract (150 words max)
  • Narrative statement of interest; should include documentation of prior engagement with topic (2000 words max)
  • Curriculum vitae (2 pages max.)

For technical assistance, contact

For general questions about the grant and proposal development, please contact Kelly Brown, UCHRI Research Projects Manager, at