A critical challenge for the twenty-first century is to address urgent environmental concerns in ways that can bring about social and institutional change. The Environmental Humanities (EH) Initiative at Colby encompasses a broad range of programs in many fields that attempt to explore the most basic frameworks, narratives, assumptions, and principles humans employ to defend, justify, legitimate, and normalize their relations with nonhuman nature. The EH Initiative includes such programs as the Colby Summer Institute in the Environmental Humanities, a wide variety of EH courses and annual course development grants, an annual Distinguished Fellow, a Faculty Seminar, a Student Advisory Board, and the EH Literary and Art Magazine FAUNA.
With the participation of faculty across the college, the inaugural Public Humanistic Inquiry Lab (PHIL) at Colby critically explores the relationship between medicine and race. While the medical professions have recognized that racial and health inequities are closely linked, the humanities and social sciences point to structural racism’s impact on health outcomes across time and place and offer new ways of thinking about medicine in racialized societies. In 2021-24, the PHIL aims to stimulate campus-wide interest in the medical humanities and critical race studies, create opportunities for Colby faculty to publicly lead in these fields, and support their efforts to promote both scientific advancement and racial justice through their research and teaching. By engaging students in faculty-led research, the PHIL also hopes to prepare the broader Colby community to think critically about race in health experiences and professions. The Principal Investigator of the PHIL is Tanya Sheehan, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Art; the Associate Principal Investigator of the PHIL is Jay Sibara, Assistant Professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
The New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC) promotes and strengthens intellectual collaboration, interdisciplinary exchange, and innovative educational, intercultural, and curricular programming among New England Humanities centers and institutes, and the faculty, students, and regional, national, and global communities they serve. The NEHC includes: Amherst College, Brown University, Colby College, Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, Northeastern University, Smith College, Tufts University, the University of Connecticut, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Vermont, Wellesley College, and Wheaton College. The programming and activities of the NEHC are made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the participating institutions. Colby is the executive and administrative hub of the NEHC as of Fall 2021.
As part of our commitment to developing greater faculty expertise in environmental humanities, particularly in the employment of digital humanities methods and tools, the Center offers summer grants to faculty enabling those interested in the environmental digital humanities to attend conferences and workshops to build their skills.
The Critical Race Collaborative works to build a mutually supportive, intellectually stimulating network between scholars working on race and identity at Colby. Scholars in the Humanities approach their subject from a host of different disciplines, often through different languages, concentrating on very different communities, and engaging with time periods that stretch from antiquity to the present. As a result, such scholars can feel very much alone. This initiative strengthens research and builds a networked community that can act to stimulate, provoke, and encourage new ideas.