Humanities Matters Projects

Release: From Stigma to Acceptance

Humanities Matters grant was awarded to Lisa Blee, Assistant Professor of History for the research, design, execution, and interpretation of an exhibition titled Release: From Stigma to Acceptance, a collaboration between students and the Project Re-entry Program in the context of the History Department course HST367: Issues in Public History. Students explored issues in public history — and the potential social impact of public history — by bringing together course readings concerning the history of incarceration in the South and by listening to the stories of men and women incarcerated in North Carolina. This course culminated in a final exhibit as a way to teach students applied research skills and to provide an introduction to the process of collaborative work that defines the public history profession. Students learned about the issues in the field by becoming public historians, and their final public exhibition presented research into the historical dynamics and legacies of incarceration.
Read more…

The Imagination Project: The Silence of War

Humanities Matters project organized by Cara Pilson, Associate Teaching Professor and Co-Director, the Documentary Film Program and Cindy Hill, Associate Teaching Professor and Co-Director, the Documentary Film Program.
Undergraduate students from multiples disciplines and MFA students from the Documentary Film Program (DFP) at Wake Forest University will produce enhanced electronic books on a group of North Carolina African American Vietnam veterans who have become a “band of brothers” as a result of their post traumatic stress syndrome and their contemporary mission to reach young soldiers and students with their stories of war and its aftermath. The electronic books will contain portions of the vets’ wartime diaries and writings, period photos and film as well as contemporary short films about these eight men who met each other decades after serving in Vietnam. The books will be designed to target students in English and History classes among others and will be available for educational distribution. The books will be part of a larger project conceived and produced by Professor Sharon Raynor (primary scholar) on The Silence of War. Class sessions will involve six WFU faculty members from the humanities or who have creative or research agendas focused on the humanities as well as guest lecturers who are experts in Vietnam and civil rights history. While students will produce enhanced e-books, the focus of the course will be on the analysis, interpretation, and understanding of how we communicate the human experience, in this case, that of African American Vietnam veterans.
Read more…

The Imagination Project: Filipino Street Art

Humanities Matters project organized by Sandy Dickson, Professor of Communication and Director of the Documentary Film Program. Undergraduate students from multiples disciplines and third-year MFA students from the Documentary Film Program (DFP) at Wake Forest University will produce short digital films (or web episodes) and enhanced digital study guides as part of a larger multimedia project on Filipino street art. The larger project, Walls Talk, is comprised of a website and feature-length documentary and was begun in 2012-2013 by Wake Forest students Kim Dryden and Austin Smith. While at Wake Forest, Kim and Austin received a Chambers grant to construct a website on Filipino street art and the 2013 award for Best Artistic Venture from the Office of Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship. See Class Sessions involve WFU faculty members from the humanities or who have creative or research agendas focused on the humanities as well as guest lectures who are experts in street art and Filipino culture. The focus of the course will be on the analysis, interpretation and understanding of how we communicate the human experience, in this case, Filipino street artists telling stories of their personal, social and political experience through evocative imagery.

The Imagination Project: Artists of the Holocaust

Humanities Matters project organized by Sandy Dickson, Professor of Communication and Director of the Documentary Film Program, involves undergraduate students from multiple disciplines and third-year MFA students from the Documentary Film Program (DFP) at Wake Forest University working with WFU faculty and art historians at Yad Vashem to produce short digital films, a digital book and a multimedia museum installation on artists of the Holocaust.  Yad Vashem is the “World Center for Documentation, Research, Education and Commemoration of the Holocaust.”

The project’s aim is to educate a younger audience about anti-semitism and promote the common good of greater understanding, identification, and respect for different religions and cultures.  To that end, the short digital films and digital book will be designed from dissemination on the Yad Vashem YouTube channel.  With Yad Vashem’s permission, the project will distribute to national and international film festivals as well as to high schools, colleges and universities, and also package the films, digital book and multimedia installation as a single project to rent to U.S. museums.
Read more…

Winston-Salem Partners in the Humanities Projects

Oral Histories of Black Catholics in the Protestant Bible Belt

Humanities Matters grant was awarded to Michele Gillespie, Dean of the College and Presidential Professor of Southern History for the project Oral Histories of Black Catholics in the Protestant Bible Belt: Documenting and Writing the History of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church, School and Community. The project documented the history of St. Benedict’s through oral histories conducted during the Spring 2015 semester by undergraduate and graduate students, to be housed electronically in Special Collections of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library. Students used these sources to analyze this community’s experiences and contributions in the context of African American history in the mid-20th Century American South. The oral history project was organized and conducted by Dr. Gillespie and Tanya Zanish-Belcher, Archivist and Director of Special Collections with the assistance of students in Honors History 391 and graduate students from the Documentary Film Program.
Read more…

The Story of My Life

A multimedia documentary and exhibit that follows the lives of six intellectually and developmentally disabled adults, opens Friday, October 11, 5:30-7:30pm at the Eleanor and Egbert Davis Gallery at the Sawtooth School for Visual Art in the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, 251 N. Spruce St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101. The project tells the stories of six remarkable men and women through photography, written and spoken word, and various visual art forms, which taken together create richly layered narratives. The project is a collaboration among WFU lecturer in English, Phoebe Zerwick, photographer Christine Rucker, journalist Michelle Johnson, faculty at the Sawtooth School, and the six adults featured in the exhibit, who worked individually with artists to find media that spoke to them. The exhibition will be on view through November 14th. The WFU Humanities Institute provided funding and support for the project as part of a larger effort to bring humanities projects to public audiences and to support university and and community partnerships in the humanities. The six adults featured in the exhibit live in homes managed by Group Homes of Forsyth. HI is the leading sponsor. Community Partners: Sawtooth Center for Visual Art and Group Homes of Forsyth. Click here for a digital postcard about the exhibit for email distribution. For the documentary project, see: http://shawneestreetmedia.wix.xom/story-of-my-life.
Read more…

Creating: Quilts and Crafts of the Lakota

This Winston-Salem Partners in the Humanities project is a collaboration between the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology and community partner Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts, Inc. Support from the Humanities Institute will augment a grant from the Barbro Osher Pro Suecia Foundation to bring two exhibits and speakers to Winston-Salem during November 2013, Native American Heritage Month.

The MOA and Delta will share two exhibits related to Lakota people living on reservations in South Dakota. Rosebud Sioux — A Lakota People in Transition is an exhibit of photographs and contemporary crafts organized and curated by Claes Jacobson and Eva Anderson in Sweden. Creating: Quilts of the Lakota is an exhibit of contemporary handmade ceremonial quilts organized by the Arthur Ross Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania. Each exhibit supports and expands upon the humanities and educational content of the other. The partnership will promote them jointly as Creating: Quilts and Crafts of the Lakota.

The exhibit will be on view November 3, 2013 through January 26, 2014 at the Museum of Anthropology and Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts.

Digital Humanities Projects

The 18th-Century Common

With the support of a Humanities Institute Ventures in Humanities Research seed grant, Associate Professor of English Jessica Richard and her collaborators were able to launch a public humanities website, The website offers content written by scholars in accessible, non-specialized language for an audience of non-academic readers and provides a space for these groups to connect on a digital platform, a virtual “common.” Such open access for free and public use bridges the gap between the academy and a general audience.  Read more…

Richard looks forward to seeing more interest among her colleagues in submitting material to the site and invites scholars interested in connecting with a broad and enthusiastic audience to contact her directly at richarja.  You can follow or tweet The 18th-Century Common on Twitter (@18Common) as well as “like” the project on Facebook.  Additionally, each entry in The 18th-Century Common has a comment thread for readers to respond to posts and to each other.
Read more…

Digital Narbs: Narb Mining and Analysis

In 2011, Professor of Communication Ananda Mitra coined the term “narb,” an abbreviation for “narrative bits,” to refer to the pieces of personal information posted online by social media users.

An Innovations in the Digital Humanities research grant allowed Ananda Mitra to continue his narb research. The specific focus of analysis is that of public narbs related to the events that have now been called the “Arab Spring.” Early 2011 witnessed a series of events in Tunisia and Egypt that led to violence in those areas followed by regime changes that were politically and historically unprecedented for those countries and the Middle East and North Africa. Different institutional news services offered many different perspectives on these events, which were documented by thousands of individuals who created millions of narbs about the events as they unfolded (see, e.g., Harb, 2011). Based on the theories of voice and narbs, these narbs have the potential to offer a narrative of the “Arab Spring” that is different from what institutions and news organizations have offered. This study uses tools for narb harvesting and and tools for analysis of the narb data to create an “Arab Spring” narrative based on narbs. Subsequent analysis of the narratives is testing the viability of the claim that narb-based narratives, using the voices of individuals, can produce alternative narratives for important events.
Read More…

Human Rights and Global Justice Group

The Human Rights and Global Justice Research Group is an affiliate of the Wake Forest University Humanities Institute and aims to initiate, sustain, and expand discussions and knowledge about human rights and global justice, as well as activism on these issues, not only across campus, but also the wider policy communities beyond the University, both locally and globally. The group is an incubator and a hub for faculty research, programs, and events devoted to issues of human rights and global justice. As human rights have become more firmly entrenched in our thinking, they have also become more intertwined in the tangled web of national and international politics, economics, religion, and law.  This complexity explains not only why the modern quest for human rights and global justice has been of central importance to many academic disciplines, including political science, religion, philosophy, and law, but also why any critical and in-depth study of issues about them requires interdisciplinary perspectives and knowledge.

black lineGroup Members:

John Knox, Henry C. Lauerman Professor of International Law, School of Law
Win-Chiat Lee, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dept. of Philosophy
Kevin Jung, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, School of Divinity
Pieternella van Doorn Harder, Professor of Islamic Studies, Dept. of Religion
Sarah Lischer, Associate Professor Political Science, Dept. of Political Scienc
Will Walldorf, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Dept. of Political Science
Luis Roniger, Reynolds Professor of Latin American Studies, Dept. of Political Science

Simeon Ilesanmi, Washington M. Wingate Professor of Religion, Dept. of Religion

black line

Although we are interested in a full breadth of interrelated issues, we specifically seek to foster human rights dialogue and innovative interdisciplinary academic research around four main concerns which lie at the heart of international human rights movement. These are:

History and theory of human rights

Prevention and accountability


Advocacy and public engagement

black line

Current Projects:

Research Projects
Kevin Jung, School of Divinity
“Moral Limits to Autonomy: Defending Human Dignity in the Liberal State”

Will Walldorf, Department of Politics and International Affairs
“To Shape Our World For Good:  Ideas and Forceful Regime Change in United States Foreign Policy, 1900-2011”

Luis Roniger, Department of Politics and International Affairs
“The Global Rise of Human Rights and the Problématique of Multiple Modernities”

Simeon Ilesanmi, Department of Religion
“Wesleyan Social and Political Ethics in the Age of Globalization: A comparative Study from an African Perspective”

Planning Grants
John Knox, Win-Chiat Lee, Simeon Ilesanmi, and Kevin Jung
Conference on Human Rights and Climate Change

Kevin Jung and Win-chiat Lee
Interdisciplinary Workshops: “Human Rights and Human Dignity”

Course Planning
Sarah Lischer, Simeon Ilesanmi, and John Knox
“Interdisciplinary Topics in Human Rights and Global Justice”