The mission of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University is to encourage and enable serious humanistic inquiry, and to promote a heightened awareness of the centrality of the humanities to the quality of human life, social interaction, and scholarship in all fields. To these ends, we emphasize a broad conception of interdisciplinarity – one that encompasses all methods and approaches, and which acknowledges the importance of the core humanities disciplines – as well as scholarly work that examines issues of social equity, especially research on race and ethnicity in their most profound historical and international dimensions. In this ambitious mission, we are inspired by the late John Hope Franklin, James B. Duke Professor Emeritus of History.
Founded in 1999, the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) is built on a fundamentally collaborative model fitting Duke’s emphasis on facilitating interdisciplinary cross-fertilization. Through an array of innovative programs, we seek to encourage the conversations, partnerships, and collaborations that are continually stimulating creative and fresh humanistic research, writing, and teaching at Duke.
Since our inception, the FHI has been a key component in Duke’s overall strategic direction. The FHI played a key role in the 2000 strategic plan, Building on Excellence, and was identified as a “signature” University Institute in the 2005-6 Strategic Plan, Making a Difference.* In 2007, the FHI became the administrative home of the international Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes.
After a tremendous decade of being housed at the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, in Fall 2010 the FHI moved to the renovated Smith Warehouse on Duke's East Campus, near the heart of Durham's historic Downtown district. The Warehouse is home to the Humanities Laboratories initiative, which aims to contribute to Duke's research and pedagogical missions by convening groups of faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates around discipline-crossing projects, in spaces designed specifically to facilitate collaborative work. Complementing our historic strengths in supporting faculty and graduate scholarship (notably through the twelve Annual Seminars we hosted between 1999 and 2011), the Labs invite undergraduates to participate as researchers themselves, helping to define emerging and future areas of humanistic inquiry. Since 2011-12, the Lab initiative became a key element of Humanities Writ Large, a major university-wide Mellon Foundation grant. In 2012-13 the undergraduate-focused Labs were joined by the PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge.
In 2014-15 the FHI inaugurated Humanities Futures, a multi-year initiative generously funded by the Mellon Foundation. The grant explores the states and directions of humanities disciplines in light of the interdisciplinary developments in recent decades, through an expansive set of partnerships with Duke's humanities and interpretive social sciences departments and non-departmental units.
In addition to Humanities Futures and the Humanities Labs, we have continued to build on the Institute's long-standing "signature" programs, notably the Faculty Book Manuscript Workshops. Our Annual Lecture and Short-term Residencies bring world-renowned scholars to Duke for public engagements with the university community. The Faculty Bookwatch series, presented in conjunction with the Duke University Libraries, highlights notable recent books by faculty in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. We also hosts a wide array of other public programs annually, often in collaboration with other campus partners. For our current event calendar, please click here.
The FHI reports to the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Dean of Humanities in the College of Arts & Sciences. The FHI’s Faculty Advisory Board provides important input on program content and major strategic issues. Operating funding for the FHI is provided by the Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies.
* The other University Institutes are the Duke Global Health Institute, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and Social Science Research Institute.