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Call for Applications: California as Experiment in Living and Lifestyle


Deadline: March 13, 2020 (11:59 pm PST)

Open to: UC faculty and graduate students; independent professionals.


Excerpt: UCHRI invites University of California faculty, graduate students, as well as outside practitioners with a keen interest in humanistic methodology to submit letters of interest to attend a workshop exploring California—both real and imagined—as a site of experimentation. Guided by California as a test case in experimental practice, participants will collaborate with UCHRI to generate a forward-looking model for humanities engagement pertaining to matters erroneously deemed outside of its scope—ecology, climate, poverty, and other human-centered discourses—which often exclude the humanities viewpoint, its methodologies and commitments. As the largest grantmaker in the humanities across the system, UCHRI is well positioned to pave a future course for humanities scholarship in this respect, and to generate a humanities-driven program for participating in critical discourses around the rapidly changing face of global ecologies, economies, and publics.

Award Amount: Travel, lodging, and meals to attend the workshop.

Awards Announced: March/April 2020

Funding Source: The Horizons of the Humanities initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Final awards are contingent upon available funding.

Program Details

Home to Hollywood mythologies, Silicon Valley fantasies, movements towards Mars, and new energy economies, California is an irrepressible font of experimentation. One of the most culturally diverse and innovative regions in the United States, California remains a locus of dynamic and experimental desires, such as those reflected in the film industry; techno-scientific advancements; alternative politics, programs, and philosophies; as well as social liberation and anti-establishment movements. But California’s experimental commitments are not without significant social, political, and environmental ramifications. The further California pushes its horizon, the more housing costs rise, racial and economic inequality grows, and natural resources dry up. Experimentation in California cannot be read apart from historical calls to duty—"go west, young man”; manifest destiny—and other rhapsodic expressions of American imperialism. Shiny peaks of experimentation here meet epic depths of homelessness, environmental toxicity, and indigenous displacement. In its own unique way, California is where experimentation and disaster collide as revelatory yet strange bedfellows.

In late spring quarter, UCHRI will host a workshop to address California as experiment. This is an opportunity to harness the creative potential of California—both real and imagined—as an assemblage of experimental encounters; to explore the features that define California along various axes—political, social, geological, geographical, economic, topographical, among others—and that enable California as a site of experimentation. The impetus for this workshop, however, is more critical than intellectual curiosity. In this low-stakes setting, workshop participants will be primary collaborators in helping UCHRI lay the groundwork for higher-stakes research potentials. Together we will detail a future for experimentation and innovative practice in the humanities that anticipates the dangers on California’s horizon—rapidly changing climates, the development of new and imposing technologies, and a growing wealth disparity—as a way to enumerate the stakes for humanities scholarship in discourses from which it has thus far been excluded. How can experimentation, and the humanities more broadly, answer a call for adaptable ways of thinking and being that are suited to our volatile times? In which critical conversations are the humanities not taking part where they should and where they could be transformative? And, in these cases, what form would the inclusion of the humanities take? Some imagined outcomes from this workshop include a larger scope initiative to run at UCHRI, a research residency on the topic, or a series of theses and dictums for future humanities work that is made available to the public via UCHRI’s platform. 

We invite letters of intent that reflect on California as a site of experimental living, thinking, and practice, and that challenge programmatic exclusions of the humanities from conversations around our changing world. Potential areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Contours of California’s history of experimentation; its political, social, religious, and economic trajectories and topology. What does California teach us about how experiments function and thrive, their pitfalls and cautionary tales? 
  • Experimentation as an object of study—its idiosyncracies, conditions/ecology, anatomy
  • Experimentation’s direct objects: what/who are its subjects?
  • California (frontier, site of possibility, and incubator of fantasy) as a productive model/metaphor for devising new modes of experimental practice in humanities scholarship
  • Genealogical or causal links between Hollywood hubris and experimentation
  • Readings of expansion projects (American/Californian/Other-worldly) in relation to experimentation
  • California and the evolution of various consciousnesses—ecological, political, racial, disciplinary, sexual
  • Exploitation and discrimination as embedded in experimental practice; explorations of experimentation as catalyst for radicalization, escalation, paranoia, and inflammation
  • California’s failed experiments 

Application Details

Applicants must apply online via Submittable. Required documents include:

  • Curriculum Vitae/Resume of the participant 
  • Letter of Interest (850 words max) outlining the most critical intervention the humanities can make in current discourses and programs around climate change, social advocacy, and developing ecosystems, and how this intervention can be enacted.

For program related questions, please contact Alison Annunziata, research programs manager:

For technical assistance with Submittable, contact or (855) 467-8264, ext. 2. 

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