A Note from our Director on COVID-19

Ranjana Khanna
Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Ranjana Khanna
Franklin Humanities Institute Director Ranjana Khanna in her home office.

Dear friends,

As we all shift into teaching, learning, and working online after our extended spring break, I wanted to write you a note about how the Franklin Humanities Institute is continuing its mission to affirm the central importance of the humanities within higher education and to questions of global citizenship in the 21st century.

All of us at FHI are now working from home, and while we have had to postpone panels, seminars, film screenings, and other public events because of COVID-19, we are moving forward with several initiatives. One example is our Faculty Book Manuscript Workshop program; we will hold our first digital book manuscript workshop in a virtual “conference room” this Friday, and we have a few others scheduled before the end of the semester. We continue to support working groups that elect to convene in digital spaces, and we have our first virtual meeting of the ongoing Antigone Reading Group this Thursday. We are encouraging Dissertation Writing Groups to move forward. We look forward to sharing announcements and updates on the other ways in which we will continue to support our communities, at Duke and more broadly. If there is something you would like to see happen, please do let us know!

We also look forward to publishing and recirculating essays, interviews, blogs, and other multimedia content that showcase the importance of the humanities, whether in “ordinary” or exceptional times such as our current moment. We have shared some examples from humanities and social sciences faculty at Duke University and Duke Kunshan University in this week's newsletter as they examine the far-reaching impacts of COVID-19, both locally and globally. We would be very interested in your expertise on how pandemics have manifested in the humanistic sciences and arts in different periods and contexts (bubonic plague, Ebola, etc.); let us know if you’d like to write a short piece for us to circulate!

In addition, we hope to look into our archives of videos and publications to curate thematic clusters on a variety of topics. We’ll work with more recent material as well as those organized over the past few years as part of Humanities Futures, a five-year initiative exploring the futures of humanistic disciplines, launched in 2014 with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. We want to highlight projects that have longevity and are the products of the slow time of university research and not only the immediate and apparently urgent moment within which we find ourselves.

If you have not already subscribed to our newsletter or followed us on social media, I encourage you to do so, using the links at the top of our website.

We look forward to staying in touch with you in the coming weeks, and to raising a glass at an event sometime in the future.


Ranji