Explore Public Humanities Hub Research Clusters Awarded: 2023

Please join us in congratulating the recipients of Public Humanities Research Cluster funding. In the 2023-25 competition, a total of $43,000 was awarded to three research clusters to promote research activity and collaboration among humanities scholars at UBC and beyond; to help collaborators leverage funding to secure additional support; and to foster more public-facing sharing of research.

What’s Past is Prologue: Mobilizing the UBC First Folio

PI: Dr. Patricia Badir, English Language & Literatures


In January of 2021, UBC acquired a copy of the 1623 first Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays. The acquisition was the result of a campaign to raise funds from a consortium of donors from across North America, with the support of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The success of the campaign illustrates the extraordinary capacity of the First Folio to inspire conversation and mobilize collaboration. At the same time, the acquisition is not unproblematic. Because of the resources required to procure the book and to house it, and more importantly because of the role Shakespeare’s drama has played in naturalizing settler colonialism, the First Folio now sits awkwardly in a University committed to decolonization and reconciliation. The First Folio Research Cluster stands at the beginning of what we expect will be a long and, at times, challenging engagement with the Folio, as we seek to balance the excitement with the controversy that accompanies an acquisition like this. On the one hand, we want to celebrate the generosity of the donors who made the purchase possible, while on the other hand, we are guided by the ethical imperative to interrogate the cultural legacy of Shakespeare and his place in Canada and in our University today. Our Cluster asks: how can we mobilize UBC’s First Folio in meaningful ways to catalyze research and artistic works and to build a lasting community of practice that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries?

Comics Studies Cluster

PI: Dr. Elizabeth “Biz” Nijdam, Central, Eastern, and Northern European Studies


Comic art and the study of its content, methods, distribution, and pedagogical value have become increasingly visible in higher education: comics are an important medium for knowledge creation and established as an essential format for reaching diverse audiences and tackling difficult subject matter. However, as a field, it lacks an institutional centre that might offer the structure and support for the collaborative work necessary to advance rigorous academic study. With UBC comics researchers, practitioners,and teachers in disciplines as varied as Education, German Studies, Classical Studies, Creative Writing, English, and the Romance Languages, comics studies at UBC is present but diffuse. Moreover, many UBC faculty members are interested in learning more about what comics and graphic novels might offer to their teaching and research, but they don’t know where to turn with their questions and potential projects for collaboration. The Comics Studies Research Cluster will support academic and public-facing scholarship in Comics Studies at UBC. We will connect with artist practitioners in Vancouver (Cloudscape Comics Collective, Vancouver Comic Arts Festival, etc.) to support the work of comics creators locally while developing a network of Canadian comics scholars with UBC as an important centre for the study of comic art.

Connecting Education and Social Solidarity Economies

PI: Dr. Michelle Stack, Educational Studies


Post-secondary institutions (PSI) play pivotal roles in the socialization of professionals and opinion leaders who impact our day-today lives and policies and practices that determine how we deal with pressing global crises. PSI are sites of opportunity for some and growing inequity for others, evidenced by increasing housing and food insecurity among students and contract faculty. These dynamics lead to significant contrasts between the image of a university as a place of thriving amidst diversity and the reality of it being a place where the stratification and disparities of the wider world are reflected. Social solidarity economies (SSE) have an impressive track record for providing more affordable, democratically governed and equitable communities. Despite the success of SSE (including co-operatives) there is little connection to the PSI sector. This project will develop a community-university social solidarity economies network. We will hold a series of online talks and one or more events in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) that draws on arts-based approaches to develop spaces that facilitate engagement and building collaborative relationships and reciprocal learning. Our work starts with the assumption that changing the academy to be more responsive and responsible outside its walls requires learning beyond its walls.