Cogut Institute for the Humanities
Portrait of Amanda Anderson
Amanda Anderson, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English and Humanities

This past academic year witnessed a surge of programming activity at the Cogut Institute. In part the result of pent-up desire for intellectual engagement due to the extended pandemic, it also underscores the deep investment of our community of scholars in research that expands our capacity to respond to our present challenges and crises in meaningful ways.

We hosted or cosponsored a record 57 research-based and community-building events and conferences on topics such as climate change, disability and race, and the interplay of religious belief and history. Our flagship Greg and Julie Flynn Cogut Institute Speaker Series brought three high-profile speakers to campus for particularly timely conversations about the importance of independent news media to democracy, Asian American experiences, and the impact of AI on human thinking.

We also sponsored two new grassroots initiatives: the Disability Studies Working Group and The Brown Journal of Medical Humanities. Both were brought to the institute by University scholars who had identified major opportunities for advancing rising research interests at Brown. The Disability Studies Working Group serves as a network for connecting scholars and community members through events and other activities around the subject of disability — its complex histories and critical role in furthering cultural self-understanding and progressive change. The Brown Journal of Medical Humanities was developed by a group of four undergraduates to provide a platform at Brown for sharing perspectives on medicine, from practitioners to caregivers, across different media and genres of expression.

The research and teaching of the institute’s fellows and affiliated faculty reflects this spirit of making new connections and extending the reach of the humanities. Our annual fellows pursued projects exploring topics such as the impact of social media on discourse surrounding COVID-19, rethinking anthropological approaches to listening, and representations of disability in classical literature. The institute made possible 34 courses, including 14 new courses developed and taught by our postdoctoral fellows and two new courses developed under the aegis of our Collaborative Humanities Course Award program. We also partnered with the Center for Digital Scholarship at the Brown University Library to launch a Doctoral Certificate in Digital Humanities program.

At the end of the 2023–24 academic year, the institute will move to a new home, the historic and distinctive Andrews House on Brown Street. The newly renovated building will provide us with significantly more space for teaching, research fellows, programming, and community enrichment. As part of our envisioned research growth in the new space, we will be launching collaborative humanities laboratories, designed as three-year teaching and research programs led by pairs of faculty members on integrative themes. These labs will provide both undergraduate and graduate students with the important practical experience of contributing to sustained research projects in the humanities.  

The humanities are exceptionally strong at Brown. While media headlines often highlight a general decline in humanities degrees, concentration counts do not tell the full story. Faculty at Brown are spearheading some of the most important humanities research, both individual and collaborative, taking place today. And students at Brown — through courses, individual research, and events — continue to find that humanities perspectives make an incalculable difference in providing a foundation of nuanced historical and ethical thinking in all fields of study and forms of professional work. We are fortunate to be part of an institution that strongly recognizes the value of the humanities, especially given the alarming program cuts and constriction taking place in certain state systems. We look forward to a new year of enhancing Brown’s world-class humanities teaching and research and helping its students become capacious thinkers and leaders.

Thank you for your support of the Cogut Institute and of the humanities at Brown.

Explore the 2022–23 Annual Report