Climate Change, the Cultural Heritage of Niger, and Digital Textual Studies are three new multiyear projects featuring Chicago historians. Sponsored by the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, these collaborative efforts aim to advance the boundaries of humanistic studies.

The Logic and Politics of Climate Change

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Lawrence A. Kimpton Distinguished Service Professor of South Asian History, and his colleagues recognize that the climate debates have so far been dominated by scientists and policymakers, with limited effectiveness in terms of public communication or political action. In a series of conferences and public meetings the group plans to place the climate debates on more ethically, epistemically, and politically responsible foundations.

Niger Heritage

Ralph Austen, professor emeritus of African history, joins three biologists to preserve Niger’s paleontological, archaeological, and cultural heritage in a joint effort with two Nigerien cultural institutions and a fossil field site. Utimate goals are the long-term preservation and celebration of Nigerien cultural heritage, the engagement of surrounding communities, and novel architectural solutions that are sustainable and environmentally sensitive.

Textual Optics

James Sparrow, associate profess or US history, is one of the principle investigators of Textual Optics. The project will foster a lab-like environment where scholars who work across different textual traditions and disciplines will help formulate data-driven humanistic research. They investigators will create tools and interpretive methods that allow scholars to read textual archives through multiple lenses and scales of analysis, from single words up to millions of volumes. In particular, the project will consider how readers might move between close and distant readings of texts.

These new projects join a lively group of ongoing projects that feature historians: Economic Analysis of Ancient Trade (Alain Bresson), The Economy and Its Boundaries (Jonathan Levy & Amy Dru Stanley), and Historical Semantics and Legal Interpretation (Alison LaCroix).

By Joanne M. Berens, MFA '93, jberens[at]