“Reimagining New England Histories: Historical Injustice, Sovereignty, and Freedom”
Call for participation in Mellon “Just Futures” Project: “Reimagining New England Histories: Historical Injustice, Sovereignty, and Freedom”
I write to share details about a new grant-funded project Williams College, including Williams-Mystic, is embarking upon with Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice (CSSJ), and Connecticut’s Mystic Seaport Museum (MSM), and to invite your participation in it. Supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Just Futures Initiative, these regional partners are launching a three-year project that aims to tell a different, more complete story of New England and its global connections–past, present, and future–titled “Reimagining New England Histories: Historical Injustice, Sovereignty, and Freedom.”
One objective of this collaborative, interdisciplinary, public humanities project is to reshape the ways young people, communities, scholars, and college students understand the history and present-day of New England. Building upon generations of scholarship and community-led work, the project employs the sea as one lens to grapple with intertwined histories of Indigenous and African-American experiences in the Northeast and the closely related impacts of colonization and enslavement that have so deeply affected multiple communities. Equally important, the project foregrounds the continuous work Black communities and sovereign Native nations have undertaken to maintain freedom, self-determination, and cultural thriving in this region.
The project is in its very early, formative stages, and the process of collaborating and connecting will be essential to shaping its directions, approaches, and eventual outcomes at Williams, and across the partnership. I am thrilled to be sharing information about the next steps and opportunities for wider participation, including hosting a grant-funded Visiting Faculty Fellow; becoming a Williams Faculty Fellow to the grant, and collaborating on the creation of a decolonial archive and a museum exhibition. Each of these opportunities are described in greater detail below. There will also be multiple opportunities for student engagement that will be communicated to all students at Williams.
The grant includes resources for the college to hire a two-year Visiting Faculty Fellow who will undertake project work as well as teach in related areas. We (grant co-PIs Christine DeLucia & Ngoni Munemo) envision adopting a recruitment and selection process similar to the Bolin Fellowship. We invite chairs of units interested in hosting this grant-funded fellow to complete this short Google Form by Friday, May 21. As this is an expressly interdisciplinary project, applicants will be asked to identify at least two academic units with which they might affiliate and/or offer courses. Regarding the search process itself, a call for applications will be sent out in summer 2021. Unit search committees would then review applications in September/October and submit videoconference interview lists and finalists to a Just Futures selection committee likely consisting of grant co-PIs Christine DeLucia & Ngoni Munemo, Associate Deans Jackie Hidalgo & Sara Dubow, Williams-Mystic partners Sofia Zepeda & Tom van Winkle, and Brown University grant PI Tony Bogues. The Just Futures selection committee will prepare a report to the CAP, which will then make the final selection, with the goal of hiring a fellow to begin work on Jan. 1, 2022.
In each of the project’s three years (2020-2023), the grant provides for the appointment of a Williams faculty fellow who will devote significant time to project activities, including participation in the multi-partner research cluster, campus programming, and outreach. In recognition of the time, effort, and knowledge required, the fellow will receive one course release. We invite expressions of interest from faculty with continuing appointments in all divisions whose work engages with any of the following, especially in ways centered in the American Northeast/New England and/or this region’s hemispheric and global connections:
- Native American/Indigenous experiences, histories, cultures, politics, and expressions;
- African-American experiences, histories, cultures, politics, and expressions;
- Afro-Indigenous intersections, histories, and identities;
- Critical examinations of settler colonialism and its legacies;
- Critical examinations of racial slavery and its legacies;
- Community-based and decolonial approaches to knowledge formation;
- Public humanities and community-engaged forms of interpretation and expression.
We will review expressions of interest from faculty with continuing appointments and submit our nominations to the CAP, which will make the final selection. If you are interested in becoming a Faculty Fellow in AY 2021-2022, please complete this short Google Form by April 1, 2021.
Among the anticipated outcomes of the grant is the creation of a decolonial archive that centers the voices, memories, and perspectives of Indigenous and African-American communities. In addition, the grant will also work towards an exhibition, at Mystic Seaport Museum (MSM), that provides a complex engagement with questions of race and sovereignty in the region’s history. We are eager to collaborate with faculty and staff responsible for and/or working with existing college collections--broadly conceptualized--to co-create, together with our partners at Brown University, Williams-Mystic, and MSM, the decolonial archive and museum exhibition. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of the grant, please complete this short Google Form by April 30, 2021.
Beyond these granted-funded opportunities, we are in the early stages of developing an additional yearlong initiative, which we hope furthers the broader project. Tentatively titled, Crafting More Just Futures amid the Legacies of Enslavement and Colonialism: a year of programming and curricular connections, we are keen to continue and broaden the work of the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC), which in 2020-2021 has been charged with “comprehensively engaging with Williams’s histories with the goal of imagining and crafting practices of communally accountable institutional memory that reflects the complexity and diversity of the College’s histories.” We would like to place Williams’ efforts around reckoning and repair in conversation with broader regional and global projects that grapple with the legacies of colonialism and enslavement and craft more just futures. In conjunction with those efforts, in 2022-2023, we would like to pursue a year-long curricular, co-curricular, and programming initiative on the model of previous efforts, such as The Book Unbound or Confronting Climate Change. Please fill out this Google Form if you would like to be part of the steering committee for this initiative, or if you would like to suggest programming or activities for that year. Current members of the research cluster in consultation with staff at the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion will contact interested parties as we move further along with this initiative.