U-M awarded $4.8M humanities grant from Mellon Foundation


The University of Michigan received a major grant in humanities from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a multi-institutional digital futures collaborative led by a professor whose research involves digital inequality.

This $4.8 million award is the ninth grant from Mellon to U-M in the past two years.

“I’m absolutely thrilled that the Mellon Foundation has chosen to fund the creation of DISCO: the Digital Inquiry, Speculation, Critique, and Optimism Network,” said Lisa Nakamura, the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture and professor of Asian and Pacific Islander studies, and director of the Digital Studies Institute.

“This scholarly collective focusing on digital inequality, race and ability is really core to University of Michigan’s Digital Studies Institute’s mission and goals. We look forward to publishing collaborative work on tech’s wins and fails, creating new courses on digital inequality that speak to STEM students, and creating art that speaks to (artificial intelligence) and identity.”

Nakamura is the principal investigator who will collaborate on the project with:

  • Remi Yergeau, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, associate professor of English language and literature, and associate director and associate professor in the Digital Studies Institute.
  • André Brock, Georgia Institute of Technology.
  • Rayvon Fouché, Purdue University.
  • Catherine Knight Steele, University of Maryland.
  • Stephanie Dinkins, State University of New York, Stony Brook.

U-M will serve as both the network organizational hub and a lab site with a focus on disability and access.

“The humanities, with their emphasis on the range of human experience, offer important opportunities to understand racial inequality, histories of exclusion, disability justice and digital racial politics,” said Provost Susan M. Collins.

“The university is deeply appreciative of this support from the Mellon Foundation. It will strengthen and extend our investment in developing new scholarship and practices that bring the power of humanistic inquiry to contemporary concerns and contribute to transformative work in higher education.”

Two other Mellon awards for U-M were announced in January. The foundation awarded $5 million each to professors Stephanie Fryberg and Earl Lewis to fund projects that focus on addressing racial inequity.

Fryberg, a University Diversity and Social Transformation Professor and professor of psychology, and Lewis, the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies and Public Policy, director of the Center for Social Solutions, and professor of history, Afroamerican and African studies, and public policy, will receive the funding during the next three years.

Nakamura, whose research focuses on online racism and sexism in video games, social media and online communities, has taught in various LSA departments since 2013. She has been director of the Digital Studies Institute since its inception in 2018.

Yergeau, who came to U-M in 2011, has scholarly interests in writing studies, digital studies, queer rhetorics, disability studies and theories of mind.


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