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About the Bridging Cultures Initiative

Bridging Cultures—Understanding Ourselves and Our Global Neighbors

A National Endowment for the Humanities Special Initiative

During a time of rapid global change and persistent uncertainty about the future, the vitality of our twenty-first century democracy depends on a commitment to understanding the historical and cultural forces that have shaped, and continue to shape our world. To that end, NEH's new agency-wide theme, Bridging Cultures, is designed to renew and reinforce the bridges between the different cultures and viewpoints that are part of the fabric of American life. Shared human experiences play a unique role in enhancing understanding and respect for diverse cultures and subcultures within America's borders and around the globe.

A Special Pilot Grant Opportunity Launched the Bridging Cultures Initiative in 2010

To stimulate a rich dialogue informed by the best in humanities research and scholarly insight, NEH held an initial Bridging Cultures grant competition in 2010 and out of the nearly one hundred applications, selected eight pilot projects at cultural and educational institutions around the country to bring together scholars and members of the public in discussions of two pressing national concerns— the role of civility in democracy and the need for deeper understanding of the Muslim world.

These Bridging Cultures events, held during the first half of 2011 showcased the work of academics and public intellectuals through public forums on ideas ranging from "cyber civility" to Islamic intellectual history to the cultural legacy of Timbuktu in the United States.

Each of the eight forums was accompanied by workshops in which experts were convened to create specific plans for using exhibits, library discussion groups, or other public programs to bring new ideas to communities across the nation. Expert input from state humanities was a key part of planning this public outreach in several of these projects.

Other Bridging Cultures Grant Opportunities

Another special Bridging Cultures opportunity is available in the category Bridging Cultures through Film: International Projects which supports projects that examine international and transnational themes in the humanities through documentary films. Such projects are likewise meant to spark American's engagement with the broader world by exploring one or more countries and cultures outside of the United States.

In addition, NEH is investing in community college programs that strengthen the humanities through special attention to Bridging Cultures themes. Community colleges seeking challenge grants are encouraged to propose projects with this emphasis. In addition, a new request for proposals is expected to spur the development of several nationwide projects to advance the role of the humanities at community colleges through curriculum and faculty development focused on Bridging Cultures at home and abroad.

Bridging Cultures throughout the Endowment

Over the course of the Endowment's history, many projects on Bridging Cultures themes have been an important part of NEH's support for the humanities, and these topics continue to be welcome in all programs of the agency.

As the Bridging Cultures initiative develops, we expect to take up new themes and encourage the study of many cultures and parts of the world, with a focus