The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) today launches a new agency-wide initiative to encourage humanities programs that focus on the history, experience, or meaning of war and military service.
Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War, NEH’s new initiative, recognizes the importance of the humanities in helping Americans to understand the experiences of service members as they return to civilian life.
As part of Standing Together, NEH seeks grant proposals that explore war and its aftermath through advanced research in the humanities, public programs that promote discussion and understanding of the experiences of Americans affiliated with the armed services, whether active duty or veterans, and that have clear potential to involve the nation’s veterans and their families.
In addition NEH’s 56 state and territorial humanities councils will be invited to apply for a $10,000 grant to develop programs that reflect the interests of local communities. These grants are intended to create a national network dedicated to engaging diverse communities, groups and individuals, civilian and military, in dialogues that further mutual understanding and respond to the varied needs of veterans who have sacrificed to serve the nation.
To kickstart the Standing Together initiative, NEH has awarded grants for five pilot programs that use humanities scholarship to examine war and its aftermath, bring together veterans, scholars, and communities for discussions of the experiences of military service and of returning home, and enable the preservation and exhibition of significant collections of veteran’s materials, such as letters, photographs, memorabilia, and oral histories. These are:
- The Warrior Scholar Project is an intensive two-week humanities-based “academic boot camp” to facilitate veterans’ transition from the military to college. Under the guidance of world-renowned professors and veteran mentors, students will develop the analytical reading, writing, and discussion skills critical to academic success while also learning about the challenges they can expect on campus. Using such humanities classics as Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, and Herodotus’ The History, participants will hone their study stills, notetaking, exam preparation, course selection, time management, family relations, and confidence-building. Founded at Yale University, it will expanded to Harvard University and the University of Michigan.
- The Talking Service Project will create a program of discussion groups for veterans using works of literature in the NEH-funded anthology Standing Down: From Warrior to Civilian. The pilot project will identify twenty organizations for “Talking Service” discussions, train discussion facilitators, conduct a series of four to six sessions at each venue, and give participants copies of Standing Down. Standing Down, the centerpiece of the discussions, was published by the Great Books Foundation and features works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, journalism, public documents, and memoirs. Excerpts range from Shakespeare and George Washington to Ernest Hemingway, Margaret Atwood, and Tim O’Brien. The New York Council for the Humanities is working with the Great Books Foundation to develop this program.
- Literature & Medicine for Veterans is a reading and discussion program offered by the Maine Humanities Council that will expand on the work of the original Literature & Medicine program to reach veterans themselves in addition to their caregivers. The program will work with veterans at the grassroots level, based on issues and themes that the veterans involved have highlighted as important to them. The initial programs for Literature & Medicine for Veterans will take place primarily in states already connected to the Lit & Med program, using facilitators with prior Lit & Med experience or experience working with veterans. In Maine, further pilot programming will be used to connect with non-traditional partners, such as organizations working with homeless veterans or veteran social networks (American Legion, VFW, veterans biker groups), in order to expand the community of support around veterans.
- Military History Workshop A workshop at Northeastern University will offer hands-on training on the application of digital humanities methodologies to military history. Leading scholars will provide instruction in topics such as the use of GIS or Geographic Information Systems, deep mapping, and network analysis. Participants, drawn from the military history community, will learn new ways to conduct their research using the latest in digital tools and techniques. As part of NEH’s new effort to fund projects related to the military and veterans, NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, in cooperation with the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks at Northeastern University and the Society for Military History, will host a two-day professional development workshop to help military historians deal with large data sets and digital mapping questions. The workshop is planned for later in 2014.
- YouStories: Classics, Conversation, Connection builds on the success of previous NEH grants for Aquila Theatre’s programs interpreting classical Greek drama. Aquila conducts special outreach to American veterans and their families with programs that draw on powerful portrayals in Greek drama of soldiers returning home from war. As participants in the programs, veterans find parallels and develop insights into their own experiences of the trauma of war and the challenges of re-entering civilian life. Ten additional theater programs will focus on women’s military experience and its consequences for women, men, and families, through two works by Euripides, Herakles and The Women of Troy.