Humanities Across Borders

‘Humanities Across Borders’ (HAB) is an educational cooperation programme, co-funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York, that aims to create shared, humanities-grounded, inter-disciplinary curricula and context-sensitive learning methodologies at the graduate and postgraduate levels.

Twenty universities in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas contribute time and resources to this unique and innovative venture. The HAB partners are now in the process of signing a joint agreement that will bring them together in a vibrant international consortium, committed to building new humanist capacities at the inter-institutional level, including thematic projects, syllabi, and joint classrooms with other continents.

This new phase (2021-2026) builds on the groundwork laid during the first phase of the programme, under the title ‘Humanities across Borders: Asia and Africa in the World’ (2016-2021). 

As HAB enters into this exciting next chapter, we present a series of photographs from the first five years alongside a brief reflection on what was accomplished, where we are now, and what the future has in store. Read THE NEWSLETTER 90 AUTUMN 2021 article, Humanities Across Borders.


    2nd grant cycle (2021-2026)

    October 2020 - IIAS is pleased to announce another grant cycle from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to establish ‘Humanities Across Borders’ (HAB) as an institutional intervention in higher education. 

    Whereas in the first phase (2016-2021), we concentrated our efforts on building a network of partners and experimenting with out-of-classroom, experiential pedagogies, in this next phase of HAB we aim to mobilize existing, stand-alone educational institutions, structures, and processes into new configurations of South-South and South-North collaboration.

    We are working towards three institution-level innovations:

    1. A global consortium committed to public humanist values in education as outlined in the HAB Manifesto
    2. A curricular intervention in the humanities and social sciences co-created and co-taught across the consortium’s geographies;
    3. An interactive, collaborative-education digital platform that can operate as a mentoring tool, pedagogical resource repository and library network, accessible to all members and beyond.

    In this way, we hope to build a model of locally rooted, globally conscious higher education that has remained an aspirational ideal for many universities in the North and South attempting to achieve educational justice goals.

    Disseminating the HAB’s humanistic approach to teaching and learning through the consortium’s website, publications, conferences, and pedagogical events, we hope to encourage other institutions in the global South and North to join our efforts.

    1st grant cycle (2016-2021)

    Humanities across Borders: Asia and Africa in the World (2016-2021) is an education and research initiative of the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) principally funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York and IIAS, with the support of Leiden University in The Netherlands.

    We are a network of universities and their civil society partners across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America.

    The program is a collaborative space for everyday academic activism, both inside and outside the classroom. It supports experiments in pedagogical and scholarly practice through comparisons and connections along the Asia-Africa axis of knowledge.

    We believe that there is much to learn from the direct engagement of artists, writers, craft practitioners, ethnographers, community activists and civil society actors with human experiences in the world. Our projects under the four 'sites of knowledge and meaning' - Food, Place, Practice and Word- are committed to building a curricular matrix in-situ and generating the first glimpses of a reflective educational praxis.

    Ours is a movement in the humanities that sets out to propose an alternative model for academic development for students, faculty and administrators. All partners agree:

    • To be self-reflexive in one’s scholarly practice and view oneself as part of a global collective, rather than only in terms of individual career advancement.  
    • To reject the north-south hierarchy in higher education and work together towards locally grounded global humanities.
    • To collaborate with peers along the Asia–Africa axis of knowledge.
    • To go beyond classroom- and textbook-based pedagogies and to deploy embodied teaching and learning practices.
    • To seek non-textual, lived sources of knowledge and their modes of transmission.
    • To work with local communities and civil society actors to jointly formulate research agendas.