Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Humanities War and Peace Initiative

War is, and has always been, one of the major factors in shaping the lives and cultures of people around the world, and scholars in the Humanities have studied it from many angles, as a central aspect of our work.  Faculty members are writing and teaching about war in many contexts, including human rights, environmental justice, violence against women, empire, migration, philosophy, religion, literature, and many others. 
 
At the same time, war itself is rarely the organizing rubric under which we frame our inquiries in the Humanities.  To make war the organizing concept opens up enormous opportunities to address this all-important subject, one that continues to dominate the lives of millions of people around the world today. 
 
With this in mind, the Division of Humanities is delighted to announce a new 3-year project, the Humanities War and Peace Initiative (HWPI), fostering the study of war and peace from the perspective of scholars in the Humanities, in conversation with colleagues from around Columbia and the world.  Generously supported by President Bollinger, this initiative aims to encourage creative thinking about the critical topic of war, with an ultimate goal of perpetuating a more peaceful world. 
 
The HWPI will support a broad range of activities, including individual scholarship, new scholarly collaborations, projects and events within existing interdisciplinary and collaborative structures, teaching, community outreach and programming, performance and exhibition, and ongoing dialogue in other forms.  There will be a Core Curriculum dimension, as well as projects that engage our global centers.  Our understanding of war and its meanings aims to be broad, and to account for war’s effects across the full spectrum of human experience.
 
The HWPI will be run by Sarah Cole as Dean of Humanities and managed by the Director of Decanal Affairs in the Humanities, Jessica Lilien, and will be guided by a steering committee. 
 
The perspective brought by humanists is critical not only to understanding war as an event that has massively shaped human history, but to intervening in its future. If the damage of wars and conflict is ever to be genuinely alleviated, and if war’s inevitability is ever to be challenged, it will require new imaginative structures and habits, and a deep engagement with culture, language, art, religion, and thought.