Living Through Upheaval Grants Program, 2021-22

Living Through Upheaval is a new 18-month research and public programming initiative developed by UCHRI and the UC Humanities Collaborative to foster the systemwide engagement of humanities faculty and students around important and transformative issues related to moments of upheaval—past, present, and future. The Initiative invites faculty to apply for new thematic-specific grants on the following topics: Social Leadership, Racial Infrastructures, Conjuring Future(s), or Unexpected Collaborations Beyond the Humanities. Proposals for UCHRI grants must be multi-campus, collaborative, and interdisciplinary.

We are living in an age of profound upheaval—not only in our physical and social worlds, but also in the world of meanings composed of shared perceptions, memories, expectations, beliefs, and imaginings. COVID-19 has upended life as we have known it, physically, socially, economically, culturally. It came atop already looming upheavals, registering across a wider timetable, of climate change and soaring global temperatures, fires, and floods in the wake. Additionally, police violence and persistent racism have once again evidenced urgent concerns for equity, justice, dignity, and respect across racial distinctions. Overlaying all of this has been a severe economic dislocation disrupting individual lives and laying waste to the cultural memory and identity of whole communities.

This grant opportunity invites applicants to think creatively and expansively about knowledge production and academic collaboration under conditions of upheaval. To read more about the broader initiative and its intellectual foci, please visit the Living Through Upheaval page.

Applications must be submitted online via Submittable by 11:59 PM (Pacific time) on the deadline date.


Program Details

The open format of the Living Through Upheaval thematic call for applications is meant to encourage a diverse and varied response; although we invite project proposals that employ the more standard forms of collaborative scholarly engagement (workings groups, conferences, residential research groups, etc.), we encourage the submission of alternative models of collaborative research engagement, including those with explicit pedagogical outcomes. Projects can take whatever format the PI chooses, but should fall within one of these four thematic foci:

Historical and Contemporary Leadership in Social Movements
Projects that explore and elaborate qualities of leadership that have been developed and are generalizable from a wide range of historical, recent, and contemporary upheavals: the experiences of premodern and modern revolts, socially contesting groups taking to the streets and squares, trades union movements, civil rights, anti-apartheid, and anti-racist strugles, mobilizations and struggles around women’s rights, voting, prison, policing reform and abolition. What sorts of leadership qualities and frameworks would best serve collectives, organizations, institutions, and society to address these upheavals effectively? How have people grappled with upheavals in the past, and what new thought formations have emerged out of crisis?

Racial Infrastructures
Projects that address the developing notions of “racial infrastructures” and “infrastructures of racism.” What do such infrastructures amount to, and how do they shape social life, embedding racial differentiations and racial injustices into the built environment, institutional life, and social order in different societies? What will it take to undo or remake such infrastructures in ways not reproducing racial injustice, and to repair the inequities left in their wake? In what ways does the production of knowledge in the university contribute to or help overcome these inequalities, and how must universities reflect upon themselves and change in order to support more effective, more just adaptation to upheavals? We invite proposals that address issues like these, as well as innovative theoretical projects that focus on histories of race and racism.

Conjuring Future(s)
Projects that creatively address futures, real or imagined, in the face of major reconfigurations of lived experience. We invite humanists to conjure futures together in ways that shift, more than incrementally, paradigms of thought: analyzing speculative fiction, creating policy directions, devising an ethical map for living together in discordant times, designing the aesthetics of the future, etc. Potential projects could utilize historical and/or contemporary lenses to address what futures might look like in the face of major societal upheaval, and address issues that could range from climate and the pandemic to migration and environmental upheaval to algorithmic being and AI/Machine Learning, to abolitionism, and more. How does drawing on pasts enable or disable thinking (about) and shaping futures? Preference will be given to projects that explicitly address the racial coordinates and impacts of their topic, and that engage a variety of disciplinary perspectives to think in bold ways about futures.

Unexpected Collaborations Beyond the Humanities
Unlike the above three thematic calls, Unexpected Collaborations invites humanities researchers to address the Initiative’s overall intellectual concerns by focusing on the who and how of collaboration. We invite projects that bring humanities scholars into constitutively collaborative dialogue with STEM and public scientists, public health scholars and officials, public policy experts, etc., in order to create forums and other engagements that situate different working modalities and explore how they shape one another’s thinking about key challenges. How would a humanities-led multidisciplinary team tackle issues like environmental justice, technopolitics or -ethics, race, and Covid (and their intertwinings)? Where do disciplinary blind spots and omissions collide, and how might paths forward be changed by greater and broader disciplinary collaboration? What does humanistic expertise and leadership exercised beyond the humanities lead to and result in?

Application Details

Faculty organizers must be UC ladder rank faculty members, and are responsible for coordinating all aspects of the event. Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact their respective campus representative on the UCHRI Advisory Committee for guidance in the application process.

Applications are accepted exclusively online through Submittable

Required documents include:

  • Project Title and Abstract (200 words max)
  • Project Description (2000 words max, see details below)
  • Proposed Budget (see details below)
  • Curriculum Vitae of the Faculty Organizer(s) (2 pages max)

The 18-month structure of this award is meant to allow applicants to incorporate research and development during the first six months of the project, if necessary, and to provide time for grantees to think creatively about how to structure collaborative research. Funded project activities should span at least 12 months in total.

All applicants are encouraged to familiarize themselves with UCHRI’s online journal, Foundry, and to consider submitting work pertaining to Foundry’s new open call series, Living Through Upheaval. Foundry seeks academic submissions that experiment with content and form, and that push beyond the constraints of traditional academic publishing.

Project Description

The project description should be a maximum of 2,000 words and include the following elements:

  • Problem Statement, including the important historical and theoretical context of the proposed topic, its short- and long-term significance to the humanities, and the faculty organizer’s personal commitment to the project.
    • Explain your choice of one of the four thematics, and how your projects fits in.
    • Identify the type of engagement you are proposing, and include a project plan: Will there be an event? An online series? A publication? Please describe how you envision the shape of your project.
  • List of Participants, including campus, discipline, career rank, affiliations, and relevance/contribution to the collaborative project and its stated objectives. Preference will be given to projects that engage at least 2 UC campuses, though more are preferred. 
  • Proposed Objectives, broadly defined in relation to the broader theme of Living Through Upheaval.

All project activities must take place between July 1, 2021 and December 31, 2022. Wherever possible, the project description should also address the way the project will engage at least 2, but ideally 3 or more UC campuses as well as diverse disciplines and publics.

Proposed Budget

The proposed budget is made up of two elements:

For calendar year 2021, UCHRI grant budgets (including these grants) funded by the MRPI Program may not include travel expenses. If your project plans include travel for events anytime before January 1, 2022, you should submit a budget that reflects a plan for online meetings ONLY. If you are planning research travel or in-person meetings from January 2022 onward, you may submit a budget that reflects this.

Proposed budgets may cover travel (in 2022 ONLY), lodging expenses, conference publicity, facilities rental costs related to the event, as well as necessary group-related research expenses. Catered and group meals may not exceed 10% of the total budget. Grant funds do not cover alcoholic beverages.

Please note that restrictions on UCHRI funding do not allow honoraria to be paid to UC faculty. Compensation should be in the form of a direct contribution to the faculty member’s research fund, and is limited to a maximum of $300 for UC-faculty presenters/panelists. Honoraria may be paid to non-UC presenters/panelists, and should also be capped at $300.

UCHRI may also consider administrative costs (up to 15% of the total requested amount), provided justification is detailed in both the budget template and the budget narrative. Amounts should be determined in advance and in writing with the administrative unit (e.g., the faculty organizer’s department or campus humanities center). Campuses are prohibited from charging indirect costs on funding from the Office of the President.


For program related questions, please contact Shana Melnysyn, research grants manager, at smelnysyn@hri.uci.edu. Please include the name of the grant for which you need assistance.

For technical assistance, contact Submittable at support@submittable.com.