Research Clusters

Faculty-driven collaborative research. 


The IHR facilitates and supports diverse Research Clusters at ASU. Our aim is to assist research and communication among scholars and to enrich the intellectual climate of the university. The Research Clusters frequently serve as an entry point for faculty engaging with the IHR. They should support activities related to the IHR mission to:

  • foster innovative interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research
  • examine today’s most important issues from humanistic perspectives
  • promote and support excellence in humanities scholarship
  • engage the university community in meaningful dialogue and exploration

The Jenny Norton Cluster on Women

The Reverend Jenny Norton has provided funding to support an annual Research Cluster in the Institute for Humanities Research. The Norton fund is designed to stimulate research on women in any field and on any topic. Gender scholars are encouraged to apply for the Norton Award by proposing an appropriate topic for an IHR Research Cluster that will promote research and communication among ASU scholars and enrich the intellectual climate of the university. 

The 2019–2020 application deadline for Research Clusters is 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.

Review application guidelines


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2009 to 2010

Comparative Accounts of Catastrophes, Collapses, and Chronic Failures

Economic collapses, natural disasters, human rights abuses, genocides, extreme hunger and suffering, political devolutions, environmental crises — these failures, hazards, crises, and disasters, whether acute or chronic, are endemic to our globalizing world. Modern bureaucratic organizations produce documents and plans that identify problems and propose solutions. These highly instrumental documents are, we argue, embedded in cultural assumptions and narratives – in a modern social imaginary.

Alternative Ideas of Sustainability and Human Flourishing

The Alternative Imaginations (AI) Research Cluster is an intellectual space that seeks to cultivate complementary perspectives on science, technology, and policy to address inequality, marginality, and sustainability. AI’s goal is to engage scholars with backgrounds in humanities, social, and physical sciences to participate in dialogues on Alternative Imaginations focusing on issues of alternative living and sustainability.

Philosophy and Literature

This research cluster builds on a faculty group in PL that has been forming spontaneously for over a year out of a new sense of transdisciplinary respect for and mutual discovery of shared areas of research, teaching, and curricular-program interests. These range from critical theory (both in its broader origins within literary cultural studies and its historically specific genealogy from the Frankfurt School), rhetoric, and communication to literature and poetry to Continental philosophy and spirituality.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Rights and Social Justice

Questions of the nature, meaning, and implementation of human rights, and in human rights research and education will be addressed. Contributions from and differences among humanities and social science approaches to human rights texts and discourses, movements and practices, and analysis and evaluation will also be explored.

Religion, Gender, and Reform

Following the great success of our first round last year, participants in this cluster will be engaged in the investigation of the relationship between women, religion, and reform within the context of social effects. In our second year, we plan to further explore how women in religious milieus articulate their ideas about positive change affecting their lives. Our discussions will continue to address how women challenge the limits imposed upon them and their moral behavior by religious and secular elites in society.

Gender, Language, and Performance in 21st Century Comparative Literature

Comparative Literature has undergone radical transformation over the past decade, moving well past its initial formulations in the work of European émigrés in the aftermath of WWII. The foundational commitment to working with multiple languages and across national boundaries has brought in influential theorists from fields such as psychoanalysis, translation studies, and anthropology, providing a location for the rise and flourishing of “theory” in the 1970s and 1980s. Comparative Literature likewise anticipated and favored the development of post-colonial and global studies in the 1990s.

2008 to 2009

Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Rights and Social Justice

The idea for this Research Cluster emerged from a workshop with Dr. J. Paul Martin, co-founder and former executive director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights at Columbia University and current director of human rights studies at Barnard College. His talk drew a large number of faculty and graduate students from across the university. Following Dr. Martin’s presentation, faculty representing a range of disciplines – political science, law, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, science and technology, literature, African and African-American studies, geography, and history – engaged in a lively discussion regarding the opportunities and challenges of expanding intellectual and practical engagements with human rights, incorporating interdisciplinary scholarship into policy and practice, and creating spaces where sustained engagement among scholars and practitioners can occur.

Religion, Gender, and Reform

Participants in this cluster will be engaged in the investigation of the relationship between women, religion, and social effect.

Cultural Landscapes, Places, Identities, and Representations

This cluster will facilitate an interdisciplinary discussion using theories and practices from several disciplines (Anthropological Linguistics, Art History, Geography, and Geology) to explore the relationships between physical and cultural landscapes, and how these are encoded in language, material culture, and social units. In doing so, participants will create a new transdisciplinary understanding of the connections among landscapes and territories, the language and discourses used to talk about them, social units such as clans or moieties, and their representations in material culture.

Gender, Language, and Visual Culture in 21st Century Comparative Literature

This cluster examines the role of Comparative Literature in the 21st century to respond to the ever-more urgent need for cross-cultural understanding under globalization. Discussions will focus on intersections among language, visual culture, literary production, and gender as potential categories of analysis for comparative studies across national cultures.