Guantánamo Public Memory Project
Host Institution: Columbia University
Launched in Fall 2012, the Guantánamo Public Memory Project brought together over 300 students from 13 universities to research, document, and interpret the history of the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and foster public dialogue on the urgent questions it raises today. This project was the progenitor for HAL and for our coalition of community-curated projects. The project was motivated by a concern that the vitriolic public debate over “closing Guantánamo” was severely limited by ignorance of how GTMO had been “closed” before, and how it could open again. Students enrolled in courses, taught simultaneously across the country, that used nationally shared teaching resources that combined history, theories of memory and social change, and hands-on experience.
Students from around the country collaborated with more than 600 community stakeholders including Haitian refugees,
former service people, and attorneys representing current detainees, to explore GTMO's history from many perspectives, as well as the questions it raises today. Together they created a traveling exhibit, web platform, digital and physical archive, interview collection, and series of public dialogues. The exhibit has traveled for more than 3 years to 18 cities, with public dialogues in each place. More than 500,000 people will have had a face-to-face encounter with the exhibit, and many more online and through social media.
States of Incarceration
Host Institution: The New School
This project focuses on the past, present, and future of incarceration, exploring the explosion of prisons and incarcerated people in the US — including immigration detention centers — and its global dimensions. States of Incarceration brings together a national community of over 800 people in 18 states who together created a traveling
exhibit, web platform, and series of public dialogues.
Teams of students and people directly affected by incarceration in these cities each explore a history of incarceration in their own community, from Angola’s slave plantation-turned-prison in Louisiana, to the legacies of the Dakota Wars
for Native American incarceration in Minnesota, to immigration detention at Ellis Island and Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice
Host Institution: Rutgers University-Newark
In October 2017, the Humanities Action Lab launched Climates of Inequality: Stories of Environmental Justice with students and community organizations from 22 communities around the world. They joined a coalition of now more than 40 communities. Climates of Inequality addresses histories of climate and environmental justice by sharing stories and strategies from the communities who bear the greatest impact while contributing the least to environmental degradation. By exploring the roots of climate and environmental justice, this project seeks to center frontline communities, raise awareness, build political efficacy, and develop mechanisms for accountability.
With an emphasis on storytelling, Climates of Inequality seeks to mobilize diverse publics in ways that raw scientific data has yet to do. Students and stakeholders in each participating community have identified a key climate and environmental justice issue in their community, the historical roots of the issue, and ask: What strategies can we use to transition from extractive environments to more generative ones? Their collective exploration materialized in a multi-media installation and digital platform that will travel to each of the communities that created it, with public events all along the way.
In October 2019, a public exhibition featuring all of the local stories from HAL partners around the globe launched in Newark, NJ, before traveling to all 22 communities that created it.