Pembroke Center Seed Grants

Pembroke Center Seed Grants for Collaborative Interdisciplinary Research

The Pembroke Center's competitive seed grant program supports collaborative research initiatives that involve Brown faculty from the humanities, social sciences, creative arts, and health sciences. In keeping with the Pembroke Center's intellectual mission, these research initiatives will examine intersecting dimensions of difference such as gender, sexuality, generation, work, class, race, ethnicity, language, citizenship, and religion.

Application Deadline: Sunday, April 1, 2018.

Read about the project funded for 2017-18

Read about projects funded for 2016-17

Goals of the Seed Grant Program

1) Support the formation of focused interdisciplinary groups working across fields and academic divisions, with distinct theoretical and methodological approaches, in order to explore innovative research questions.

2) Incorporate intersecting dimensions of difference (such as gender, sexuality, generation, work, class, race, ethnicity, language, citizenship, and religion) into broader research agendas.

3) Serve as a catalyst for developing research projects that may ultimately qualify for external grant funding.

Application Requirements

• One faculty project director, plus a minimum of one additional faculty member from a different field

• One-page bios of research group participants, including their disciplines, research interests as they relate to the seed grant application, and their other interdisciplinary projects

• Title of research project and a two- to three-page description that details the central research questions, common themes, and project goals

• Plan to involve other faculty researchers, visiting scholars, postdoctoral fellows, and students

• Dissemination plan for research findings

• Proposed budget of up to $10,000. Please list all current and pending funding from Brown and other sources related to the project.

Applicants should design their program to best serve their research goals.

Pembroke Center grants may be used for a mix of workgroups, symposia, and performances for collaborative exchange, visiting scholars, lectures, student research assistantships, small research stipends for the lead faculty organizer, and publication support. Groups must be anchored at Brown University but may include outside researchers. Preference will be given to projects that involve faculty across academic divisions.

Please send applications electronically to or deliver hard copy to:

The Pembroke Center – Box 1958
Pembroke Hall, Room 111
172 Meeting Street
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912

Grant Process

  • The application deadline is April 1, 2018.
  • Award notifications will be made by May 1, 2018.
  • Funds will be available starting on July 1, 2018.
  • Expenditure of funds must be completed by June 30, 2019.
  • A final report that details the activities supported by the grant and provides a full accounting of expenditures will be due September 1, 2019.

Contacts for Questions:

Donna Goodnow, Manager of the Pembroke Center

Drew Walker, Associate Director of the Pembroke Center

Seed Grant Recipients: Academic Year 2016-17

Animal Studies Working Group

Animal Studies is an emerging field that supports exploration of interspecies relations and interdisciplinary investigation into non-human animality as a critical site of difference. Extending across the creative arts, humanities, social sciences, and life sciences, the "question of the animal" entails a revisiting of boundaries assumed to separate humans from other species. Questions of rights and ethics are prevalent, but the attention to the animal as life form informs a wide range of intellectual projects across the disciplines. These include approaches to the animal as wildlife, companion species, scientific specimen, object of curiosity, exploitation or collection, industrial "produce," literary and aesthetic figure/theme/form, ecological actor/indicator, and vulnerable (or endangered) subject.

The growing academic interest in animals in recent years has emerged partly as a response to an increased awareness of ecological interconnectedness, threats to biodiversity and natural habitats, and concerns relating to the ethical treatment of and meaningful coexistence with animals. Leading scholars across the disciplines have converged around the necessity of rethinking the terms of humanist and scientific inquiry. Scholars are considering the ways in which species difference has historically and conceptually been linked to the production of other forms of material, political, cultural, and symbolic difference, including those of gender, race, and class.

Faculty members participating in the newly formed Animal Studies Working Group at Brown University share an interest in all of these questions with particular emphasis on those that favor a thinking of animality as what may trouble preconceived notions of human sovereignty, autonomy, and knowledge; that is, as what may complicate human-centered orientations of historical, cultural, and scientific narratives. Our symbol the Geo Bird, a figure from an Aztec clay seal, represents our broad global and chronological interests.

Seed grant funding will support monthly discussion groups, a research assistant, guided field trips, co-sponsorship of the 2016-17 Animal Lecture Series, and bringing a faculty member from another university with an established Animal Studies program to Brown to consult about programmatic and curricular development.

Nancy Jacobs, Associate Professor, History (project director)
Palmira Brummett, Visiting Professor, History
Constance Crawford, Adjunct Lecturer, Theater Arts and Performance Studies
Thalia Field, Professor, Literary Arts
Iris Montero, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Cogut Center for the Humanities
Thangam Ravindranathan, Associate Professor, French Studies
Rebecca Schneider, Professor, Theater Arts and Performance Studies
Andrea Simmons, Professor, Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences
Ada Smailbegovic, Assistant Professor, English

Conference: Inheriting the Frankfurt School

One of the great strengths of the humanities at Brown is the cross-disciplinary engagement of its faculty and graduate studies with the legacy of the Frankfurt School of critical theory. The Frankfurt School is a school of social theory and philosophy associated in part with the Institute for Social Research at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Founded during the interwar period, it consisted of dissidents who did not feel at home in the capitalist, fascist, or communist systems of the time.

Writers and thinkers from the Frankfurt School such as Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, and Siegfried Kracauer continue to inform discussions of critical theory, literary studies, modern media, as well as critical approaches to gender, class, and race, both in and beyond German Studies. Scholarship and translation work of Brown Faculty, such as Gerhard Richter, Thomas Schestag, and Kevin McLaughlin, play a critical role in the dissemination and study of Frankfurt School thought in the English-speaking world.

To build upon the shared concern of Brown's humanities faculty with this lineage of modern thinkers and to create a larger forum for the diversity of perspectives brought to bear upon it, this project entails the organization of an international conference on the critical question of what it means to inherit the contested legacy of the Frankfurt School. Questions to be considered at the conference include the problems of intellectual and cultural inheritance, as well as issues of transmission, survival and reception. The conference will address the problem of wishing to inherit a critical legacy without knowing how; it will also devote itself to the threat of unreadable legacies.

Seed grant funds will be used to support a three-day conference consisting of presentations by Brown faculty and graduate students from various departments, as well as distinguished speakers from a broad range of national and international institutions. The aim of the conference is to initiate scholarly exchanges among Brown faculty and graduate students and senior scholars from some of the most prominent universities in Brazil, Europe, and North America. The group plans to publish a collection of essays based on the proceedings, written by scholars from a variety of disciplines including critical theory, film studies, history, literary studies, and philosophy.

Kristina Mendicino, Assistant Professor, German Studies (co-director)
Gerhard Richter, Professor German Studies and Comparative Literature, Chair of German Studies (co-director) 

Multimedia Project at the Intersection of Global Health and Politics: Lissa (Still Time)

Lissa (Still Time) is a narrative adaptation of original field research by Sherine Hamdy in Egypt about kidney and liver disease and research by Coleman Nye about breast cancer in the United States. The narrative is focused on two strong women characters at the center of critical life-or-death decisions involving medical technologies, global health inequalities, and political revolution.

Seed grant funds will help to present the research and story in three ways. 1) A graphic novel, to be published through the University of Toronto Press and through Anne Brakenbury’s ethnographic series, will feature two fictionalized characters based on in-depth sustained ethnographic and interview research. 2) A digital platform, hosted by the Brown Digital Scholarship Initiative, will explore more deeply the conceptual themes of the graphic novel, including bioethical conundrums, the political economy of global health, and the uneven effects of biomedical technologies, religious difference, and political instability against the backdrop of the Arab Spring. 3) A documentary film will present the process of the collaboration including a research trip to Egypt and the development of the characters.

The project seeks to explore questions about the following issues:

  • The vulnerability of people to health/disease in the context of poor health governance, particularly with deregulation of manufacturing and toxic waste disposal
  • The problematic of women’s health and bodily autonomy to their reproductive viability
  • The problems of over-treatment and iatrogenesis (treatment-induced illness)
  • How societies wager life-and-death decisions in the context of restrained resources
  • The problems of commodifying health and the body, privatization and patenting of scientific information, including the BRCA gene, and the consequences of this for individual patients and global health more generally

The project aims to establish a lasting collaboration between Brown, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Watson Institute, and the Pembroke Center for the publication of visually rich scholarship and research. It seeks to translate academic ideas about gender, sexual autonomy, religion, ethics, and politics into accessible and emotionally resonant stories about characters with whom readers can identify. In this way, the project aims to present important interventions for rethinking the politics of global health in an easily accessible format that invites a wide readership.

  • Sherine Hamdy, Associate Professor, Anthropology (project director)
  • Alice Coleman Nye, Assistant Professor, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Simon Fraser University
  • Paul Karasik, Instructor, Illustration, Rhode Island School of Design
  • Francesco Dragone, Independent Filmmaker
  • Caroline Brewer, student, Illustration, Rhode Island School of Design
  • Sarula Bao, student, Illustration, Rhode Island School of Design

Past Seed Grants

Inaugural Seed Grants - 2013

2013-14 Seed Grants

2014 -15 Seed Grants

2015-16 Seed Grants

2017-18 Seed Grants

The Pembroke Center Seed Grant Program is made possible thanks to the generosity of the donors to the Pembroke Challenge.