About the Institute

For too long, the narrative of the Rust Belt has been one of emptiness, decay, decline, and vacancy — and often, our stories are neglected in the national sphere or controlled by cultural outsiders. Through the act of storytelling, we’ll pull the Rust Belt into the dynamic present. This seminar will emphasize the power of regionally-based storytelling and the importance of uplifting local voices. The faculty working group will think collectively about what it means to read, teach, and think from a rooted positionality.

How do we leverage civically and publicly engaged humanities practices to equip our students to shape the future of the Rust Belt, identify and contribute to social solutions, and to reimagine the role of the humanities within this sphere? How do we read, interpret, and create the texts that define and map our regional experience?

We aim for this to be the start of a larger effort to create a Rust Belt humanities hub — the only of its kind — telling our stories and imagining solutions from within this region, a metonym for the interconnected issues of class, race, justice and education facing this country. Because so much of the United States’ problems and promise converge on the Rust Belt, our work can be a model for ways to use the humanities to find new solutions, tell better stories, and empower our students to imagine themselves as productive citizens within their rooted context.


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