(Garrison, NY) The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded The Hastings Center a challenge grant to support an endowment for a major new humanities research program.
The $425,000 grant, to be matched by at least $1.275 million raised from private sources, will launch The Hastings Center Humanities Research Initiative, which aims to enlarge and deepen the Center’s core commitment to humanities-based scholarship in bioethics and to nurture leadership in this area.
This initiative will underwrite the endowment of a Senior Humanities Research Scholar Chair who will pursue research in bioethics and the humanities and advance the humanities work of fellow scholars at Hastings. The Chair will also create and direct a Humanities Scholar-in-Residence Program, a semester-long fellowship for an early-career humanities scholar to be selected through an annual international competition.
The initiative will enable The Hastings Center to continue its tradition of significant humanities-related scholarship. Hastings aims to develop humanities research that connects timely questions concerning advances in medicine, science, and technology with timeless foundational questions that humanists have always asked, such as: What constitutes human flourishing? What do people owe their children, friends, neighbors, fellow citizens? What is the nature of human suffering? How ought we to face death? While these questions do not have definitive answers, they inevitably help shape the practical decisions made by individuals and societies.
“For more than 40 years, Hastings has applied scholarly critical thinking at the intersection of ethical philosophy and medical practice and technology,” says Joshua Boger, a Hastings Center board member and chairman of its comprehensive campaign. “It is the respected thought leader on such fundamental issues as end-of-life and the impact of technology on the very definition being human. The NEH challenge grant fits well within the strategic goals of its $20 million campaign, which has well over 50 percent of its goal pledged or collected.”
Erik Parens, a senior research scholar at Hastings who has an interdisciplinary background in the humanities, will work with his colleagues to develop the initiative. “In recent years, many bioethicists and their funders have adopted the assumption that for an activity to be worthwhile, it has to mimic natural science or prescribe a professional practice,” says Parens, who has led two major NEH-funded projects on the ethical and social implications of using new technologies to alter our bodies and thus our experience of ourselves. “The initiative we are undertaking resists that assumption. It celebrates the Center’s original commitment to facilitating public conversation about what it means to live well in a time of rapid scientific and technological change.”
NEH challenge grants strengthen the humanities by encouraging non-federal sources of support and helping institutions secure long-term improvements in and support for their humanities programs and resources. Recipients are required to match NEH funds over several years. The Hastings Center was one of 21 institutions awarded NEH challenge grants in 2011 from 108 qualified applicants.