The Humanities Action Lab (HAL) is an international collaboration of universities, human rights organizations, and exhibit spaces, experimenting with how the humanities and art practices can open new ways of publically engaging urgent social issues. UCR’s Public History Program is a core participant and leading member of HAL and its steering committee, which is coordinated from The New School in NYC. Every three years, we create with HAL partners a major public project that focuses on the history, memory, and current realities of pressing social issues, through a traveling exhibition, digital platform, oral histories, and public programming.
HAL’s current project focuses on the past, present, and future of mass incarceration in the U.S., considered from a global perspective. UCR’s particular focus will be on youth and the carceral state in California and will consider policing, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the collateral damage of incarceration on our communities. Framing contemporary issues from a historical perspective, we aim to analyze the structural forces underlying the “race to incarcerate” while also humanizing a narrative that is too often rendered as an abstract “social problem.” The local HAL members will establish and work with an advisory group of regional activists, organizers, scholars, and artists to develop UCR’s contribution to the national project; to support undergraduate and graduate student research towards the project; to help fund visits from scholars in relevant fields; and to cover expenses for the first phase of exhibition production.