Harvard Mellon Initiative: Reconceptualizing the Urban

“Reconceptualizing the Urban” is the title of a four-year investigation of urban studies undertaken by The Harvard–Mellon Urban Initiative, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It brings together scholars and resources from across Harvard University and is directed toward establishing a vigorous, interdisciplinary, and coordinated study of urban environments in the humanities. Find out about recent and upcoming events.

The primary goals of the project include:

  • the development of sustained research projects that incorporate new visual and digital methods in the study of urban environments,
  • contributing to the Harvard curriculum with urban studies courses co-taught by the faculty of the Graduate School of Design (GSD) and Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS),
  • curating and co-organizing a comprehensive series of public programs,
  • producing publications and exhibitions, and
  • nurturing intellectual community-building across disciplines.

The initiative will play a significant role in shaping long-term goals for urban studies at Harvard’s undergraduate and graduate levels.

Golibar Khar East Transit Camp in Mumbai
Golibar Khar East Transit Camp in Mumbai. Photo: Kate Cahill

The Harvard–Mellon Urban Initiative is structured around ongoing city-based research projects. Each project will serve as a research ‘portal’ into specific geographies and urban issues, while opening up a broad interdisciplinary field of comparative study and research. Each city-based research portal is directed by two or more faculty from FAS, GSD, and other schools, who are taking a leadership role in directing research on the city. Each portal will include a core group of doctoral students from different programs.

Starting with four research portals — Boston, Berlin-Moscow, Istanbul, and Mumbai — the grant provides funds for student and faculty travel and field research. The intention is to integrate teaching and research at all levels across the university, and at the same time to establish a presence in the cities themselves by developing collaborative projects with local institutions, and tapping into current projects and debates. The aspiration is to create a broad intellectual community of interdisciplinary humanistic inquiry focused on the city and issues of the urban well beyond Harvard.

Find out about recent and upcoming events.