Humanities Institute

Updates on the Humanities Institute's NEH-Funded Project, "Communities of Care"

Fri, November 16, 2018
Updates on the Humanities Institute's NEH-Funded Project,
Drs. Suzanne Seriff and Travis Marcum at the Humanities in Practice community panel at the 2018 Pop-Up Institute

By Sarah Schuster, HI Graduate Research Assistant

“Communities of Care: Documenting Voices of Healing and Endurance,” a project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, aims to explore the ways Central Texas communities experience and respond to health disparities, develop modes of endurance in response to illness and suffering, and advocate for more inclusive and comprehensive healthcare.

Stories surround almost everyone, everyday: some are entertaining, others mundane, and still others challenging. Stories can help us organize our lives, relate to friends and family--and they can even help us become healthier and happier people.

This project has been exploring how telling and listening to stories are practices that themselves can promote a healthier society--and how Austin organizations are using narrative as a resource. Over the course of 2018, this team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and Austin community health leaders have gathered to brainstorm ways of creating a digital archive of health narratives, including the narratives of innovative health organizations.

Some Central Texas nonprofit organizations have laid the groundwork for narrative research, using storytelling as a means of calling attention to problems in their communities, and providing a voice to those who have experienced racial and economic disparity in healthcare and other realms. “Communities of Care” aims to support and expand initiatives, addressing  the barriers that patients, their families and communities, and providers face in building a more caring society and exploring how to break down those barriers through humanistic support.

“Communities of Care” builds on the scholarly and community relationships that the Humanities Institute has developed throughout its activities in 2016 and 2017 under the organizing theme, “Health, Well-Being, and Healing,” as well as on the research developed through May 2018’s Health & Humanities Pop-Up Institute and Symposium.

Through 2018, team members have met with potential community partners from various Central Texas organizations and nonprofits, laying the groundwork for future collaboration. Among the project’s biggest developments was a seminar and meeting with Courtney Donovan, professor of Geography & Environment at San Francisco State University. Dr. Donovan discussed the plans for her own in-progress digital health project, StoryBridge, with team members, outlining the successes and challenges around building such a project (and a platform).

Members from the core and digital media teams will also be attending an upcoming NEH-funded Digital Humanities institute, entitled “Sustaining DH: An NEH Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities.”  

The interdisciplinary research team is led by HI director Pauline Strong (principal investigator) with participation from faculty in the College of Liberal Arts, the Dell Medical School, the Steve Hicks School of Social Work, the School of Information, and the University of Texas Libraries, as well as community leaders.

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