Propose a New Working Group

Proposals for new working groups are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Working groups should have at least two conveners from different departments or units at USC; at least one of the conveners must be a tenure-track or tenured professor based in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. Working groups may organize discussions of work in progress, conversations around shared readings, or any activities that advance scholarly dialogue and the research agendas of participants. Groups are expected to meet regularly during the academic year and must be open to new participants. Groups are welcome to include participants outside of USC, and at institutions other than universities. Existing groups that the Levan Institute does not currently support are eligible to apply; existing Levan working groups are eligible to reapply as we wish to foster long-term conversations and collaborations. Awards are modest ($500 for the academic year) and aimed at facilitating conversations, not organizing events. Proposals for new working groups should indicate the group’s title and description, information for each convener, and an estimated budget.

Current Working Groups

Documenting the Undocumented

We will help shape new historical and humanities scholarship on the residents of the United States that lack legal status, usually referred to as “undocumented.”

Coordinators: George Sanchez and Julia Brown-Bernstein

Environmental Humanities

A discussion of foundational and cutting-edge scholarship in the environmental humanities. We aim to better understand relationships between humans and the natural world, broadly construed, across the past, present, and future. We are motivated by an increasingly urgent need to analyze and address anthropogenic ecological change in all its complexity.

Coordinators: Devin Griffiths and Sean Patrick Fraga

Sound in Sacred Spaces

An exploration of sound in sacred spaces, with perspectives from performance, sciences, humanities and religious tradition.

Coordinators: Chris Kyriakakis and Scott B. Spencer

Previous Working Groups

  • This working group aims to provide a forum for faculty, postdocs and doctoral students from across the schools to reflect on the various impacts of the pandemic as a global and historic shift and on the increasingly exposed limits of capitalism, with specific attention to informed alternatives.

    Coordinators: Aniko Imre and Patricia Burch

  • This group interrogates what forms of agency underpin our own understanding of migrants and refugees, in order to better understand the discourses of their experience traveling throughout the diaspora. We aim to make the global patterns of circulation—of capital, commodities, and people—visible in order to remap and rethink migratory flows.

    Coordinators: Brian Bernards, Lillian Ngan, and Christopher Chien

  • This reading group considers the ground breaking ideas and work of Cedric Robinson and his key text, Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition.

    Coordinators: Ben Carrington and Taj Frazier

  • We study books, writing, wordless communication, and record-keeping—past/present, scholarly/public, material/virtual—as well as transmissions of knowledge via tangible/immaterial means, and communities of production/interpretation. We share our work in progress, and consider scholarship on histories and theories of books and reading.

    Coordinators: Lisa Pon, Malachai Bandy, and Frederic Clark

  • What is the Global South? This group will discuss its historical and contemporary formation, with a focus on capitalism, race, empire, and the modern state.

    Coordinators: Daniel Delgado, Wolf Gruner, Issay Matsumoto

  • This working group examines the challenges and concerns associated with the resurgence of interest in interplanetary exploration, space tourism, speculative mining, and extraterrestrial colonization.

    Coordinators: Meredith Hall, Ella Klik, and Jennifer Petersen

  • Discussions of work-in-progress and shared readings on theories of translation among scholars and translators.

    Coordinators: Ronald Mendoza-de Jesús and Veli N. Yashin

  • This working group will bridge the fields of architecture, history, and political theory to foster interdisciplinary discussions of the political-aesthetic practices of colonization and decolonization.

    Coordinators: Ginger Nolan and Harrison Diskin

  • Electronic communication has radically altered our sense of time and place. This group will explore how poetry and painting have spawned innovative narratives that address the technology era’s crisis of perception.

    Coordinators: Mark Irwin and Enrique Martinez Celaya

  • We will think through the concept of “futurity” and collectively consider the stakes of future visions, asking: What do speculative visions reflect about the present and our current structures of society? What is at stake in different articulations of the future?

    Coordinators: Ben Bush, Laura Nelson, and Mary Sweeney

  • This working group studies Latinx Media in its various manifestations: TV, film, music, art, theater, journalism, etc . We will read classic and recent texts on Latinx Media and discuss works in progress presented by members.

    Coordinators: Elda María Román and Jonathan Leal

  • MASTS is an interdisciplinary community of knowledge and action that aims to rigorously and playfully build better media infrastructures, strengthen public life, and advance social justice

    Coordinators: Mike Ananny and Colin Maclay

  • A collaboration between academics and museum professionals to investigate the ways in which museums collect, display, and narrate cultures, past and present, with a focus on objects that prove particularly resistant, provocative,  recalcitrant, nonconforming … “difficult” and why.

    Coordinator: Daniela Bleichmar

  • We seek to find and create a reckoning with issues of social justice, related to racial capitalism, redlining, asymmetrical global development and environmental degradation, within the field of GeoHumanities.

    Coordinators: Priya Jaikumar and Neetu Khanna

  • We are scholars from a range of disciplines with a focus on media and culture within Sound Studies frameworkOur group’s interest lies in the emergence of sound, hearing versus listening of voice and sound, and sonic reproduction.

    Coordinators: Sarah Kessler and Anna Sbitneva

  • A working group (open to faculty and students) that meets monthly to discuss the intersections of theory and the study of pre-modernity.

    Coordinators: Cavan Concannon and Frederic Nolan Clark

  • This working group seeks to excavate layers of L.A., including geological, racial and economic, and infrastructural stratifications, among others. It unearths and juxtaposes the layers of Greater Los Angeles to expose, chart, and analyze its changing worlds, at local levels and through connections to macro geopolitical and ecological phenomena.

    Coordinators: Christina Dunbar-Hester and Andrew Lakoff

Header image: Emperor penguins underwater, Antarctica, 1984, USC Libraries Special Collections

Contact Us


3501 Trousdale Parkway
THH 348
Los Angeles, CA 90089


Director: Daniela Bleichmar
Associate Director: Zach Mann
Assistant Director: Isabella Carr

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