The Humanities Action Lab Global Dialogues Working Group

Co-directors: Liz Sevcenko, Claire Potter and Julia Thomas

This group will provide a forum where students and faculty from design, humanities and policy explore the intersections between incarceration and migrant detention in history, policy, and public memory. Beyond the focus on the US, the project examines the intersections between incarceration in the US and around the world. Through a consortium of universities in the US and other countries, the project will create an exhibit and public dialogues across 17 cities, with an audience of over 500,000, integrating approaches of diverse disciplines to build public dialogue and engagement in incarceration.



From January 5-7, following the Humanities Action Lab public launch event, HAL brought together a diverse working group of project partners from across the country; stakeholders from a variety of affected communities; scholars of incarceration past and present; and designers to develop a framework for the traveling project.


During the three-day working group session, over 40 advocates, policy experts, artists, students, and university partners convened to brainstorm how a public humanities project could contribute to public discourse and participation in incarceration issues today.

Two scholars working on the intersection of race, migration and legal studies participated as project advisors in the working group convening: Naomi Paik (Assistant Professor, Asian American studies, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) and Juliet Stumpf (Professor of Law, Lewis and Clark Law School).

For more information on their first forum held at the New School, check the following post A Global Dialogue on Incarceration.



On February 4, the Humanities Action Lab hosted its second Global Dialogues on Incarceration Zolberg Working Group lunch discussion, led by guest speakers Pete Brook and Tim Raphael, and attended by approximately 25 students and faculty from across The New School who were enrolled in Spring 2016 courses affiliated with HAL’s project on incarceration and detention.


Brook and Raphael’s presentations, and the conversation that followed, centered on work and questions around remembering, public storytelling, and visual representations of incarceration — including immigration detention– and the experiences of people most affected by it. Tim Raphael is Director of the Center for Migration and the Global City at Rutgers University-Newarkan incubator for multidisciplinary scholarship, teaching, and civic engagement whose mission is to understand the local and global dimensions and consequences of immigration.  Pete Brook is a writer, editor of the website Prison Photographyand curator of the exhibit Prison Obscura, which presents rarely seen vernacular, surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs, shedding light on the prison industrial complex and those it confines. The lunch was also organized in connection with the launch of Prison Obscura at The New School’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, where it was on display from February 5-April 17.


Participants included:

  • Faculty and students from each of the Spring 2015 HAL Global Dialogues-affiliated courses:
  • Incarceration in New York City: History, Politics, and Policy (Julia Foulkes, History, NSPE, Eric Anthamatten, Teaching Fellow, NSSR, and Jeff Smith, Politics and Advocacy, Milano)
  • The Traveling Exhibit (Instructor: Nick Brinen, Parsons, SCE)
  • Collaboration Studio (Sandra Wheeler and Alison Cornyn, Parsons, AMT)
  • Radhika Subramaniam, Director and Chief Curator of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, and HAL partner, who will be co-teaching the Fall 2015 HAL Global Dialogues course that builds the New York chapter of the traveling exhibit with Julia Foulkes
  • Graham MacIndoe, who was our featured speaker for the November 4, 2014 lunch and working group discussion, and his partner, writer Susan Stellin; they were recently awarded an Alicia Patterson fellowship for their joint project The UnAmericans: Detained, Deported and Divided, a “series of interviews and photographs documenting the stories of immigrants who have been ordered to be deported from the United States, as well as their family members – often, American citizens – who suffer the consequences of the harsh punishment of exile.”
  • Peter Nelson, Director of the New York office of Facing History and Ourselves, an organization created by educators that provides training, professional development, and resources that support the practical needs, and the spirits, of educators worldwide who share the goal of creating a better, more informed, and more thoughtful society.

The final report for the group can be found here.