About the Townsend Center

Since its establishment in 1987, the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities has encouraged an interdisciplinary approach to scholarship, fostered innovation in research, and promoted intellectual conversation among individuals from the humanities and related academic disciplines. Unlike a number of other university humanities centers, which devote a large percentage of their resources to hosting residential scholars from other institutions, the Townsend Center is committed to enriching the existing wealth of intellectual resources at Berkeley.

The Center offers an array of fellowship and grant programs designed to support research and scholarship at all levels of the university community. We also support more than 60 interdisciplinary working groups on a wide range of topics—ranging from Hip Hop Studies to Orientalism, from Latin American Colonial Studies to New Media—and co-sponsor a wide variety of lectures and conferences with other departments and units on campus.

In addition to these established programs, the Townsend Center plays an integral role in the development of new and innovative programs that take an interdisciplinary and forward-thinking approach to scholarship. The Project on Disciplinary Innovation, commonly known as Course Threads, encourages undergraduates to pursue a cross-disciplinary education by bringing to light some of the hidden “threads” that connect courses across existing majors and departments.

The Townsend Initiatives focus on topics of current faculty interest not supported within departments or programs. Initiatives encompass faculty working groups, mini-seminars, film series, lectures, and other topically related events. Current Initiatives include Thinking the SelfMusic & SoundGlobal Urban Humanities, and Human Rights.

The Center offers a variety of public programs, including the Avenali and Una’s endowed lectures in the humanities. Distinguished visiting scholars and artists have included Nobel Laureates John Coetzee and Wole Soyinka, authors Joyce Carol Oates and Ursula K. Le Guin, architect Maya Lin, photographer Sebastião Salgado, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and South African artist William Kentridge among others.

The Townsend Center is a member of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes.

More on the Doreen B. Townsend Endowment.