Public Humanities Working Group

The Public Humanities Working Group

The Public Humanities Working Group for 2023–4 will be co-led by Nancy Escalante (nancy.escalante@yale.eduand Clara Mejia Orta ( The working group’s current advisor is Associate Director Karin Roffman ( For current PHWG events, see the Public Humanities event calendar.

In 2019-20, the “Public Humanities Working Group,” co-organized by Charlotte Hecht and Candace Borders, developed a series of intensive workshops for graduate students on Oral History theory and practice.  Led by the current and founding directors of Columbia University’s Oral History Master of Arts Program, Amy Starecheski and Mary Marshall Clark, the meetings enabled graduate students who planned to use interviews in their dissertations (or in other work) to practice, develop, critically examine and adapt their interview practices.

During the previous five years, the Working Group, led by rotating co-leaders, Sasha Saberwhal, Jacinda Tran, Lucy Caplan, Lauren Tilton, and Najwa Mayer, created a series of site visits, events, workshops and talks by visiting scholars.  In 2016-17, for example, co-leaders Lucy Caplan and Sasha Sabherwal arranged a three-day trip for fourteen people to the then newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture (as well as meetings with Smithsonian curators at two other museums) in Washington DC.  Other local site visits have included the New Haven Museum, the Sanctuary Kitchen and walking tours of New Haven neighborhoods.  The Working Group has hosted dozens of speakers and developed workshops on topics as varied as the making of documentary films, the challenges of creating public-facing work, the art and politics of museum display and others.

The Working Group also inaugurated the annual “History Slam,” a public reading of historical texts based on an event created by Howard Zinn (1922-2010).  This evening of dramatic readings from historical documents was collaboratively developed with multiple local theatre groups, library patrons, Yale undergraduates, graduates and faculty members and jointly sponsored by the Long Wharf Theater, The New Haven Free Public Library, and Public Humanities @ Yale. 

The Working Group also encourages and supports graduate students who wish to present their ongoing work at the North Eastern Public Humanities (neph) conference, an annual two-day event involving eight schools each spring.  Students who have attended in recent years include Candace Borders, Lucy Caplan, Charlotte Hecht, Sylvia Ryerson, and Courtney Sato.