Multi-colored graphic of network visualization

Fall 2020 Retreat – Humanities for the Public Good Advisory Committee

Dark Laboratory at Cornell University

Tao Leigh Goffe Headshot

Tao Leigh Goffe is a co-founder of the Dark Laboratory. Prof. Goffe is a writer and a sound designer specializing in the narratives that emerge from histories of imperialism, technology, and abolition.

She is an assistant professor of literary theory and cultural history at Cornell University. She is a joint hire between Africana Studies and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She is also part of the XR (AR / VR community) at Cornell Tech and has taught as part of the Milstein Program on themes of digital music augmented reality.  She is Senior Curator and is leading students in a research project to design a virtual reality museum of the future, the year 2350.

She received her Bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and PhD from Yale University.  Her interdisciplinary research and practice examines the unfolding relationship between ecology, infrastructure, and the senses. DJ’ing is an important part of her pedagogy and research. Film production, sound design, digital cartography, and oral history are also integral to her praxis.  She has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Washington Post, and by Vice Munchies. Her writing has been published in Small Axe, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, and Boston Review. She is at work on books exploring the poetics and entanglements of indigenization in conversation with African and Asian diasporas in the Caribbean, as well as the geology of the archipelagic formation of the Caribbean.

Jeffrey Palmer Headshot

Jeffrey Palmer is a co-founder of the Dark Laboratory. Prof. Palmer is a Kiowa filmmaker and Emmy-Award nominated media artist. His first feature film, N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear, premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and aired on the PBS series, American Masters.

He is an assistant professor in Cornell University’s Department of Performing and Media Arts.

He has taught film at the University of Central Oklahoma and Syracuse University. As a dean’s fellow at the University of Iowa, he received his Master of Fine Arts in film and video production, with an emphasis in documentary film and video installation.

He received his Master of Arts in Native American Studies, focusing on Native American exploitation in early cinema and his Bachelor of Arts in cultural anthropology from the University of Oklahoma. His short films have also screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Hot Docs, The Seattle International Film Festival, imagineNATIVE, and many others around the world.His work has also been featured in Indian Country Today, The Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, Native American Times, Art Focus Magazine and Dreamcatcher Magazine. He received awards and recognition from ITVS, JustFilms/Ford Foundation, The Sundance Institute Creative Producers Lab, The Sundance Institute Native Program Lab fellowship, and The Firelight Media Documentary Lab Fellowship.

Thoughts on Humanities labs from Cornell’s Dark Laboratory

Dark Laboratory’s philosophy is to assert survivance of communities—human and non-human animals, plant life, microorganisms—in relation to nature. Through immersive technology (VR, AR, sound design, films, video games) we are bringing the symbiotic histories of Black and Indigenous coalition to the surface in order to build future worlds of co-production and co-existence in the face of ongoing conquest. We believe that a laboratory should be a place of collaborative minds to discover and to build and strengthen new ideas. We employ the laboratory’s philosophy in six pillars of collaboration: Dreams, Designs, Growth, Sustainability, Coding, and Learning. Together these pillars form a sturdy foundation for the laboratory’s ultimate goals of multimedia storytelling.

Dream. The Dark Laboratory is an engine for collaboration, design, and study of Black and Indigenous ecologies through creative technology. Co-founded by Tao Leigh Goffe and Jeffrey Palmer, assistant professors at Cornell University, the Dark Laboratory is a collective funded by generous sponsors including the Rural Humanities, a Mellon initiative at Cornell University. We are situated at the intersection of scholarship, artistic praxis to examine Indigenous forms of storytelling by centering local and global non-profit community institutions as educators.

Design. For the Dark Laboratory the question of rural life involves a deep meditation on how the land is a storyteller. We consider Black and Indigenous grounds of burial and the haunting of empire in the landscape. With an eye toward personal geographies and the layered, sedimented presences of Black and / or Indigenous peoples in the United States, the co-founders look to our Kiowa and African heritage.

Grow. As a laboratory devoted to humanistic inquiry, we examine entangled debates regarding stolen lands and stolen life at the crossroads of the University in relation to surrounding ecologies and communities. Dark Laboratory centers the relationality of town and gown to reframe the production of knowledge. How might embodied forms of storytelling such as, weaving, cooking, ceremonial dance, and even singing lullabies be forms of knowledge?

Sustain. We consider the centuries-long deep and clandestine itineraries of Native and Black people in coalition across the Americas at the edges of the plantation. How, we ask, does nature continue to function as refuge for these coalitions? Of deep interest to the Dark Laboratory interest is the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York as an ongoing site of and monument to Black fugitivity and resource.

Code. As professors and artist practitioners, we are training and hiring a cohort of undergraduates, graduate students, and community members in research methods. Dark Laboratory provides consulting services and data-driven dossiers on the ethics of cultural representation in Hollywood cinema, corporate mascots, and institutional histories.

Learn. Our philosophy is to learn from Black and Indigenous traditions about how to tell a good story. Good has meaning to us as founders in the sense of the “common good,” ethical grounds, and the value of being an engaging storyteller using multimedia. We begin our inquiry in Upstate New York and the soil of Cornell University to ask difficult questions about the layers of Native dispossession and African enslavement as foundational to and entangled in the story of the United States.

Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) at Memorial University

Max Liboiron Headshot

Dr. Max Liboiron (Michif-settler, they/she): Taanishi! Max Liboiron dishinihkaashoon. Lac la biche, Treaty siz, d’ooshchiin. Métis naasyoon niiya ni (Woodman, Turner).

Hello! I’m originally from Lac la biche, Alberta, Treaty six territory. I am the Director of CLEAR and am both an Assistant professor of Geography and the Associate Vice-President (Indigenous Research) at Memorial University.

Kaitlyn Hawkins Headshot

Kaitlyn Hawkins (she/her): Hello, my name is Kaitlyn Hawkins. I am a settler from Summerford, Newfoundland and Labrador. I graduated from Memorial University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, specializing in Ecology and Conservation and minoring in Oceanography. I work at CLEAR as the lab manager where I work closely with the director of CLEAR to coordinate all lab activities, lab employees and training, organize others for success, as well as conduct research along with my colleagues. I bring strong organizational skills to the lab and approach my lab manager duties with hospitality.

How to lab? A perspective from CLEAR
Max Liboiron, Jill Chidley, Kaitlyn Hawkins

Throughout my career, I’ve been in a range of research spaces, from mutual aid collectives made of graduate students studying a common issue (Superstorm Research Lab), to traditional science labs lead by a Principal Investigator based on the expert-and-apprentice model, to a methodology incubator that produces research but is also a collective (CLEAR). Each type of lab did work that solo endeavours could not do, mainly large-scale projects based on continuous and close-knit interdisciplinary collaboration. In all cases, accountability (to research ethics, to desired outcomes, to partners, to each other, to equity and land relations) was both paramount and tricky. I think accountability (also called responsibility or ethics or politics) is the central organizing feature of shared research spaces, even if you don’t want it to be.

CLEAR uses techniques like feminist reflexivity and anti-oppressive facilitation to keep accountability in the forefront of lab work. While CLEAR was imagined as a workshop-style lab based in the science model of labs (that took feminist critiques of science to heart), we are now also very much a collective and a methodology incubator. We have become accountable to both of those streams of our work, which have become more obviously inextricable over the last few years: the way we do research creates and is accountable to the collective, and the collective does the work of creating new methods together for our shared work. This does not mean CLEAR does not have a hierarchy—hierarchies are not inherently bad so long as power is constantly interrogated and consent (and thus refusal) is robust. You can see more about how we do this at We are always a work in progress—the lab itself is a product of our research.

The following is a reflection from Jill Chidley as a brand-new lab member (2019):

I just completed my first meeting as a member of CLEAR, and the group dynamic definitely differs from other work environments I’ve been a part of. From my experience in typical office structures, a meeting included one facilitator who spoke 95% of the meeting, telling the group what was going on, what needed to be done, and who was going to do it. It wasn’t often that I would have the opportunity to give my input on a situation, and even more uncommon that I would be specifically asked for this input or felt that it was really taken into consideration.

My first CLEAR meeting provided a different environment. It was my first time meeting many of the CLEAR lab members, and my first time being involved in the already produced GUTs video, yet my opinion and input was acknowledged just the same as everyone else in the group. This was the third meeting the group held discussing credit order for the video, and the thought process for this was very in depth! Max facilitated the group by explaining what we were discussing, and upon making decisions, we would go around the group in order to gather everyone’s individual opinion until we came to a consensus. Doing this round robin discussion helped each member to have their opinion heard and valued, and opened my mind up to other people’s perspectives, ultimately changing my decisions in some situations. When looking at credit order, the group also went beyond looking just at the amount of work put in by each person/group to be mentioned, but also how the credit order may benefit some individuals in their personal life and took this into consideration, which I thought showed a lot of respect to them as people rather than just contributors to the video. One of the biggest differences that stood out to me in this credit order meeting was the consideration and respect shown not only for the people involved, but EVERYTHING involved in the making. Acknowledgments were given to the Land, the specific places visited, the people of Newfoundland, the fish, and what was learned. CLEAR shows so much respect to not only those directly involved in the creation of the video, but every little thing that make projects like this possible and make them unique, which is so often overlooked. After just one meeting, I can already see how CLEAR really separates itself from other labs, and I cannot wait to learn and grow in such an awesome environment!

Humanities Laboratories at Duke University

Christinba Chia Headshot

Christina Chia has been Franklin Humanities Institute Associate Director since 2014. She received her PhD in English from Duke in 2004, and worked at the Center for Multicultural Affairs prior to joining the Institute in 2006. At the FHI she has administered a range of research and education programs, including the Humanities Laboratories, the FHI-North Carolina Central University Digital Humanities Fellowships, the Graduate Digital Scholarship Initiative, and Story+. A member of the Associate Directors and Administrators Network of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI), she participates regularly in panels and workshops on non-faculty academic careers. In Fall 2019, she joined the Board of Trustees of the North Carolina Humanities Council.

Outside of her work as an academic administrator, she maintains a strong research interest in the social worlds human beings share with non-humans. Trained in American Studies and Ethnic Studies, she is particularly interested in how multispecies relations shape and are shaped by hierarchies among human beings (for example, how slavery and its afterlives haunt contemporary “dog culture” in the US). In 2013 she was part of an interdisciplinary group that curated Recording the Anthropocene, a public exhibit exploring scientific, cultural, and artistic visions of the planetary impact of the human species. She has taught courses in the English Department, Program in Women’s Studies, and Center for Documentary Studies. Her current (non-academic, or quasi?) project is a Southeastern native plant garden.

Deborah Jenson Headshot

Deborah Jenson co-directs the Duke Haiti Humanities Lab (with Laurent Dubois), focusing her work on the history of cholera in Haiti and the Caribbean, and mental health issues among survivors of the Haiti earthquake. Her other research areas focus on traumatic stress, cognition and culture and the ethnic identities of African slaves in 18th century Saint-Dominigue. She also serves as a Co-Convener of the DIBS/FHI Neurohumanities Research Group. In the summer, she directs Duke in Paris.

Her most recent books are a literary history of the Haitian Revolution, called “Beyond the Slave Narrative” (2011, paperback Feb. 2012) and a volume on the global legacies of psychoanalysis: “Unconscious Dominions” (with Anderson and Keller, 2011). Earlier work includes “Trauma and Its Representations,” “Sarah (A Colonial Novella” (with Kadish) and “The Haiti Issue” of Yale French Studies. She is writing a book of essays, “Mimesis from Marx to Mirror Neurons.” Current collaborative book projects include a biography of Dessalines, a volume of the letters of Toussaint Louverture, and an edition of an 18th century Creole opera.

Lab as Versatile Form
Christina Chia, Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke University

As an entry point to our upcoming discussion, I would like to offer this “sampler” of past Humanities Lab projects at the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI) at Duke University. I first put this document together in 2017 to illustrate to potential Humanities Lab applicants what one could do in/with a Lab, and have updated and revised it with each new CFP. As you will see, the projects in the Sampler are quite heterogeneous, as are the Labs from which they emerged. I would not entirely blame you if you asked: what do they even mean by a Lab over there?? Here’s a bit of institutional context that might be helpful: the FHI introduced its first Lab, focused on Haitian history, language, and culture, as well as the politics of humanitarian intervention, in 2010. From the start, our Labs were designed as 2 to 3-year rotating projects co-directed by an interdisciplinary team of faculty: as incubators that might generate longer-lasting structures (programs, courses, collaborations, etc.), but are not in themselves meant to become permanent. We’ve had Labs that focus on national histories and cultures (Haiti, Global Brazil), world historical themes (BorderWork(s), Social Movements, From Slavery to Freedom), generic and aesthetic modalities (GreaterThanGames, Audiovisualities, Story), and interdisciplinary collaborations (Health Humanities). The “first generation” of FHI Labs operated under a clear directive to integrate undergraduate students into faculty-led research, while more recent Labs have tended towards a stronger emphasis on advanced scholarship and publications. I encourage you to browse through the Lab websites above for interesting models or, just as helpful, counter-models for your own projects (with due apologies that the websites of some of the “retired” Labs have gotten a bit wonky…) 

Two other points given our host’s specific interest in graduate training and humanities labs:

The first is simply an example. I want to be sure to highlight what I think is the most successful graduate student initiative to emerge from an FHI Lab: Sonic Dictionary, a participatory digital teaching platform created by Mary Caton Lingold (now Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University) and piloted at the Audiovisualities Lab. Please see the mini project history on p. 2 of the Sampler. I would be happy to chat more at the retreat about the institutional conditions that, I think, helped it flourish.

The second is a quick bit of reflection, from the perspective of a Humanities PhD in an alt-ac career. In pulling this thought piece together and revisiting the Lab Projects Sampler, I’ve wondered if I’m drawn to certain kinds of projects, and if so why. Certainly there are “objective” metrics like publications, awards, number of students involved and impacted, etc. etc. But I do think there’s something like an administrative aesthetic to the Lab projects that have been most compelling, a way of mobilizing the full versatility of the Lab as a form: as a hub of research, a cluster of courses, a host of events, a platform for collaborations with campus and community partners. Any program, Lab or otherwise, that’s able to give humanities graduate students that kind of exercise in intellectual and practical agility can count itself a success!

Lab that Bio-Meritocracy!
Deborah Jenson

Following on the use of “Lab” as verb in Max, Jill, and Kaitlyn’s “How to Lab,” I’m inspired to venture the reflection that a humanities lab should not be a thing, or even a person or set of persons, or a place. It should not even be a nominal project, because academic projects can be multiplied in an infinite regression, and can ultimately overlap with non-lab forms. It should, ideally, be a mode—an experimental mode breaking with habitual thought and structural constraints in higher education. Known for this innovation of mode, it can also then be powerfully associated with person(s), place, and thing.

That was eventually the case for the Haiti Lab that Laurent Dubois and I launched as Duke’s first Humanities Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute in 2010. That lab was unusual at the time for staking out a geo-philosophical site of sustained problem-based research in not only a collaborative mode, but a mode that insisted that local participants acquire the skills and knowledge needed to meet Haitian partners halfway. We developed an array of Creole (kreyòl) language classes, and set a precedent for multilingual events in which presenters and audience members could speak in either English, French, or kreyòl per their needs; a website of key cultural texts and multilingual annotations complemented it. With the help of the extraordinary “administrative aesthetic” of Chris Chia, we aspired to, and often achieved, an atmosphere in which projects at the Smith Warehouse digs had the character of a barn raising: all were welcome to leave their mark. The lab grappled with the history, literature, and languages of a nation born of the revolutionary self-emancipation of former slaves, as a precondition for culturally-grounded practices and critique of humanitarian intervention in the wake of the cataclysmic disaster of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Such practices and critiques of course included health, both in the history of the country and in the landscape of humanitarian intervention. Through collaboration, research subject / object distinctions were continuously reshuffled such that the Haiti Lab was a host site to welcome and disseminate partner research and projects. You can see the way that one of our honors thesis students in French and kreyòl, Annie McDonough, continued to develop this mode in her medical school social medicine project.

It was from Haiti Lab engagement with topics such as the sudden appearance of cholera in Haiti, or how to align Haitian discourses and experiences of trauma with those in Western biomedical traditions, that my next Franklin Humanities Institute lab venture, the Health Humanities Lab, came into being in 2015.

The Health Humanities Lab at Duke University engages with modal alternatives or challenges to the meritocratic principles of higher education. The HHL certainly has produced a plethora of projects, in global health humanities, arts and health, and history of medicine, but across them, a dynamic has emerged of disability studies as a means of contesting the structural establishment and reinforcement of parameters that divide ability by rank or kind. In the context of health, such gate-keeping, which aligns in capitalism with the formation of elites to whom resources will be disproportionately channeled, represents a logic of bio-meritocracy.[1] What makes a curb navigable by a person in a wheelchair, rather than serving as a curb to access for the disabled? What makes a course more or less feasible for students or faculty who relate to the multiple possible axes or definitions of neurodiversity? Does our high resource health care system work symbiotically with structures like an agro-industustrial food system that aligns with exponential growth of metabolic disorders, cancers, and autoimmune illness wherever it is exported to consumers “educated” in the diet of capitalism around the world? And what kind of higher educational access fosters the health, conceptualized in terms of equity, of a society at large? How do the mechanisms and sanctions of standardization and achievement criteria in higher education align with our cultures of embodiment, including cultures of implicit bias and white supremacy?  

“’I love the poorly educated,” the newly elected President Trump proclaimed in 2016, whereas the arguably more education-oriented democratic presidential candidate notoriously had referred to a half of Trump’s supporters as the “basket of deplorables.”[2] This recent political upending of meritocratic norms and validation of the shame of the educationally disenfranchised has highlighted the diverse cultural and political forms that revenge on educational elitism can take. Michael Young’s 1958 The Rise of Meritocracy on the socially-divisive potential of meritocracy foresaw that “widespread ladders by which ‘the best’ could ascend, would create a new class of ‘the best’, thereby turning those left at the bottom into ‘the worst’, bereft of dignity.”[3] Duke’s Health Humanities Lab works from within elite higher education on how the structural competencies necessary to the equitable reform of health care are inseparable from critique and performative reinvention of bio-meritocratic educational systems. It is time to use the humanities, and disability studies, to think beyond the morphologies and maintenance of bio-merit to work on partnerships that are a challenging new mode of higher education for the public good.

[1] Ashley Taylor and Lauren Shallish, “The Logic of Bio-Meritocracy in the Promotion of Higher Education Equity,” Disability & Society 34:7-8 (May 2019) 1200-1223.


[3] Paul Collier, “Snakes and Ladders: Meritocracy and Its Critics,” Times Literary Supplement, October 23, 2020

Immigrant Justice Lab at University of Michigan

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof Headshot

Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof is Professor of History and American Culture and the Director of Immigrant Justice Lab. Jesse Hoffnung-Garskof is the author of A Tale of Two Cities: Santo Domingo and New York After 1950 (Princeton University Press, 2008) and Racial Migrations: New York City and the Revolutionary Politics of the Spanish Caribbean (Princeton University Press, 2019). He is the recipient, in AY 2020-2021, of a Scholars and Society Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to further develop the Immigrant Justice Lab’s research collaboration with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.       

Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez

Rebeca Ontiveros-Chavez is a Supervising Attorney at the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center’s (MIRC) Washtenaw County office. She represents unaccompanied immigrant children and individuals in the metro Detroit area on various immigration matters. In 2019, she was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Foreign Language Board of Review as the Limited English Proficiency Populations Advocate. Rebeca has played an integral role in creating the Immigrant Justice Lab, an interdisciplinary team-based approach that brings students together from different disciplines at the University of Michigan to assist in asylum cases. She also advocates for racial equity as a member of the Michigan Advocacy Program’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. She is committed to ensuring that all youth have access to higher education regardless of immigration status and helps lead the Michigan Coalition for Undocumented Student Success.

As a law student, she was the executive articles editor of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and co-president of the Latino Law Students Association. She was also a student-attorney for the Child Welfare Appellate Clinic and the Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic. Before law school, Rebeca worked for U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and was the communications director for the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association in Washington, D.C. She earned a BA in political science from the Metropolitan State University of Denver in 2009 and a JD from the University of Michigan Law School in 2016.

Why a Lab?

From the point of view of the community partner: The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center (“MIRC”) is a legal service provider that provides pro bono representation to non-citizens who lack the resources for a private attorney. Since MIRC began representing unaccompanied minors in federal foster care, in 2017, MIRC has grown rapidly.  Meanwhile, an onslaught of new rule-making, shifting enforcement priorities, and the continued growth of our massive deportation and detention machine has increased the burdens on MIRC staff (who now close about 1100 cases per year). Weekly intake meetings amount to a kind of triage. Which potential clients have a fighting chance?  Which fall into priorities set by funders?   At the same time, MIRC works in systemic advocacy and community engagement, and education. This means endeavoring to shape policy through public comment, media engagement, and coalition building. MIRC is also the leading provider of immigration-related training for pro bono and private attorneys in the state. 

As part of MIRC’s long-range strategic planning process, the staff and leadership have identified “partnering to build power” as a “strategic lens” that they hope to apply to all work areas (the other two lenses are “Accountability to and with those most impacted by our work” and “Addressing race and equity explicitly”).  Building partnerships presents a logistical problem, however, because effective partnerships require an investment of staff time, MIRC’s most precious resource.  University partnerships can be particularly risky in this regard. Although universities have an abundance of resources, including academic skills, expertise, and lots of available labor, the cyclical and transient nature of university life presents a serious risk.  A group of interested students may appear one day, begin an ambitious and necessary project, then go home for the summer break or graduate, leaving the project unfinished or untended.  

So why a lab? In our model, the lab is a shared project between specific employees at MIRC and specific on-campus contacts (the two of us, basically), to invest together in a lasting, institutional relationship that can thoughtfully avoid (or creatively respond to) the pitfalls of university-community partnering. Decisions about what kinds of work to assign to the lab are guided by a strategic and equitable approach to the needs and capacities of all those involved, but with an absolute priority on “those most impacted by our work”.  In this way, our lab has become a means for MIRC to mobilize on-campus resources, without multiplying points of contact, lines of communication, training and supervision requirements, or the risk that a given project will simply fizzle.  Meanwhile, the lab helps generate a pipeline of future professionals from diverse backgrounds, many of whom chose to intern or clerk at MIRC after training in the lab. We have also begun to think of the lab as a mechanism for drawing on university resources to provide professional development and career growth for MIRC staff.

From the point of view of a teacher: Hands-on instruction in humanities classrooms is a holy grail, especially if student projects have immediate, real-world impact.  Students and professors joke that we all live under the constant threat of the phrase, “what are you going to do with that after you graduate?”  The implication is that history, anthropology, and literature classes provide information that is arcane, abstract, and, in the end, tangential to professional life, or even activism.  Hands-on instruction can turn that question around: “what can you do with that, now?”  Students can make use of and develop their research, writing, language, and critical thinking skills to engage with tangible problems.  Students thrive on projects that feel urgent and challenging.  And, with care, group projects—which benefit from members with diverse and complementary strengths and experience—can be a space to work openly with students on issues of diversity and equity in the classroom.  This kind of instruction can provide a crucial pre-professional experience (and a pathway to other opportunities) for first-generation students, who do not always have the same access to internships as students whose social worlds before college were full of practicing professionals.

So good so far.  The problem is that engaging students in such projects risk imposing generation after generation of students in the real world.  Projects designed to provide enriching experiences for students but may be disruptive (or worse) to the communities with which they engage.  Also, most meaningful projects cannot be finished in a semester.  Scientists know this.  They do not send students out to design and complete studies in one term.  They do not put untrained students in immediate contact with research subjects.  Once students have done sufficient classwork, internships, and jobs in labs allow them to learn while doing by plugging into ongoing projects.  Advanced students get space to develop and take leadership over ancillary projects.  And co-investigators can use lab resources to develop new areas of work.  This is why we borrowed the term “lab” from that realm, though the idea of a “clinic” from legal instruction also very much informs our model.

So our lab is a space to produce academic work in collaboration with MIRC and to do project-based teaching.  Undergraduate students get their first taste of work with MIRC through a structured, hands-on module in the context of a large lecture course.  That module requires minimal investment from MIRC and engages students in exercises on sample cases, drawn from previous lab work, rather than active clients.  Interested students then apply to participate in a lab seminar, in which they do supervise work for MIRC (writing and researching asylum briefs in teams that include law students).  About half of those students then come into the lab as independent study students or part-time workers, to continue to meet MIRC’s caseload demands, which are not timed to semesters.  

Graduate students come into the lab as teaching assistants in the large lecture class.  They then have opportunities, as paid employees of the lab, to supervise independent study students.  This allows them to develop their own skills as teachers in the lab model and as public humanities practitioners, without the challenge of building new community partnerships from the ground up (only to abandon them when they finish their doctorates and move to where the winds of the market take them).  At its best, the lab provides space, funding, and infrastructure for graduate students to work with MIRC staff to design and carry out ambitious and creative projects beyond our regular caseload.