The Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) mission is to build a community of scholars addressing the most pressing questions of our time. We support and foster research by bringing emerging and established researchers across a range of disciplines together for collaborative idea generation and individual reflection.

The Center has several initiatives that foster interdisciplinary research, with a strong centering in the humanities.

Themes – From the Ground Up

The Center has its ears to the ground, learning what issues are of interest and greatest concern to our community of scholars at UWM and the region. We use what we learn to build themes that extend over time, drawing scholars into relationship and idea generation that might yield research proposals, publications in a wide range of forms, or curricular innovations. Building on C21’s rich traditions, we expect and celebrate work of the highest quality across fields of critical theory, public humanities, and digital humanities.

C21 has a long tradition of selecting an annual theme to guide its programming and the collaborations of its Fellows. This single theme culminated in an annual spring conference, and often the publication of a monograph of the conference proceedings. See this archive of past conference themes.

To better accommodate the time it takes to build collaborations and to open the possibility of addressing the many pressing issues of the moment. C21 has identified three themes for 2021-2024, building out under the umbrella of “Nourishing Democracy.” They include Lonely No More!, Nourishing Trust, and Trust the Vote.

The three-year programming arc is an intentional design informed by social justice pedagogy, with the first year of programs focused on topics of reflection (loneliness), the second year on common connections and differences (using food), and the third year on how these foundations help inform topics of response and responsibility (exploring civic engagement). The overarching program aims to facilitate discussions of democracy while using a curricular model that was developed to help foster democratic relationships inside and outside classrooms.


Each year the Center selects a cohort of 5 Fellows. These can be drawn from Faculty, Staff, and – new in 2021 – Community-based project partners.  Fellows are selected for the excellence of their proposals for projects addressing one of the C21 themes. Humanities-oriented projects from any field are given priority.

New calls for Fellows are commonly posted November 1st and selected for the following academic year. Fellows receive an office on the 9th Floor of Curtin Hall and are expected to meet bi-weekly to support the development of each other’s research.

Fellowship Information

C21 Collaboratory

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With additional funding provided by the College of Letters & Science, C21 supports research projects through an annual call for collaborations among faculty, graduate students, academic staff, and community members. Collaborative groups are required to include researchers from more than one unit (i.e., department, division, or college). Potential participants could also be drawn from other local universities, community organizations, or from members of the Milwaukee-area public. Projects can focus on the creation of sustainable research networks; curricular offerings; grant proposals; conferences and lectures.

In 2021, Collaboratory grant proposals will be invited for two or three year timelines to better foster long-range development.

C21 Collaboratory information

C21 Publications

After Extinction book cover

In 2021, C21 sees itself as a vital part of the ongoing debate about the primacy of the “monograph” as the measure of scholarly productivity. We are actively exploring the range of forms that publication can take and forming relationships with publishers similarly questioning the boundaries of their field. 

The Center also had an in-house opportunity to pre-publish works through its Working Paper series, from 1984 to 2011. The Working Papers are available at the UWM University Archives for researchers. 

Fellows and Staff Activity

C21 fellows (past and present) and staff are leaders in their scholarly communities, publishing, editing journals and books, speaking at conferences, creating art, and garnering awards. We’re glad to help in some small way with their successes. Some of their activities are highlighted below.

See Fellows and Staff Activity