DISCOVER the Global Arts + Humanities
Letter from Faculty Director, Wendy S. Hesford

Photograph of Wendy S. Hesford

Deriving from the Old French root descovrir, meaning to uncover or unveil, via the Late Latin discooperire, the word discovery means to reveal the unknown and to bring forth new knowledge. But discovery refers not only to what is newly seen but also to the act or process of discovering. It therefore is a fitting word for Ohio State's Discovery Themes initiative, as it prompts us to acknowledge the context in and the frameworks through which we unveil discoveries. This derivation also reminds us that it is important to think about for whom such knowledge has been constructed and from whom it has been concealed. What narratives or histories make discoveries recognizable, or pertinent, to some but not others? Who benefits from the revelation?

Such questions are particularly germane to consider as we advance discovery in the arts and humanities at a university in Columbus — a city named for the explorer credited with animating the Age of Discovery, and which now announces itself as a city both creative and open. Yet, Christopher Columbus also heralded an age of European colonialism and domination of indigenous peoples that found justification in the narrative of discovery, for the moment of encounter is after all, also a moment of discovery — a confrontation with the unfamiliar, with difference.

Through the humanities and the arts, we know that discovery refers not only to innovation and new connections but also to the discourses and methods through which knowledge and history are framed. Discovery entails naming, mapping and remembering. It involves the investment of value (or its withholding) onto certain peoples, cultures and objects. To approach discovery critically therefore is to reconcile these past and present investments and the responsibilities that discovery now opens up.

The Global Arts + Humanities Discovery Theme is committed to engaging the idea and practices of discovery in ways that promote ethical scholarship and reflexive methodologies across disciplines. Although knowledge frameworks are often disciplinarily bound, researchers working within Global Arts + Humanities are looking to a different set of methodological possibilities and practices that attend to human entanglements with technology and ecological systems, cultural belonging and place making and the legacies of domination and displacement. Increasingly, researchers in the arts and humanities turn to relational forms of inquiry and creation that cut across and connect previously separated categories and knowledge domains, including those in the sciences and professional fields.

Global Arts + Humanities is guided by the principle that cross-disciplinary methods enable us to account for human interdependencies and the histories on which these dependencies are built. By highlighting relational thinking, Global Arts + Humanities advances our discovery of transformative, non-exploitative ways to imagine and sustain communities.


The Global Arts + Humanities is the gateway to the integrated arts and humanities at Ohio State. The mission of the Global Arts + Humanities is to invest in cross-disciplinary collaborations that amplify the transformative power of the arts and humanities to respond to critical societal challenges to drive social change.

Core Goals

The Global Arts + Humanities will...

  • Build intellectual community and capacity across the university through cross-disciplinary research and creative practices that respond to critical societal challenges.

  • Deepen student engagement in the arts and humanities through cross-disciplinary research, experiential learning and professional development.

  • Strengthen the university’s capacity for transformative, community-engaged partnerships through arts and humanities methods, orientations and interventions.

  • Increase Ohio State’s national recognition as a leading land-grant institution and its distinction for excellence in integrated arts and humanities through cross disciplinary collaborations.