Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities

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 supports more than 60 interdisciplinary working groups on a wide range of topics, spanning from Hip Hop Studies to Orientalism, from Latin American Colonial Studies to New Media. In addition to sponsoring a wide number of lectures and conferences, we also offer numerous fellowships and grants that support all levels of the university community, including undergraduates, graduate students, assistant professors, and associate professors. The Center also funds visiting scholars as part of the Townsend Departmental Residency program.

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, for example, encourages undergraduates to embrace a cross-disciplinary education by bringing to light some of the hidden "threads" that connect courses across existing majors and departments. Among the Center's newest programs is the creation of a virtual laboratory space for the development of new digital research tools. The Center has also recently started publishing The Townsend Papers in the Humanities, in collaboration with University of California Press.

The Center's public programs, including the Avenali and Una's endowed lectures and the Forum on the Humanities and the Public World, serve as a catalyst for the discussion of important issues on the campus and in the surrounding community. Distinguished visiting scholars and artists have included Nobel Laureates John Coatzee, Seamus Heaney, and Wole Soyinka, architect Maya Lin, photographer Sebasti√£o Salgado, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh, former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and acclaimed pianists Alfred Brendel and Leon Fleisher.

The Center is located in Stephens Hall and is situated administratively within the College of Letters and Science. Guided by a faculty advisory committee, the Center is run by a Director, an Associate Director, and an office staff. The Center is funded largely by income from the Doreen B. Townsend Endowment.

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

Townsend Humanities Lab:
Townsend Center Course Threads Program for undergraduates:

Stephen Best
(510) 643-9670
Staff contact
Rebecca Egger
(510) 643-6229
Mailing address

220 Stephens Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720 - 2340