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Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice

What We Do 

Rutgers, Research, and Global Racial Justice

Making visible a coherent, university-wide strategy regarding research activity in global racial justice.

Spanning Rutgers' diverse campuses situated in three major New Jersey cities, from the large comprehensive research university in New Brunswick; to the deeply community-engaged urban research university and anchor institution in Newark, New Jersey's largest city; to the close-knit community of the small urban research university and anchor institution in Camden.

Directors' Signature Research Projects

Black Bodies, Black Health: Imagining a Just Racial Future

A Directors' Signature Research Project: Institute Founding and Executive Director Michelle Stephens, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University–New Brunswick and Senior Fellow Anna Branch, (Central), Senior Vice President of Equity and Professor of Sociology, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers–New Brunswick 

The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the deadly consequences of racial disparities in health. More than spotlighting racial health inequity, however, the pandemic exposed anew the depths of staggering racial inequality nationwide. In every sector from education to the labor market, housing to healthcare, the provision to meet basic human needs and take steps to ensure wellness were racially unequal. These are national problems but as one of the most diverse states in the country, New Jersey holds several unwelcome distinctions for long-standing inequities in critical systems that have profound implications for vulnerability to poor health outcomes. 

What would we learn from bringing humanists, social scientists, and biomedical researchers to the table to explore, unpack, and disrupt structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes? What would a just racial future require to remediate the imprints of the past in the structures of our present? This one-year research project, supported by a $725,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, brings together cross-disciplinary groups of experts to explore and unpack structural racism in service of creating equitable health outcomes, centering humanistic and social scientific approaches.  

Black Health Disparities

Poets and Scholars Summer Writing Retreat

A Directors' Signature Research Project: Institute Codirector Gregory Pardlo, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers UniversityCamden

"We are not asking for seats at the table. We are building tables." —Gregory Pardlo

This radical experiment in reimagining the traditional writing workshop invites writers of all disciplines, genres, and backgrounds who are committed to anti-racist writing practices to apply. Intent on creating an open forum of mutual accountability, the retreat features 10 days of presentations and talk-backs, writing worktables, and an opportunity for auditors to learn from experience. The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice seeks to create spaces for scholars and creative writers to be in the conversation as both an aspect of their work and for the mutual exchange of knowledge within and throughout the university and its surrounding communities.

Learn more about the previous year's retreats here.

Image credit: Krista Franklin

Girl reading a book

Scarlet and Black Research Center

A Directors' Signature Research Project: Institute Director Erica Armstrong Dunbar, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University-New Brunswick

As an arm of the institute, the Scarlet and Black Research Center convenes researchers and practitioners across the humanities to examine the global dimensions of anti-Black racism. An outgrowth of the Scarlet and Black Research Project led by historians Deborah Gray White and Marissa Fuentes, this intellectual journey began with a deep dive into the historical connections between slavery and the university. Led by the institute's RutgersNew Brunswick campus director Erica Armstrong Dunbar, the center now serves as an intellectual hub, bringing together faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students in faculty seminars, community lectures, and the work-shopping of humanities-based projects. The center's Scarlet and Black Digital Archive documents Black history in New Jersey and fosters collaboration among digital humanities practitioners.

Scarlet and Black book cover

Quilting Water Public Arts Project

A Directors' Signature Research Project: Institute Codirector Patrick Rosal, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers UniversityCamden

Quilting Water is a five-year international public art initiative. In its local form, the project explores the relationship residents of Camden, New Jersey, have to the increasingly vulnerable public resource of water. A community of Black quilters from Camden will be commissioned to make quilts in conversation with photos and oral histories from their own city. The institute will publish a book of the photos, excerpts of the interviews, and images of the quilts, as well as text about water and the intersections of race and environmental justice.

Quilting Water Arts Prize

(Dis)locations: Migration, Displacement, and Racial Justice Project

A Directors' Signature Research Project: Campus Director Mayte Green-Mercado, Faculty of History, Rutgers University-Newark.

This initiative brings together scholars, students, and practitioners to investigate questions of migration, displacement, and race across time and space by hosting lectures, symposia, conferences, and workshops. It works across the three Rutgers campuses to support inter-disciplinary research that centers on the intersections of displacement with processes of racialization, transitional and restorative justice, and climate change and racial justice. Staying true to the mission of Rutgers-Newark as an anchor institution that is at once in Newark and of Newark, we engage with these pressing issues inside the classroom and by establishing dialogues and partnering with communities around us. 

Migration and Displacement
Black Health Disparities
Girl reading a book
Scarlet and Black book cover
Quilting Water Arts Prize
Migration and Displacement

Projects, Research, Seminars & Public Engagement

From long-term research examining racist social policy across centuries, to highly-focused seminars for undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows, to performances and exhibits featuring the works of influential and emerging Black artists, the institute applies its humanistic approach to social and racial justice in shaping engagement with the academy at large, the classroom, and the general public.

Engraving of Ignatius Sancho

Art, Culture, and Public Humanities

Through film, music, archival sources, and literary texts, researchers explore the role of the arts in expressing the pain and suffering of incarceration and social death, and the power of cultural resistance against discrimination, dehumanization, and enslavement.

Raised Fist

Educational Justice: Grants and Projects

Educational Justice grants support research activity in the racial and social justice space across Rutgers’ campuses. Directors focus on projects rather than one-time academic events. This structure of projects provides vehicles for faculty across the campuses to find in the Institute a different kind of space, one that can move more nimbly, foster collaborations, pilot experimental programs, and move between the academy and the public or the academy and surrounding communities.


Interdisciplinary Seminars in Social Justice

These interdisciplinary seminars focus on the struggle for global, racial, and social justice through such topics as public arts, education, health, public policy, social justice, and criminal justice. Seminars can be short (two months), medium (one semester), or long (year-long) and can be campus-based, cross-campus, or universitywide. Proposals that encourage and include participation from graduate students and other Rutgers constituencies beyond tenured faculty will be given special consideration.

Community Farming

Research Groups and Projects

Projects and initiatives housed administratively at or affiliated with ISGRJ contribute to the institute’s overall direction and vision regarding such areas of inquiry as K–12 education, social justice, public policy, public health, criminal justice, public arts, and pedagogy.


Global Initiatives

A robust portfolio of partnerships with humanists -- in Central, Sub-Saharan, and Western Africa, Asia and the Asian Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean --  facilitates a number of important conversations and programs on global racial justice in specific topic areas such as: critical AI and African Natural Language Processing; race, health, and the Humanities, the uses, meanings, and availability of water resources world-wide,  and the training of young people in social justice pedagogy.

ISGRJ Website: A Collaboration

In producing the ISGRJ website, the institute has partnered with the communications professionals in the Rutgers Department of University Communications and Marketing.