Wenner-Gren Foundation: Grants for Higher Education Humanities

OVERVIEW: The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research “works to support all branches of anthropology and closely related disciplines concerned with human biological and cultural origins, development, and variation.” The majority of grants support individual research for scholars, including dissertation fieldwork grants, general research grants for Ph.D. and post-doctoral scholars, and other efforts that contribute to anthropological scholarship. Other areas of focus are conferences, workshops and symposia.

IP TAKE: Advancing the field of anthropology is this funder's driving focus. Groundbreaking U.S. anthropologists and anthro Ph.D. programs in countries where the field is underrepresented and underfunded should especially consider reaching out to Wenner-Gren.

PROFILE: The Wenner-Gren Foundation’s home page says it all. The foundation has “three major goals: to support significant and innovative anthropological research into humanity's biological and cultural origins, development, and variation; to foster the international community of research scholars in anthropology; and to provide leadership at the forefronts of the discipline.”

As a funder of university research, the Wenner-Gren Foundation is a major player. Each year, the foundation awards millions of dollars in individual grants to anthropologists around the world. Individual research receives a lot of focus from the foundation, but grants are also allocated to enrich the field through everything from conference support and fellowship funding to international symposia. 

For U.S. scholars, there are two programs that support research projects. One gives money to doctoral candidates in support of dissertation fieldwork, fellowships, and “engaged anthropology” projects. For Wenner-Gren, "engaged anthropology" is that which "enable[s] grantees to return to their research locale to share their research results with [t]he community  in which the research was conducted, and/or [t]he academic/anthropological community in the region or country of research."

Grants that support dissertation research go up to $20,000 each, and support candidates at universities across the U.S. 

The foundation also supports international fellowships that provide up to $17,500 to grantees each year for anthropology students “from countries where anthropology is underrepresented and where there are limited resources to send students overseas for training,” as well as one in the same amount specifically for anthropology students at higher ed institutions in South Africa. As with the pre-doc funding mentioned above, “engaged anthropology” grants are also available in this area, and provide resources for researchers to present their findings to people in the regions they were researching.

For post-Ph.D. scholars, awards fall in a similar fashion. But instead of funding dissertation fieldwork, post-doc grants are awarded for general research, and fellowships go up to $40,000. In addition to research and writing support, funding is also available for ethnographic filmmaking, engaged anthropology, and to support conferences and symposia.

In addition to (and sometimes overlapping with the objectives of) these programs, the foundation has additional lines of funding dedicated specifically for conferences and workshops (up to $20,000), efforts to educate the public about anthropology (up to $20,000 - but keep in mind that funding for this program past 2016 is not yet confirmed), “institutional development” grants to support the expansion of “anthropological doctoral programs in countries where the discipline is under-represented and where there are limited resources” (up to $25,000 per year for up to five years), and a Historical Archives program to help retiring professors prepare their unpublished materials to deposit in a historical archive (up to $15,000). There formerly was a category that supported collaborative research projects between two or more scholars, but it is no longer active. 

For more details about the foundation’s specific funding areas, Wenner-Gren’s interactive grants database is searchable by location, academic discipline, keyword, year and grant type.

Beyond the projects and efforts it funds, the foundation also hosts its own Wenner-Gren Symposia and is the founder and an ongoing supporter of Current Anthropology, a leading scholarly journal in the field.

Before submitting an application, start with the foundation’s programs page, which provides a brief synopsis of each funding stream. The foundation also maintains a blog that includes tips on how to apply for funding.

Just as important as what the foundation does fund is that which it usually does not support. Specifically, the foundation does not allocate funding for translation, non-academic photography or filmmaking, help with publication, or to support NGOs. In addition, if you want support in the areas of “filling in” cultural knowledge, applied anthropology, primatology or linguistics, be particularly attentive to the foundation’s expectations in terms of aligning your work with its mission and objectives.

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