"With regard to HaB, the first sedcutive idea to me was to 'rehabilitate people's voices', then it was this network linking Africa and Asia [...] I sensed the possibility of creating a new path with new colleagues concerned with making their profession not a 'class' issue but an engagement at the service of current urgencies."  - Abdourahmane Seck (University of Gaston Berger, Saint-Louis, Senegal)

Humanities across Borders: Asia and Africa in the World is a new education and research initiative of the International Institute of Asian Studies[1] (IIAS), Leiden, The Netherlands and principally funded by The Andrew W. Mellon[2], New York

The HaB programme is an initiative that seeks to offer an alternative pedagogical paradigm for universities and institutions of higher learning. It is built around a collection of community-based projects reflecting universal themes, such as food, place, practice and word. Each of these themes calls for dialogue between different academic disciplines and sectors of activity, from ‘hard’ to ‘social’ sciences, between theory and practitioners’ approaches. We believe that there is much to learn from the direct engagement of artists, writers, craft practitioners, ethnographers, community activists and civil society actors with human experiences in the world over what we call ‘sites of knowledge and meaning’. 

We are a network of universities and their civil society partners across Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. With the objective of developing new educational models of connected knowledge ‘beyond borders’, HaB supports methodological cross fertilisation between the different projects located in West Africa, South, Southeast and East Asia. Against a context of growing social disconnection between educated categories and other segments of society, HaB suggests overcoming knowledge fragmentations by training humanistically grounded citizens and by cultivating the civic role of universities.

The programme is a collaborative space for everyday academic activism, both inside and outside the classroom. Ours is a movement in the humanities that sets out to propose an alternative model for academic development for students, faculty and administrators.


  1. Mobilising and sustaining a trans-regional consortium of scholars, educators, and institutions committed to humanistically grounded educational praxis.
  2. Methodological and pedagogical experiments along four broad sites of meaning with university partners in Thailand, Myanmar, India, Taiwan, Ghana, Senegal, Mali and Burkina Faso.
  3. Co-creating syllabi in-situ that transcend disciplinary, national, institutional and other barriers and hierarchies of knowledge. 

HaB Covenant

  • To be self-reflexive in one’s scholarly practice and view oneself as part of a global collective rather than only in terms of individual career advancement.
  • To reject the north–south hierarchy in higher education and work together towards a locally grounded global humanities
  • To collaborate with peers along the Asia–Africa axis of knowledge.
  • To go beyond classroom and textbook-based pedagogies and to deploy embodied teaching and learning practices.
  • To seek non-textual, lived sources of knowledge and their modes of transmission.
  • To work with local communities and civil society actors to jointly formulate research agendas.


Reach out to us:

ms. Xiaolan Lin (HaB Programme Coordinator): x.lin [at] iias.nl
dr Cheryl Jacob (Coordinator: Content and Curricula Design): cheryljacob2002 [at] gmail.com

Reach out to us

Ms. Xiaolan Lin (Operations/Projects Coordinator)
dr Cheryl Jacob (Coordinator: Content & Curricula Design)