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Simpson Center for the Humanities

Seattle's Upside Down: Unearthing the City's Deeper Histories

Underground corridor

The Summer Institute in the Arts and Humanities allows selected undergraduates to earn full-time, academic credit through immersion in scholarly research with accomplished scholars and peers. Bringing together four faculty and twenty students in plenary, seminar and tutorial-style sessions, the institute encourages mutual learning as well as independent thought. 

2018: Seattle’s Upside Down: Unearthing the City’s Deeper Histories

Application deadline March 18, 2018. For more information, see the Summer Institute in Arts & Humanities at the Undergraduate Research Program or contact the Undergraduate Research Program (, 171 Mary Gates Hall). 

Over the last century and a half, Seattle and Puget Sound have experienced major demographic and environmental transformations: from an early history as a meeting place for Duwamish and other Coast Salish Peoples to rapid urbanization with the logging industry; from devastating fire to dramatic physical re-shapings of the topography into brand new cityscapes; from the racist removal and internment of Japanese Americans during the second World War to new challenges brought by gentrification and the influx of the tech industry. What voices and experiences have been silenced or buried in the wake of these changes? Which have been brought to the fore? We will look at our landscape from multiple perspectives, from ecocriticism to ethnic studies, from performance studies to queer studies, from public health to geography, and everything in between. By using these and other frameworks of understanding, this immersive summer experience will celebrate the lives, and bear witness to the traumas, of the Seattle beneath.

Over the course of A and B terms, we will explore the deeper and sometimes darker histories layered in and underneath the strata of Seattle and the Puget Sound area. Through experiential field excursions to “sites of conscience” in Downtown Seattle, Tacoma, and Puget Sound and its islands, as well as discussions, guest speakers, and classroom and online exercises, Seattle’s Upside Down seeks to actively disrupt the conventional narratives of our area received through tourist and popular histories. The Summer Institute in the Arts & Humanities will culminate in student-driven, original research projects presented at the end of the course. We encourage projects that integrate digital, archival, and mixed-media resources, drawing upon multiple disciplines, including art and performance. In so doing, together we will excavate pasts obscured by rapid change, observe presents excluded from public view, and imagine more just futures.


All Summer Institute participants will be named Mary Gates Scholars and will receive a $5,000 Mary Gates Research Scholarship award in two installments, one at the beginning of the Summer Institute and again at the beginning of B-term.


Summer Institute participants are expected to devote themselves to this intensive experience. The Summer Institute is a full-time commitment. Therefore, if selected you will not be able to take additional course work during summer quarter.

All Summer Institute participants will register for 12 summer quarter credits in HUM 498. A-term will be taken as credit/no-credit (6 credits); B-term (6 credits) will receive a formal grade. A formal institute schedule will be determined by the faculty and announced the first day of the Summer Institute.

Teaching Team

Apply now or learn more about the application process.

Information Sessions

  • February 13, 2018, 3:30-4:20 pm in Mary Gates Hall 171
  • February 23, 2018, 3:30-4:20 pm in Mary Gates Hall 171