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World History & Literature Initiative (WHaLI)

Lei Duan (left), presenter, and Bob Bain, faculty director, at the 2018 World History and Literature Initiative.

The World History and Literature Initiative (WHaLI) is a unique collaboration between area studies Centers in the International Institute and the U-M School of Education, funded in part by Title VI grants from the U.S. Department of Education, with additional funding from the International Institute and the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies. 

Since 2009, WHaLI has provided over 500 K-12 teachers in the fields of history, social studies, and English language arts with area studies curriculum content and professional development.

Held each year in June, WHaLI is a three-day workshop designed to improve teachers’ capacity to teach world history and literature by providing them with area studies resources and content. New initiatives to broaden the reach of WHaLI include opportunities for early career or beginning teachers to work with experienced teachers and scholars, and the use of livestream webcasting technology and on-site facilitators to reach teachers outside the Ann Arbor area.


2018 World History and Literature Initiative
Migration in Human History and Literature
June 25-27, 2018

More than 30 participants took part in the 2018 workshops, which brought together teachers with varying levels of experience to network with each other and share best practices. Each of the presentations are coupled with materials designed to assist teachers in producing lesson plans on migration. Books were also provided for each of the participants to share with their classrooms.

Migration has been a constant in human history, shaping our world in every place and time. From our earliest ancestors’ movements out of Africa to the present, people have migrated across continents, oceans, seas, mountains and deserts. Pushed, pulled or coerced, humans have moved in large and small numbers, with or without families and friends, to or from rural or urban areas. And each migration has had significant consequences on the people and places they moved to or from.

The 2018 World History and Literature Initiative addressed the themes of migration in human history and literature by exploring case studies encompassing various parts of the globe, as well as pedagogical lessons from faculty director Bob Bain (associate professor of educational studies and history) on how to incorporate these themes into teachers’ lesson plans.

Presentations included the following:

  • The Partition of British India: History, Literature, and Film
  • The 1001 Nights and Globalism in the Arabic Islamic Middle Ages
  • Exercising the Cosmic Race: Mexican Sporting Culture and Mestizo Citizens
  • Migration, History, and Violence: The Case of the Rohingya in Myanmar
  • Resettling and Deporting the Unsettled: The Cambodian-American Refugee Experience
  • Beyond Violence: Politics and Culture of Guns in a Global Context, 1800-1950
  • Putting other Migrants into our Curriculum: Micro-organisms, Flora, & Fauna
  • ‘Remnants of the Sword’: Armenian Genocide Survivors in Turkey and the Diaspora
  • Migration in World History and Michigan's Curriculum
  • Do Students Have Theories of Migration?
  • Putting “Other Migrants” into the Curriculum: Micro-organisms



This initiative was made possible by US Department of Education Title VI funds.

U-M Sponsors:

School of Education, International Institute, Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies, Center for Japanese Studies, Nam Center for Korean Studies, Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Center for South Asian Studies, Center for Middle East and North African Studies, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, African Studies Center, and the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies

Past Conference Themes

Since its inception, we have successfully met our goals in helping over 500 Michigan teachers improve their approach to teaching world history. Over the past grant cycle, 90% of participants claim they plan to use concepts and materials from the workshops with many indicating that they are also likely to share these resources with colleagues.

Past conference themes include:

  • 2009: Encounters & Exchanges
  • 2010: Navigating Scales
  • 2011: Age of Global Revolutions
  • 2012: Global Crisis & Achievement
  • 2013: The Cold War & Its Aftermath
  • 2014: The City Across Space & Time
  • 2015: Using Literature to Teach History
  • 2016: Global Human Rights & Human Dignity
  • 2017: Resistance & Rebellion
  • 2018: Migration in Human History & Literature