Humanities in flux: strategies and tools for success

This edition of Talking Humanities reflects on how the humanities are changing and the future of the discipline over the next decade.

We have perspectives from the UK, Ireland and the US, including a case study of how digital is changing the future of humanities research.

What is consistent across the contributions is the turbulence of the changes currently taking place – and how they yield fresh and innovative opportunities to enrich and strengthen these subjects and practices at the heart of what it is to be human in an ever-changing world.

In our ‘long read’ article, ‘Permeable worlds and territoriality’, Ludmilla Jordanova, emeritus professor of history and visual culture at Durham, explores the flexibility and fluidity of the boundaries that define the humanities.

Rather than being limited by them and ‘tut-tutting’ about change, practitioners should exploit them to extend their practice and build new, productive relationships with partners. ‘This is not about unrealistic, polymathic utopianism,’ she writes. ‘It is about perfectly feasible possibilities for enhancing practices’



The long read

Permeable worlds and territoriality’

By Ludmilla Jordanova, emeritus professor of history and visual culture at Durham University

One of the costs of professionalisation is the erection of boundaries. Sometimes these are necessarily rigid – everyone knows something about health, some people know a great deal, but the barriers to formal medical qualifications are elaborate and high. Perhaps it is because so many people think they are experts in history and literature that academic practitioners defensively stress forms of training and disciplinary standards, which exist alongside ever-proliferating niche journals and organisations that champion a relatively small area or even the study of a single individual.

These trends are understandable. They manifest themselves when departments discuss their priorities for future posts, and colleagues assert the needs of what is imagined as a patch in need of protection. These forms of concern express not just anxiety about the value – perceived or otherwise – of specific specialisms, but a recognition that those in humanities departments find it so much harder to make a compelling public case for what they do than scientists, for example.

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