Guest post: Hitch-hiker’s guide to the humanities (HUMANITIES TODAY)

Dear reader,

Most probably a dissertation (resp. monograph, article etc.) you’re currently working on won’t turn out to be a bestseller. You and your institution of higher education cannot expect the outcome of your work to be a market product that promises the return of your own and institutional investments. What is worse, most probably unlike the fictional book The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy your publication won’t be immediately useful and pertinent to the readers. Unlike the Guide your work, if it’s published in a leading publishing house or periodical, will be barely affordable to the readers as well. And what’s even worse it won’t have “Don’t panic” printed in large font on the front-page, which would be very at place upon realization of the first two differences between Zaphod Beeblebrox’s magisterial contribution to the world and your own work.

One of the problems the humanities face in academia worldwide is the need to prove their immediate pertinence for the society. A burning question that leads to formulate often too far-reaching promises (e.g. bringing social equilibrium or more social justice or emancipation of the subjugated and the oppressed, explaining the nature of political power were promised by the history, social sciences at various stages of their development). A promise that in short time perspective humanities cannot deliver. That doesn’t mean that your dissertation, article or monograph is being written in vain. The humanities hitched a hike. Yet the policy-makers begin to perceive the extra passenger as an ornament at best, and more often as a useless burden. In a long run, however, we provide the societies with crucial training in critical thinking about always labile human affairs, and we cannot provide such a quality training if not allowed to do the research and write our arcane dissertations, articles and monographs.

At any rate “don’t panic”.

Yours faithfully,

anonymous academic

This post is part of the weekly series: HUMANITIES TODAY- a series of provocative and interesting posts from people within the academia or the educational sector


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