Public Humanities Are Role Model for Interdisciplinary Partnerships
The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 8, 2020
Letter to the Editor by Phoebe Stein and Ronald Nowaczyk
To the Editor:
Recent essays on the humanities by Professors Williams and Spierling suggest the emergence of “hybrids” of humanities with other disciplines and the need for “collaboration with nonhumanists” in that “the humanities provide vital tools for navigating our globalized world” (“The New Humanities,” Chronicle Review, November 14 and “The Humanities Must Go on the Offensive,” The Chronicle, December 8).
By chronicling the areas of studies that draw together the humanities and “STEM or professional fields,” Williams provides an overview of the myriad ways in which the humanities have been harnessed to deepen the study of what it means to be human. His larger question is a compelling one: “While they each vary in focus and field, what do they all add up to?” While we need to do more, the public humanities have been fulfilling the interdisciplinary role that both authors seek. We contend that the public humanities serve as a model for academe to collaborate more fully to achieve greater interdisciplinary partnerships. We believe that the public humanities are not so much a field of study but a great experiment, a movement created in the 1960s in the immediate wake of the founding of the NEH and NEA.