Humanities in the 21st Century



Through the establishment of the Liberal Arts during the Renaissance and the birth of the artist-scientist, to great intellectual advances in modern society, the Humanities as a mode of intellectual formation has been the engine of innovation and progress for our contemporary world. The greatest gifts the Humanities bestow upon us are the abilities to creatively and critically evaluate our world through intellectual reason as opposed through prejudiced emotions. For example, philosophy equips learners with the basics of critical thinking through courses in logic and critical theory, whilst courses on epistemology (theory of knowledge), ontology (theory of existence and being), aesthetics (theory of beauty and art), and ethics (theory of moral action) illuminate the complexities of human thought and, indeed, the very nature of what it means to be human. Likewise, the researching and teaching of literature and writing that occurs within the discipline of English incorporates highly prized writing and

critical thinking skills that have significant value whether they are applied to the works of Shakespeare and Milton or more new media technologies.


However, the belief that the Humanities and the Liberal Arts do not equip learners with job-related skills and are therefore less valuable than STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) based programmes has led politicians in many countries to use their influence to dismantle Humanities programmes. Measures such as charging more for Humanities degrees than for STEM degrees, removing Humanities subjects from general education requirements and decreasing research funding for Humanities projects threaten to deter students and wither higher education to a functional set of technical skills. While there are substantive issues concerning the affordability of higher education and how it fits into the emerging globalised economy, opponents of the Humanities have yet to demonstrate adequately how and why dismantling Humanities programmes will actually solve the problem and foster a better society.


This is, therefore, a critical time to engage in a discussion about the value of the Humanities and their underlying ethos in the 21st century. How can the value of the Humanities be measured and articulated in a socio-political atmosphere in which financial difficulties and resource shortages have led to a privileging of occupation-specific training deemed to have greater ‘real world application’? Does support for the Humanities and ‘STEM’ disciplines have to be an either/or proposition? How can inter-, cross- and trans-disciplinary work bridge the gap between the Humanities and other fields? If the Humanities are worth defending, what sort of strategies might be used to achieve that end? These and other questions will guide a two-day symposium on the Humanities in the 21st Century. Multi-format panels will provide the basis for dynamic engagements. Publishing opportunities will be discussed.


The Organising Chairs welcome the submission of proposals for research papers, position papers that engage with a specific issue and offer solutions, workshops and other interactive presentations, performances/installations and pre-constituted panels. We also welcome non-presenting delegates who wish to attend as workshop participants.


Submissions may deal with any aspect of the value of the Humanities, which may include:


_Defenses/critiques of the value of the Humanities

_Assessments of the relationship between humanist values and practical application

_Multi-cultural/cross-cultural approaches to the Humanities

_Benefits and application of knowledge and training in the Humanities

_Humanities research as a path to understanding: its advantages andchallenges

_‘Survival stories’: Case studies of how Humanities programmes and faculties have weathered inhospitable conditions

_How digital humanities serve both ‘digital’ and ‘humanities’ interests

_Integrating the Humanities into educational experiences

_Innovation in Humanities research, teaching and learning


In light of the project’s emphasis on open engagement and discussion, there is an expectation that all delegates attend all sessions and participate fully. A discussion of the publishing outcomes will take place during the Development meeting at the end of the event.


Proposals of 300 words or less should be emailed jointly to the Organising Chairs with “hum1 Proposal” as the subject. The deadline for submission is 20 February 2013, though we may be able to accept proposals after that deadline subject to space available.


Please include a) name of author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of presentation (e) body of proposal. We acknowledge receipt of all proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you should resend.


Non-presenting Delegates

Delegates who prefer to participate in the conversations and workshops rather than deliver a presentation may attend on a first come, first served basis subject to space available at the venue. We regret that it may not be possible to admit everyone. To book, send an email to with "hum1 Booking Request" as the subject. Please include your name, affiliation and email address.



Participants may choose from two registration options:


Non-Residential: £255 covers registration, morning/afternoon tea, lunches and wine reception


Residential: £300 covers registration, morning/afternoon tea, lunches, wine reception and 2 nights of accommodation at the college


We regret that as a not-for-profit network, is not in a position to assist with conference travel or subsistence.


Organising Chairs

Dr Ann-Marie Cook:

Dr Rob Fisher: