Broadening the Debate: How the Humanities and Social Sciences Can Help Us Address Global Challenges
The British Academy
The June 2014 joint conference of the American Academy and the British Academy examined the state of humanities research and education in an international context. It marked the first official collaboration between the two academies in a century and concluded a year in which both academies published major reports on the humanities and social sciences: the American Academy’s Heart of the Matter report and the British Academy’s Prospering Wisely white paper. The conference featured panel discussions, a well-attended public event on soft power, and a roundtable discussion cosponsored by the British Academy and The Guardian as part of their ongoing collaboration “The Case for Language Learning.” The conference will inform a forthcoming British Academy white paper as well as several initiatives of the American Academy. Following the conference, leaders of the British Academy and American Academy discussed future collaborations, including more frequent correspondence on issues of mutual concern, scholar exchanges, and the possibility of biannual joint conferences. Video from this event is available at http://www.humanitiescommission.org.
||Members of the American and British delegations at a joint event of the British and American Academies in London, June 2014.
Brunel University has used The Heart of the Matter to think about the kinds of answers that American institutions are formulating to meet the challenges facing the humanities disciplines and to look at how their research might mesh with activities in other countries. James Knowles (Professor of Renaissance Literature and Culture and Vice Dean of Research at the College of Business, Arts, and Social Sciences, Brunel University) shared the report with department heads in order to address the need to discover the language and arguments with which to talk to governments and funders—and even more centrally, wider communities—about what makes the arts and social sciences so essential to understanding and living in our societies. Brunel focused particularly on how important parts of our disciplines, such as aesthetic power and critical contemplation, can still have a role in this complex, sometime vertiginous, modern world.
Humanities in the Digital Age, Arts and Culture in Davos 2014
In an interactive session as part of the World Economic Forum’s Arts and Culture symposium in Davos, Switzerland, panelists responded to the question “In an increasingly digital world, what is the future of the humanities?” by discussing the relevance of a liberal arts education and considering how to infuse the values of the humanities into the economy as well as engage digital narratives in designing the humanities curricula of tomorrow. The panel included Commission member Drew Gilpin Faust (President, Harvard University), David M. Rubenstein (Cofounder and Co–Chief Executive Officer, Carlyle Group; Cochair, Governors Meeting for Investors 2014), and Wang Hui (Professor of Modern Chinese Thought and Literature, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, Tsinghua University, People’s Republic of China). Commission member James Cuno (President and Chief Executive Officer, J. Paul Getty Trust; International Secretary, American Academy of Arts and Sciences) served as moderator.
Seventeenth Deshamanya Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda
Peradeniya, Sri Lanka
After delivering the Seventeenth Deshamanya Professor Nandadasa Kodagoda Memorial Oration, Deepika Udagama (Head of Department of Law, University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka) elaborated on the role of the humanities in an article published online in the journal Groundviews entitled “‘We the People’: Reflections on Governance and Civic Engagement in Sri Lanka.” Citing The Heart of the Matter report, Udagama wrote, “I also do believe that liberal arts education widely held in high esteem in the U.S. has played a key role in advancing a democratic ethos within U.S. society. It is also worth noting that in The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive Nation, released in 2013, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences emphasizes the need to focus on and invest in education in the humanities and the social sciences in order to sustain civic engagement and democratic leadership in the U.S. while meeting modern challenges of all types. Sri Lankan policy-makers, on the other hand, keep reminding us of the futility of ‘arts education’ as arts graduates are not employable. What a narrow vision of life, society and our collective future!”