As university humanities departments close their doors and students increasingly turn to other fields of study, the public humanities are thriving.
Thousands of U.S. humanities institutions connect with a public hungry for humanities content, while battles over how to understand the country’s past play out in the streets, demonstrating the fundamental importance of the humanities to different publics. But how are these trends related? And which better reflects the long-term health of the field?
The Summer 2022 issue of Dædalus on “The Humanities in American Life: Transforming the Relationship with the Public” weaves these conversations together by bringing perspectives from across the humanities enterprise into dialogue. Together they offer a grounded perspective on how the field is evolving to meet the challenges of the moment.
The authors share empirical evidence on the state of the field, question in what direction the academic humanities are (or should be) heading, and document efforts to bring the humanities to publics historically marginalized by both U.S. universities and major humanities institutions. The contributors also highlight the relevance of the humanities to some of the largest areas of public concern, including climate change, freedom and equality, the response to COVID-19, and racial justice.
Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, became open access in January 2021. The introduction and all 16 essays in the summer issue are online and free.