We need systematic research about the humanities not just in them (essay)

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Consider two seemingly disparate sets of circumstances. On the one side, society faces an array of grand challenges: climate change and food security, clean and efficient energy, social justice and immigration, and the guarding of democratic norms in a time of social transformation. On the other side, in the most marginal corner of academe, are the disciplines that make up the humanities. They confront their own daunting set of problems: declining prestige and funding, marketization and casualization of the work force, disruptive technological innovations (e.g., MOOCs), and growing political hostility. But what if addressing the first set of issues turns in part on the reformation of the second?

Social problems today are typically defined in technical — that is, scientific and economic — terms. But as the recent election has shown, human affairs turn as much (or more!) on…

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