Thinking Critically With/About the Humanities
Critique, as assessed by Elizabeth S. Anker and Rita Felski, is a scholarly disposition, tone, and style that favours demystification, scepticism, and problematisation. Yet for some, critical analysis in the humanities might be too eager to read cultural texts, objects or phenomena as reflections of larger ideological forces, while for others, critique’s desire to unveil disciplinary power and its automatic distrust of instrumentalisation might actually impede, rather than foster, social change. In both views critical analysis seems to be limited to a scholarly exercise without any practical use.
This research group proposes to think critically about our methods, labour, and public role as scholars in the Humanities. How can we form compelling rationales for the humanities in neoliberal societies concerned with “real-world” applicability? How can we strengthen ties between the academic and non-academic worlds? How can our training and toolkits as scholars help us not only problematise urgent social issues, but also help us imagine new futures and possibilities? This research group will focus on these and related questions with the aim to explore how critical analysis can be relevant beyond academic interests.
The group brings together people from across the humanities around the urgent issues of our historical moment: from the climate catastrophe and the destruction of natural and social ecosystems to the colonisation of human experience under platform capitalism; from the pressure on public spaces and communal values to the humanitarian disasters at the borders of and within Europe; from the rise of populism across the globe to ongoing struggles around sexuality, gender, and race; and from fake news to the precarisation of labour in the “sharing” economy and certainly also in academia. How to think these developments together and diagnose the future(s) immanent to their urgency? Thinking together as in developing a critique that not only problematises these issues but also proposes new possibilities to deal with them in a different manner.