Conference CfP: The Future of the Humanities (Oxford, May 13-14)

Saturday, May 13th – Sunday, May 14th

Ertegun House, University of Oxford


Whereto the Humanities? What will preoccupy the Humanities scholar as we hurtle towards midcentury at an ever-increasing pace? Beset by institutional hawks demanding more quantitative impact and value, how do the Humanities respond, innovate, and preserve the tangible and intangible affects which make our work worthwhile? This conference invites early graduate students and career researchers—along with other interested stakeholders—to paint our near-future with a critical eye, to debate what the Humanities are going forward, and to tackle the challenges and opportunities researchers are facing in a changing world. 


Some of the issues that will be considered throughout the conference include:


* What is the value of the Humanities? Is there an intrinsic value that allows us to pursue the Humanities for their own sake, and should we foreground such salience? Or, in instrumental terms, what is the role of the Humanities in fostering critical thinking, empathy, deliberation, or a shared notion of culture or the past? 


* What can be done to raise the profile of the Humanities? How does one respond to a lack of financial and institutional resources, and to an increasing lack of recognition in strategic aims and targets set out by political and socioeconomic stakeholders? What is the Humanities’ position vis-à-vis the model of the impact-driven, quantitative/bibliometric project? Are there still jobs out there? 


* Whose voices represent the Humanities, and to whom do they speak? How do transdisciplinarity and interdisciplinarity embed themselves in the way individual scholars work and are taught? What does the future hold for outreach possibilities, and should public engagement be more central in our work? 


* How should the work-life balance of a Humanities researcher be structured? Do REFs, project-specific grants, and administrative bureaucracy stifle innovation and autonomy of research? How do we seriously integrate wellbeing into a stressful job environment, and what do the Humanities have to offer there?  


* What innovative changes are the Humanities pursuing and why? What is the importance of open-access publishing and Digital Humanities? Should multi-author papers upend the monograph? How can we emphasize fluid research networks and collaborative work (such as editing a database) rather than stable canons and CVs? 


Proposals for papers relating to these topics (holistically or from within a particular field) should be sent as an abstract of c.300 words to Stephan Nitu by February 5th, 2023. Papers are scheduled for 25-30 minutes each, with additional discussion and response from an academic. Collaborative/multi-author presentations are acceptable (and even encouraged!) Please note that travel expenses to Oxford cannot be covered, but there will be a virtual Zoom option for those who would like to present (or attend) and cannot do so in person.   


Many of the conference’s challenges and opportunities were considered at the UNESCO 2021 European Humanities Conference, where a Youth Forum met to chart out the most important priorities for the near future of Humanities and their young scholars. I encourage you to read its report ( whilst thinking about the broad questions above.