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Why practical humanities?

“Knowledge of the Humanities is no practical response to most pressing practical challenges we face.” Or so goes the economic argument against humanities that we keep hearing.

In reality, research in the humanities has had a profound impact on our contemporary societies and cultural forms. Yet, practical and humanities are not words that you often find put together – unless  of course it is to say that humanities have no practical use for dealing with the variety of challenges that currently are pestering humankind and life on Earth.

It is tempting to call for technological innovation rather than turn to a historian or linguist – not to mention a literary scholar – when looking for solutions to pressing global challenges.

But think about it: if climate change is the result of human action, don’t we need to understand human action – history, culture, and communication – it we want to turn it around? Same goes for declining biodiversity, urban decay, global health crisis, poverty and inequality – you name it.

Finding solutions is not a primary driving force in the humanities which are rather more geared towards understanding, interpretation and critical reflection. But that’s exactly what makes humanities so essential to solving challenges and going about it ethically, sustainably and, well, humanely.

Still, making practical use of humanities scholarship is not always easy even for those who are inclined and willing to do so. The Practical Humanities blog is my diary for exploring how to use research and knowledge in the humanities for solving all kinds of practical challenges.  

I am looking to hear from researchers in humanities about their experiences on working with private or public organizations, or NGOs. I am also keen to talk to their counterparts in these organizations on the benefits of the collaboration but also on all the hurdles that may have come on their way. And, of course,  the professionals and organizations whose job it is to clear these hurdles.

So: if you are now saying to yourself “Hey – that’s me!”, please leave a comment below, or contact me through the contact form.