The Everyday Life of the Humanities Now
Everyday life in the academy has become fluid and fraught. As explored in Part I, support for public higher education, the conditions of employment of the faculty, the economy of prestige, and the bases of public value constitute the many challenges facing higher education in the United States and the humanities in the university. The edifices of matter, thought, social capital, and common goods are being re-formed, sometimes with attention to faculty governance, sometimes with casual indifference to or downright disregard for faculty governance. The particularities of professional practice are rapidly altering, often in ways that call for new technical, theoretical, methodological, and organizational competencies. The identity narratives through which humanists have commonly understood themselves, their roles, and their academic futures seem increasingly inadequate to these evolving practices, and to the culture of sociality and the intellectual imaginary of a 21st-century humanist.
To better comprehend the changing environment in which doctoral students will imagine themselves and their careers in the next decades, let’s home in on critical aspects of the everyday life of humanists as they go about their scholarly, pedagogical, and professional activities. I want to look here at large shifts that will increasingly affect the working lives of humanities scholars, seasoned and emergent. These shifts relate to the evolving concept of the university; the epistemic infrastructure; the new media and modes of scholarly production and communication; the trend toward the “open”; the renewed emphasis on teaching, if unfolding through different modes; and the emergent, possibly “posthuman,” humanities scholar. But first a caveat. Everything about the academic environment is changing far too rapidly to adequately pin down. At best I can offer only a snapshot at this moment of writing of some movable parts and processes in which academic humanists are implicated and their work lives embedded.