Public Humanities

Public Humanities

In development at Cambridge University Press, Public Humanities is an international journal for civic engagement inspired by humanities research. Of-the-moment, open-access, peer-reviewed, written with fire and footnotes, Public Humanities demonstrates the social value of understanding our habits and histories, our art and ideas, our language and beliefs, our pasts, presents, and futures.

We invite submissions from all areas of the humanities, including but not limited to history, literature, philosophy, theatre, music, languages, classics, law, politics, religious studies, and cultural studies. We feature short articles for general audiences and longer articles for specialists. The journal ranges from historical examples of the humanities at work in the world to theoretical debates about the field today, from close readings of public humanities events to scholarly interventions in on-going social problems. All periods and methodologies are welcome, provided they are asking big questions and pursuing bold answers that pair scholarly rigor with accessible writing.

More than just a journal, Public Humanities is a meeting place for scholars and citizens, students and activists, practitioners and policymakers to come together, communicate, and collaborate.

 

Overview

The humanities study the things humans make—our art, writings, thoughts, religions, governments, histories, and societies—responding to a core human longing to understand who we are, what we do, how we do it, and why. That value proposition has skyrocketed in recent years as humanities scholars have helped societies around the world interpret the use and abuse of political power. It soars higher every time people find a little relief from the onslaught of awfulness in the joys of thinking and talking about human creativity in all its diversity.

The longing for good humanities scholarship does not disappear even if, somewhere along the way, humanities scholars cloistered on their campuses have become complacently detached from the worlds they study. It doesn’t disappear when governments defund the humanities. Yet those recent trends have created a rift between people looking for knowledge and the scholars ready to serve at a time when interpretation of human activity has never been more urgent.

Enter the public humanities, a grassroots movement returning humanistic thought and conversation to the people of the world, ranging from community events, publicly accessible writing, and policy making to libraries, museums, and funding agencies. The top-down, Victorian model of public humanities—the sage on the stage—still draws upon and perpetuates traditions of elitism and exclusion. Those best positioned to revolutionize the field—often junior scholars, often marginalized academics—don’t receive much training in public humanities and don’t have many professional incentives to go public.

Enter Public Humanities, a new venue situated between an academic journal and a news magazine that responds to a gap in the publishing market. There are peer-reviewed academic journals such as Public: A Journal of Imagining America and The Public Historian—by academics, for academics—that chronicle civic engagement programs and community outreach initiatives. There are journals like Humanities and Social Sciences Communications that publish specialized scholarship open-access. There are outlets that de-academicize humanities scholarship for non-specialist audiences, such as JSTOR Daily and The Conversation. And there are journalistic venues that draw heavily from the world of humanities scholarship, both established magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic, which have successfully transitioned online, and born-digital ventures like The Los Angeles Review of Books and Zócalo Public Square.

There isn’t an agreed-upon platform for the public to find reliable humanities expertise on the emerging topics of the day. And there isn’t an agreed-upon venue for humanities scholars to write to and for the public in a way that is rigorous in thought and research, accessible in language and style, and speedy in delivery to readers—as Nature offers for the sciences. As the field of Public Humanities solidifies its institutional footprint—with graduate programs now established at schools like Brown, Georgetown, Sheffield, and Yale—there’s need for a corresponding journal with scholarship for what society is thinking about. Big social questions, bold scholarly answers.

More accessible than scholarly journals and more in-depth than explanatory journalism, Public Humanities provides pathways for citizens, scholars, and policymakers invested in the study of humankind to connect, communicate, collaborate, and create more truth and justice in the world. Our central premise is that humanities research has an important role to play in society, and there needs to be a new, interdisciplinary, globally minded, civically engaged, publicly accessible space to celebrate and support the value and impact of the humanities.