15 November 2012

'The Humanities and Citizenship', a Special Issue of the Journal of the Knowledge Economy

The various articles comprising the special issue of the Journal of the Knowledge Economy 4:1 (2013) on the theme 'Humanities and Citizenship' has now been published via OnlineFirst and is available to view and download from the journal's website. The special issue has been edited by Georgia Christinidis and Heather Ellis and represents a selection of the papers given at the conference 'The Changing Role of the Humanities in the Academy and Society' held at the Centre for British Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin between 15th and 17th September 2011. The conference was generously funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

Here are the links to the individual articles:

1. Introduction: Humanities and Citizenship
Georgia Christinidis and Heather Ellis

2. The Hector Hypothesis: Disciplines, Difficulty, and Democracy
Susan Bruce

3. Competitiveness, the Knowledge-Based Economy and Higher Education
Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop

4. The Right to University: the Question of Democracy in the Polis at a Time of Crisis
Asimina Karavanta

5. Knowledge, Education and Citizenship in a Pre- and Post-National Age 
Georgia Christinidis and Heather Ellis

6. One, Two, or Three Cultures? Humanities Versus the Natural and Social Sciences in Modern Germany
 Roberto Sala

7. Symbiotic Learning Systems: Reorganizing and Integrating Learning Efforts and Responsibilities Between Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) and Work Places 
Olav Eikeland

13 February 2012

The Mission of Humanities Universities in Eastern and Central Europe (06.06.2012-07.06.2012)

European Humanities University

06.06.2012-07.06.2012, Vilnius

(Deadline: 30.03.2012)

The European Humanities University (EHU) welcomes submissions for its international conference: The Mission of Humanities Universities in Eastern and Central Europe: Between Training and Bildung to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania on June 6-7 2012. This international conference will be EHU's highest profile event in 2012 and dedicated to the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the founding of EHU.

We live in societies described by social theorists as functional where the division of labor puts every person in a precise professional place determined by concrete social needs and goals. In such circumstances the university becomes a mediating structure that trains individuals for these professional spheres, supporting the functional principle and acting according to its logic. But how do universities in Central and Eastern Europe construct and pursue their broader mission in the context of functional societies? Should they pursue only the goal of training professionals, or also embody the integrative mission of cultivating the individual in all respects, as exemplified by the German concept of Bildung in Humboldt's model of a university?

Holism and integration have been enduring educational goals. From the ancient idea of paideia through the Middle Age model of liberal arts schools, the concordia of the Renaissance to the modern conception of integrative learning, the cultivation of a "good and perfect human" has been and remains the mission of much of higher education, even if the characterization of the end goal of education has changed in public discourse. "To be a good citizen," "to make the spiritual journey to God," "to train as a journalist, doctor, teacher" are all goals of contemporary education, and all illustrate the diversity in values and missions of educational institutions, as well as society's changing attitudes toward its individual members and itself as a community. These changes demonstrate a shift from a holistic, integral vision of humanity to training for particular skills considered important in a functionally differentiated society.

This tendency raises important questions. What happens to those centuries-old spheres of human development such as citizenship, union with the transcendent, and progress toward harmony? Do these changes speak to the fragmentation of our educational models, the disengagement of students, and a reduction of civic activity and public service? What functions can and should universities carry out in Eastern and Central European societies today? How do universities promote their social science and humanities functions while fulfilling their integral mission in human life and society in this region?

For more information, see


16 January 2012

Further Reading

Key points of reference for the current debate:

Stefan Collini, 'Browne's Gamble'. LRB 32.21 (4 November 2010). [See also David Willett's speech on "The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in the Modern University"]

Stefan Collini, 'From Robbins to McKinsey'. LRB 33.16 (25 August 2011).

Martha C. Nussbaum, Not For Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. You can download the first chapter from the official site.

The Purpose of Liberal Education:
Martha C. Nussbaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education. Harvard University Press, 1998.  Preview available on Google Books.
Bill Readings, The University In Ruins. Harvard University Press, 1996. Preview.

The Role of the Intellectual:
Bruce Robbins, Secular Vocations: Intellectuals, Professionalism, Culture. London: Verso, 1993. Preview.
Bruce Robbins, Intellectuals: Aesthetics, Politics, Academics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. Preview.

10 January 2012

Archive of Past Events

Die Zukunft der Geisteswissenschaften in einer multipolaren Welt - Berlin 12/11 Universit├Ąt Konstanz; Konstanzer Wissenschaftsforum; StiftungPreu├čischer Kulturbesitz; Volkswagen Stiftung 15.12.2011-16.12.2011, Berlin, Pergamonmuseum, Theodor-Wiegand-Saal /Altes Museum, Rotunde.


ISSEI International Society for the Study of European Ideas. Cyprus, July 2 – 6, 2012
The Ethical Challenge of Multidisciplinarity: Reconciling ‘The Three Narratives’—Art, Science, and Philosophy

Past Conferences: Talks and other resources

The 'Why Humanities?' conference took place at The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities on 5 November 2010. (NB: This site is not directly connected to the conference and its organisers; we merely share many of their concerns.) Recordings of the talks given by Stefan Collini, Joanna Bourke, Francis Mulhern, Raimond Gaita, Iain Pears, Kate Soper and Quentin Skinner are available online.