Manifesto for 2011-12 UC Humanities Correspondents

We have been hearing about the global crisis in higher education, the California budget “crisis” which is rapidly changing the way the University of California functions as the world´s largest public higher education institution, as well as continuing prognostications about the downfall of the humanities in the current neoliberal world order. The ideology of the day, it seems, is that market forces are the unbridled invocation of our collective desires, magically reliable and beyond manipulation, and economists our modern soothsayers. And within this paradigm, many are announcing the death-knell of the humanities, pointing to the disciplines´ general failure to attract private investment, their inability to attract majors comparable to the social and natural sciences, and their supposed lack of utility. The humanities, it seems, also sow fears of insurrection: from the Iranian government´s demonization of the humanities as a site that promotes secularism and undermines Islamic principles, to right-wing attacks on various American humanities departments for promoting “feminism” and “Islamofascism,” what we can gather is that the humanities create anxiety in sites with markedly different ideologies. What is it about `the humanities´ that inspires both dismissal and vitriol simultaneously?

In order to better understand – and challenge – the marginalization of the humanities, UCHRI and the UC Humanities Network have developed the UC Humanities Correspondents, a new initiative to engage with the question of what the humanities is today and its potential for promoting collective change.  In 2011-12, a core group of graduate students from each of the ten UC campuses, representatives of the next generation of humanities scholars, will begin the process of imagining “the humanities to come.” Through regular posts to the UC Humanities Forum, these correspondents will engage with the content of their own work and its relevance for those outside of academia as well as highlight how emerging humanities work on their respective campuses is contributing to our understandings of our world today. Allowing their imaginations to exceed the present, they will explore how the humanities can function in our ever changing university system, and foster “a humanities to come” with a broader societal reach. Key for this blog will be a refusal to stop at the point of critique: their project is to provide critical insights, but also to push themselves – and us, their readers – to imagine it differently, and use their own experiences as graduate students, teachers, scholars, and employees of the UC system to provide narratives of possibility to simultaneously challenge the marginalization of the humanities as well as the orthodoxies that haunt it as its disciplinary legacies.

We hope their posts will inspire, intrigue, and challenge you to join this essential discussion about the humanities to come.

Photo Credit: Royalty-free photo from
Sharareh Frouzesh
Graduate Student Researcher
University of California
Humanities Research Institute
4000 Humanities Gateway Building
Irvine, CA 92697-3350
(949) 824-8902

Doctoral Candidate
Department of Comparative Literature
University of California, Irvine