Science Slams have become part of the evening cultural programs in many cities. It is striking though that contributions from the fields of history or other humanities are the exception.
The editorial crew of Public History Weekly is about to start to new shores. What is the status, what are the achievements and the problems, what is the horizon?
Historians as experts are challenged today. In 2015, Jo Guldi and David Armitage deplored this state of affairs in a Manifesto widely commented on worldwide and translated into Italian.
‘Participation’ is something of a contemporary buzzword. Attuning oneself as closely as possible to the interests and needs of the general public is considered the golden path to success.
What does a text about listening have to do with academia? As humanities scholars, are we not “brought up” to listen, to read carefully, to weigh up everything in a nuanced way...
The forest has been a favourite retreat for Germans for centuries. It has also been romantically transfigured by the poets and thinkers of this country. It is usually far away from the hustle...
History is strongly present in public, be it in historical-political debates or on the occasion of anniversaries. At the same time, it is more and more difficult for the science of history to make its voice heard.
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In the culture of politics and history, racism is a thoroughly over-used term. It belongs neither to political nor to cultural-scientific lines of thought, and its meaning has been poorly defined.
In public debates the input of historians seems to play a subordinate role. Instead, the contemporary witnesses are more important, because they are those who can talk about "what it was really like".
The ‘tyranny of relevance’ is a convenient and popular target for academic historians. Mention the ‘r’ word with a raised eyebrow during a conference coffee break, or condemn instrumentalist research policy at a committee meeting and you are likely to receive murmurs of sympathy. We have allowed an unstable and stormy climate in higher education to cloud our judgement, implicating notions of relevance, application and public engagement with a Dark Side of neoliberal politics in caricature. If history is to thrive as a discipline, we need to reclaim relevance for the whole field – and public history can lead the Alliance.
Relevance and Rigour
It is tempting to see relevance only as a product of the increasing pressure from governments and funding bodies for scholars to prioritise and account for the value of their research to society. An unfortunate corollary of this view is the placing of ‘relevance’ and ‘rigour’ into a binary relationship.