[Humanist] 27.631 the social conditions of our work

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Dec 18 09:18:18 CET 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 631.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 17 Dec 2013 13:22:36 +0100
        From: "Dr. Hartmut Krech" <kr538 at zfn.uni-bremen.de>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 27.627 the social conditions of our work
        In-Reply-To: <20131217072614.30E377A97 at digitalhumanities.org>


your words have surprised me not a few times when you seem 
to view your professional place with the eyes of an outsider 
like myself. An "independent" scholar lacking institutional 
support will soon lose his dedication and determination when 
he keeps on experiencing the same disenfranchisement over 
and over again. Perhaps this word is not too pretentious, if 
you accept that our personalities are socially defined by 
what we do and that we are successful in what we are doing. 
To aggregate perhaps 20,000 quotations for a vocabulary of 
5,000 terms from a corpus that is not yet entirely 
machine-readable may take decades and the dedication that 
only an individual scholar is able to procure. Then please 
imagine the disappointment, discouragement, and perhaps 
understandable anger when the knowledge to be secured is 
treated, so to speak, in an edited volume by 
"institutionalized science workers" (scientists or scholars) 
in chapters of ten pages' length each. Even a good 
hypothesis will take its time. And the best and furthest 
reaching ideas are the simplest.

I'm not arguing here for the "gentleman amateur" the likes 
of Sir Hans Sloane or James Smithson, founders of the 
British Museum and the institution behind the U.S. National 
Museum. One might even remind here of Elias Ashmole's 
acquisition strategy (poor Hester Tradescant drowned when 
she refused to cede her deceased husband's collection). And 
it may be true that independent scholars especially from the 
fields of science and engineering may become economically 
successful in their own business enterprises.

But for the traditional humanities, you have very well made 
the point that we are still lacking rules of social 
responsibility. Apart from the subject of any scientific 
study, the point of view is also important. Who would deny 
such an insight?

Rules of social responsibility may turn out just as 
important or even more important than the methodology of 
falsification in the sciences that relies upon the 
co-operation of and examination by as many informed 
scientists as possible. Quite the contrary, within the 
humanities, we should secure a place for the independent 
scholar and for the "apparatus" that he carries around with 
himself. If we fail to view the borders of our field to be 
wider than some university department or professional 
organization, we will soon be swamped by irrelevant edited 
volumes where nobody is really cognizant of the entire 
subject. Jumping upon bandwaggons that nobody drives. Thank you.

Best regards,

Am 17.12.2013 08:26, schrieb Humanist Discussion Group:
> The mindless, compelled rush into print, the silly chasing
>>of public impact exercises, the following of grant money rather than one's
>>developing interests, the bandwagon jumping etc. etc. harms us all. Do we
>>lack the courage of our convictions because we've lost the convictions?

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