[Humanist] 30.510 state of relations

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Sun Nov 20 08:31:03 CET 2016

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 30, No. 510.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Sat, 19 Nov 2016 10:39:09 -0500 (EST)
        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: state of relations
        In-Reply-To: <20161119062220.377008312 at digitalhumanities.org>


In the thread on the state of relations between digital humanities and
other disciplines I was sparked by the mention of "subservience" to
contemplate the notion of service in general. I would not want to see a
future where digital humanities turns away from engaging in certain
relations out of a misplaced sense of pride. I am not suggesting an
embrace of "subservience" but a meditation upon the notion of service.

I propose that the orientation to the other disciplines goes through
another player: the public.

I am inspired by the recent work of Kathleen Fitzpatrick. She has
undertaken to share in public preliminary work about what I would call an
academic ethics. She is working to flesh out what she calls "generous
thinking". Key to that generosity is the manner in which we listen. She

I am primarily focused on the ways that we as professors and scholars
communicate with a range of broader publics about our work. And some
focused thinking about the ways we communicate with those publics is in
order, I would suggest, because many of our fields are facing crises that
we cannot solve on our own.

In case you think this turn to reflect on broader publics is facile,
consider how it is characterized as difficult work:

But I want to acknowledge that adopting a mode of generous thinking is a
task that is simultaneously extremely difficult and easily dismissible. We
are accustomed to a mode of thought that rebuts, that questions, that
complicates, and the kinds of listening and openness for which I am here
advocating may well be taken as acceding to a form of cultural naïveté at
best, or worse, a politically regressive knuckling-under to the pressures
of neoliberal ideologies and institutions. This is the sense in which Rita
Felski suggests that scholars have internalized “the assumption that
whatever is not critical must therefore be uncritical”


I invite subscribers to Humanist to take a few minutes to peruse the blog
and entry and its comments (a simple search of "listening" will bring you
some salient passages). One of the comments might be useful in thinking
about relations as experiments.

Your invocation of humility brought to mind a formulation found in
Catharine R. Stimpson. Where the Meanings Are: Feminism and Cultural
Spaces: "humility, a recognition that the self cannot be an exemplum,
only an experiment". I am looking forward to reading more. I think that
somewhere along the way you and your readers will be broaching the link
between the experimental [which we associate with the sciences] and the
experiential [which we associate with the performing arts] — the
humanities seem to occupy the metadiscursive space that examines and
comments upon the experimental and the experiential.

In any carry, Fitzpatrick's commitment to the public sphere reverberates
in the the relations between disciplines.

Francois Lachance

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