Rethinking the Human Sciences

full name / name of organization: 
Humanities Research Group, University of Windsor / Humanities Centre, Wayne State University
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Rethinking the Human Sciences

In The City of God, Augustine cites Varro's testimony that at least 288 philosophical sects participated in the expansion of Greek learning in the first century BCE. Varro might be said to describe, with searing prescience, the current intellectual promiscuity of the human sciences: new historicisms compete with old, kulturegeschichte jockeys with cultural studies, postmodernism courts the promises and perils of the modern, and just about every area of inquiry has taken one linguistic turn or another. In this vertiginous period, with national and international funding agencies mooring humanities support to 'knowledge transfer' and 'competitive advantage,' it seems timely to examine the place, status, and future of the human sciences in Canada and beyond. The term 'human sciences' [les science humaines] denotes an ensemble of areas of inquire broadly concerned with 'all things human,' with human beings in culture, with the subjective experience of cultural forms, change, and continuity.

As Geoffrey Galt Harpham has argued, the 'crisis' in the humanities is no longer a temporary affliction but 'a way of life'; how do individual scholars in the human sciences as well as humanities centres respond to a state of perpetual crisis? How do we encounter, organise, and disseminate human intentionality across the disciplines? How might we improve our arguments for the centrality of the human sciences to the mission and future of contemporary universities?

Papers are invited for a conference sponsored by the Humanities Research Group at the University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada [across the bridge from Detroit, MI] and by the Humanities Centre, Wayne State University that addresses these and other issues. Proposals might explore, but are no way limited to, the following issues:

- the state / status and future of the human sciences
- institutional and intellectual contexts for humanistic inquiry
- tact, taste, and intention as constituents of humanist inquiry
- imprecision and redescription in the humanities
- ritualistic crises
- the promises and perils of interdisciplinarity
- postmodernism and the human sciences
- linguistic and other turns
- uncertain knowledges and evidential paradigms

Geoffrey Galt Harpham, author of, among many essays and monographs, Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (Duke, 1999), Language Alone: the Critical Fetish of Modernity (Routledge, 2002), and The Character of Criticism (Routledge, 2006), has agreed to a keynote address on Thursday, 11 March 2010. His insights into the contemporary configuration and status of the human sciences will anchor our discussions for the next two days.

The conference will unfold as follows: a Thursday keynote address; Friday devoted to inquiry about the status and future of the human sciences; and Saturday concerned with the operation, direction, and organisation of humanities centres. Participants will be offered graduated fees, since not all will be interested in Saturday's deliberations.

Submit a single-spaced, 500 word [1 page] abstract of your twenty-minute paper and a brief curriculum vitae [in wordperfect, word, or rtf] to by 1 October 2009. This conference is sponsored in part by the Humanities Research Group at the University of Windsor [], the Humanities Centre, Wayne State University [], and RREHS [pronounced 'raise'], Reason, Rhetoric, and Ethics in the Human Sciences at the University of Windsor.

Further details available from Stephen Pender,