Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times
After a remarkable career in higher education that has seen her serve as the Chair of the University of Michigan English Department, the Director of the Michigan Institute for the Humanities, and the President of the Modern Language Association, Sidonie Smith offers Manifesto for the Humanities as a reflective contribution to the current academic conversation over the place of the humanities in the 21st century. Her focus, as the subtitle indicates, is on doctoral education and opportunities she sees for its reform. “The ‘Grand Challenge’ confronting academic humanists,” Smith avers, “is the imperative of sustaining passionate conviction about the value of studying the humanities in a climate of funding scarcity, corporatization, and neoliberal market economics. Responsibility for that sustainability—in the academy, in the nation, and around the globe—lies in part with humanities doctoral students, now or soon-to-be entering careers, who are driven by the desire to continue conversations, journeys, and discoveries, whether they take place in archives, in lines of poetry, in the logic of the assertion, or in the dirt of the dig. These doctoral students are preparing to play their role as agents of change for a sustainable future.” Grounding this manifesto in background factors contributing to current “crises” in the humanities, Smith advocates for a 21st century doctoral education responsive to the changing ecology of humanistic scholarship and teaching. She elaborates a more expansive conceptualization of coursework and dissertation, a more robust, engaged public humanities, and a more diverse, collaborative, and networked sociality.