Alana Stein

The university is central to how scholarship has been conceptualized thus far. Therefore, we must consider the environment that public scholarship and scholarship more broadly inhabit at the university. Many shifts have been occurring in the university, including the development of the neoliberal university. The proliferation of the neoliberal university has profound implications for the state of public humanities.

As universities become a site of greater neoliberalization, universities are run more like a business. Universities are now increasingly emphasizing the bottom line, productivity, tangible outputs, and corporate partnerships. This has led to an increased focus on fields that have greater utility for corporations, thus leaving the humanities behind. This great impact on the humanities as a whole is important because the study of the humanities is central to the possibility of the existence of public humanities.

Furthermore, the neoliberal university influences the scholar’s ability to engage in public scholarship due to the heavy emphasis on outcomes in terms of knowledge production. As neoliberalism penetrates deeper into the functioning of the university, greater weight is placed on the outputs of research that can be seen in scholarly journal articles, thus disadvantaging public humanities projects that do not quickly deliver these outcomes. While the changing values of the university currently pose a problem for public scholarship through their reduced support of the humanities and the an emphasis on quickly obtained academic outcomes within the field, I believe that there is potential to use the opportunity of the changing university for the benefit of public scholarship.

Within the context of a changing university climate, all humanities scholars (both those who engage in public scholarship and those who do not) have an impetus to clarify the central importance of humanities scholarship. While the production of knowledge for the knowledge’s sake can be important, the application of humanities research to social problems is central to the importance of humanities scholarship. The public benefit that can arise from public humanities scholarship will be crucial to the sustained support of the humanities by the university. Therefore, I predict that public scholarship in the humanities will be critical to the sustained support of the humanities.