Why am I here?

Blog Home    |     04.27.2017 by     |    


I’m from an academic family. I know how to handle academics, talk to them, and understand what they’re saying, most of the time. But I have to admit, since starting to take graduate-level humanities courses, a lot of language has felt needlessly opaque, like an insider’s club of alienating discourses. Especially at a time when programs are under fire, I think this contributes to the harmful notion that the humanities are significant only within the confines of the university. 

A lot of the readings we’ve done for this class have centered around the ways in which the university is unwelcoming to a lot of people. I think that this takes shape in a lot of ways, but rewarding privileged and aloof  language for an audience of jstor subscribers certainly doesn’t attract a lot of diversity. I would wager most humanities students have had the sensation of sitting in a classroom, feeling as though they speak an entirely different language from someone else. This isn’t to say that we should do away with complex ideas, but rather that we be more aware of our audience when we communicate them. This scholarship can and should happen outside of the university. 

Art history really faces this problem. So many people have confessed to me that they don’t know what to make of “art”, and that they feel as if they’re going to be swatted away from museums. It also tends to feel like an indulgence created by the urban elite for the urban elite. I’m a part of this Mellon Public Humanities seminar for a lot of reasons but this, I think, is the main reason I’m here. The idea of making available and clear the rich story of a rural pottery workshop in a way that isn’t meant for an academic journal, but rather for the community that has lived nearby can help, I think, assert the value of art historical scholarship outside of the university.