Publicly Engaged Humanities Article Collection 2019

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Publishing and the Publicly Engaged Humanities

Articles and book chapters selected by the National Humanities Alliance in partnership with Routledge, Taylor & Francis

By Daniel Fisher, National Humanities Alliance

Across the humanities, faculty and students are engaging communities with their research, teaching, preservation, and programming. In Humanities for All, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) documents and presents over 1,500 examples of this work in US higher education. These publicly engaged humanities initiatives enrich community life and advance scholarship, opening new and more inclusive horizons for the humanities.

This collection brings together previously published articles and book chapters featuring publicly engaged humanities scholarship from across the Routledge, Taylor & Francis program. Together, they show how public engagement can lead to—and indeed enhance—publication, a core expectation for faculty promotion and tenure in the humanities. They are also a testament to how publishing can raise the profile of the processes, outcomes, and overall impact of publicly engaged humanities initiatives.

Featured Journal Articles

This essay describes a yearlong public history collaboration between graduate students, a faculty member, and local public high school students collectively producing original scholarship on a topic in the history of education. This collaboration occurred in three parts, described chronologically: a planning phase, where the group devised research questions; a research phase, where graduate students, faculty, and high school students co-conducted oral histories; and a dissemination phase, where the group created Omeka exhibits based on oral histories and other secondary research. By focusing on the methodological implications of this type of novel scholar-youth collaboration, this essay argues that there are untapped opportunities and scholarly benefits to researching topics in the history discipline (particularly the history of education) with historically trained, local high school youth. This experimental collaboration is meant to spark dialogue about how to combine the traditions of the history field with important hands-on youth/community work for the purposes of rethinking traditional historical processes.

Letters of 1916 is Ireland’s first public engagement digital humanities project. Begun in September 2013, it collects, digitises, transcribes, encodes and makes available through its electronic platform epistolary documents written about Ireland between 1 November 1915 and 31 October 1916. This paper analyses the volunteer community associated with the project, inspects the levels of its engagement, studies its interests and motivations, and considers how future projects can adapt this investigation into projects addressing community interactions. The basis for this inspection is a user survey carried out in Spring 2016, alongside an analysis of the transcriber community using data on transcriber activity from the beginning of the project in September 2013 to June 2016. The paper argues that the success of a public engagement project lies in the understanding of its community—an understanding derived within a critical framework, inspected through data analysis and communicated through visualisations.

Featured Book Chapters

The past is a very popular topic of discussion. Marks of popular interest take various shapes, such as visits to museums and historic sites, historical books, magazines, websites, movies and documentaries, festivals, commemorations, genealogy, and many other fields. In 1998, Robert Rosenzweig and David Thelen conducted a survey on the presence of the past in American everyday life (1998). One reason for the popular interest in the past has been, according to them, that people turn to the past “as a way of grappling with profound questions about how to live” (1998, 18). The past can help us interpret who we are and why we do things. We use the past to shape our identities, but for other purposes as well, such as, for instance, a source of entertainment. The past has been one of the main sources of games (e.g., Trivial Pursuit) and television quiz shows (e.g., Jeopardy; Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?). Given this popular interest in the past, one might assume that the public widely acknowledges the authority and expertise of historians.

Book Chapter Author(s) Book Year
Sites of Memory Keir Reeves History, Memory and Public Life The Past in the Present 2018

This chapter assesses contemporary presentations of key historical sites, often typified by their commemorative significance, with an emphasis on contested and ‘difficult’ heritage locations. Such sites are often referred to as lieux de mémoire (‘memory places’) – a phrase which came to prominence in the 1990s through the work led by the French historian Pierre Nora. These sites are defined, Nora argues, by their complexity: ‘At once natural and artificial, simple and ambiguous, concrete and abstract, they are lieux – places, sites, causes – in three senses – material, symbolic and functional’ (Nora 1996: 14). Such sites of memory are important to historians because they represent the enduring physical places where the past is remembered, commemorated and constructed in the present day.

Journal Articles

Article Title Author(s) Journal Volume and Issue Year
Rethinking historical practice and community engagement: researching together with ‘youth historians’ Barry M. Goldenberg Rethinking History 23 (1) 2019
“It’s Not About You”: Disappointment as Queer Pedagogy in Community-Engaged Service-Learning David K. Seitz Journal of Homosexuality 67 (3) 2018
The digital public humanities: giving new arguments and new ways to argue Jordana Cox & Lauren Tilton Review of Communication 19 (2) 2019
Community engagement is … : revisiting Boyer’s model of scholarship Kerry Renwick, Mark Selkrig, Catherine Manathunga & Ron ‘Kim’ Keamy Higher Education Research & Development Latest articles 2020
The PodcastRE Project: Curating and Preserving Podcasts (and Their Data) Jeremy Wade Morris, Samuel Hansen & Eric Hoyt Journal of Radio and Audio Media 26 (1) 2019
Wonder Woman and the public humanities: a reflection on the 2016 Wonder Woman Symposium Vera J. Camden & Valentino L. Zullo Graphic Novels and Comics 9 (6) 2018
#OurChangingClimate: Building Networks of Community Resilience Through Social Media and Design Sheryl-Ann Simpson, N. Claire Napawan & Brett Snyder GeoHumanities 5 (1) 2019
Notes from the Transcription Desk: Visualising Public Engagement Susan Schreibman, Vinayak Das Gupta & Neale Rooney English Studies 98 (5) 2017
Gaming history: computer and video games as historical scholarship Dawn Spring Rethinking History 19 (2) 2015
Pasts and Futures of Digital Humanities in Musicology: Moving Towards a “Bigger Tent” Michelle Urberg Music Reference Services Quarterly 20 (3-4) 2018
Community Geography: Addressing Barriers in Public Participation GIS Jonnell A. Robinson, Daniel Block & Amanda Rees The Cartographic Journal 54 (1) 2017
The cultures of Native North American language documentation and revitalization Saul Schwartz & Lisa M. Dobrin Reviews in Anthropology 45 (2) 2016

Book Chapters

Book Chapter Author(s) Book Year
Technical Communication Client Projects and Nonprofit Partnership Elisabeth Kramer-Simpson and Steve Simpson Citizenship and Advocacy in Technical Communication 2018
Introduction: Historians' Public Roles and Practices Thomas Cauvin Public History: A Textbook of Practice 2016
Sites of Memory Keir Reeves History, Memory and Public Life The Past in the Present 2018
Opportunities for Social Knowledge Creation in the Digital Humanities Alyssa Arbuckle Doing More Digital Humanities 2019
Never a Small Project: Welcoming Transgender Communities into the Museum Joshua G. Adair, Amy K. Levin Museums, Sexuality, and Gender Activism 2019

The publications in this collection include a range of formats, including case studies and considerations of publicly engaged projects in the context of larger disciplinary and interdisciplinary studies. Significantly, published publicly engaged humanities scholarship comes from across humanities disciplines and appears in a variety of Routledge, Taylor & Francis books and journals—ranging from primary disciplinary journals to publications devoted to engagement with social issues, innovative scholarship, pedagogy, health advocacy, and community development. The breadth in disciplinary background, format, and venue is encouraging, suggesting that scholars should consider different approaches to publishing both in their disciplines and in connection with their work’s areas of impact.

For more information and additional reading, please visit the Humanities for All website.

Daniel Fisher (PhD, UC Berkeley) is a Project Director at the National Humanities Alliance. He leads Humanities for All, NHA’s initiative to document and promote publicly engaged humanities work in US higher education.


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In an effort to represent the ongoing development of the field, Humanities for All continues to collect examples of publicly engaged humanities work in U.S. higher education. If you have been involved with a publicly engaged humanities project that is not yet listed on the Humanities for All website, you can submit your engaged humanities projects to Humanities for All.
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