Humanities for All: Goals of the Publicly Engaged Humanities

On the evening of December 10, Newest Americans released the seventh issue of its multimedia digital magazine. The innovative publication tells the stories of Newark’s diverse residents who live, work, and study together on and around the campus of Rutgers University-Newark. The latest issue explores these stories with a characteristic richness, including a photo essay on domestic workers and a short film on the country’s oldest Portuguese-language newspaper. As is always the case for Newest Americans, the media was produced at Rutgers-Newark by and with communities beyond the campus.

In creating the Humanities for All clearinghouse, I spoke with the directors of Newest Americans and other publicly engaged humanities initiatives across the country. In these conversations and in cataloguing their work, I began to think about the ways in which they shared overarching goals. While each project undoubtedly has its own unique aims, five overarching goals emerged:

  1. Amplifying community voices and histories;
  2. Informing contemporary debates;
  3. Helping individuals and communities navigate difficult experiences;
  4. Expanding educational access; and
  5. Preserving culture in times of crisis and change.

Newest Americans, for example, works to amplify its community’s voices and histories—broadening conceptions of its city, region, and country. To explore these overarching goals of publicly engaged humanities work, I am delighted to release the second essay of the Humanities for All initiative, Goals of the Publicly Engaged Humanities

I offer this synthesis with the hope that it is useful to the field in at least three ways. First, these broad categories provide a structure for thinking about goals as scholars and community partners envision new projects. Second, they offer new avenues for research into the outcomes, impacts, and broad public value of the humanities. Third, they have the potential to serve as ways to link humanities work to broader policy conversations. Better understanding the role of Newest Americans in amplifying community voices and histories can, for example, intersect with broader debates in municipal, educational, and even immigration policy.

In the new year, Humanities for All will continue to release essays exploring the field of publicly engaged humanities work in U.S. higher education. Next up is an essay on the various types of partnerships that the publicly engage humanities are creating in research, teaching, preservation, and public programming. To keep updated, visit the Humanities for All website and follow us on social media.


Photo Credit:

Thumbnail image: Pastor Moacir Weirich pays a visit to a community member in Newark, New Jersey. Photo by Maciek Nabrdalik. Image courtesy of VII Photo/Newest Americans.

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