Blog Post

Do We Need a New Field Called "Humanities Studies"?

In finishing up an essay on "Digital Humanities and Digital Literacy" this morning, for a new volume being edited by David Theo Goldberg and Patrik Svensson, I realized that a lot of what I'm doing these days involves working across the highly technical expertise in data analysis as well as across the highly technical expertise in--I believe I may be coining this phrase-- “humanities studies.”  


This is a bit of a thought experiment, a reversal:  By “humanities studies” I mean meta-humanities, a parallel field to “science studies.”  It means situating the humanities in broad social, philosophical, cultural, and historical contexts.   Like science studies, humanities studies interrogates the relationship between the humanities and society and it looks at the implicit purposes and premises that undergird humanistic claims and that drive humanistic public policy.   Certainly we know from the great canon debates of the 1980s and deconstructionist critical theory and from cultural studies, the humanities are every bit as value-laden as sciences.


Now, the big (if slightly whimsical) question:  will scientists hold "humanities studies" conferences?  Will humanists feel as defensive being the object of "humanities studies" by those outside the field as scientists now often feel in the face of "science studies"?  Interesting, isn't it?




Cathy N. Davidson is co-founder of HASTAC, a 9000+ network committed to new modes of collaboration, research, learning, and institutional change.  Along with a steering committee of scholars across many fields, Davidson has been directing HASTAC's operations since 2006, when moved to Duke University, where she also co-directs the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge.   She is author of The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions for a Digital Age (with HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg), and  Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press). She is co-PI on the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions.   NOTE:  The views expressed in Cat in the Stack blogs and in NOW YOU SEE IT are solely those of the author and not of HASTAC, nor of any institution or organization. Davidson also writes on her own author blog, .  

The paperback of Now You See It was published July 31, 2012 :




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