CFP for edited volume: Mission Driven: Reimagining Graduate Education for a Thriving Humanities Ecosystem

Edited by Stacy Hartman and Yevgenya Strakovsky

In the past decade, much ink has been spilled and many initiatives organized around the need to prepare humanities PhDs for a variety of careers. The many creative and effective projects that have emerged as a result have engendered a gradual shift in the perception of what constitutes professional success in the postgraduate humanities.

Initially mobilized by the 2008 financial crisis, the career diversity turn has shed light on a number of structural challenges facing emerging scholars and the profession as a whole: the increasing precarity of the academic workforce; the reorientation of the humanities within higher education as service departments; the split between public and academic humanities; the structural traditions of PhD curricula vis-à-vis professional training needs; and the tangible effects of graduate study on the financial, emotional, and psychosocial well-being of early-career scholars, both during and after graduate school. More than the symptoms of a temporary hiring freeze, these challenges reflect a deep-rooted dissonance in the identity of our profession within higher education and global society. They speak to the need for a reevaluation of our goals and sense of purpose as a community moving forward.  

As numerous critics including Rita Felski, Eve Sedgwick, and Bruno Latour have argued, the humanities emerged from the last century with a powerful ethos of skepticism and critique, but with few tools for articulating affirmation, purpose, and well-being. This culture not only directs our research but also shapes the identity, goals, and institutions of our professional community. Graduate education, which has proven especially vulnerable to structural challenges, holds enormous potential for renewing this community. This volume imagines graduate education for a thriving humanities ecosystem that engages with the challenges of what may be a very long twenty-first century.

In the social sciences, the turn of the twenty-first century saw the emergence of positive psychology as a field, spearheaded by the work of Martin Seligman. Positive psychology entailed a shift away from the diagnosis of pathology that preoccupied the twentieth century and toward an understanding of what constitutes well-being. The field of positive psychology has emerged as a dominant paradigm for understanding the health of individuals, communities, and institutions. More than the study of happiness, positive psychology challenges educational institutions and policy makers to consider what factors allow individuals and communities to thrive, rather than merely survive, and to design institutional structures that foster human flourishing.   

Inspired by both positive psychology and the achievements of the career diversity turn, Mission Driven seeks to reimagine the humanities’ potential to thrive in the twenty-first-century landscape. We seek to envision the humanities as a sustainable, engaged, and joyful endeavor and to imagine models of success that realize the potential of the humanities ecosystem in the information age. We invite essays that explore how graduate education can be mobilized to seed these changes, organized around one of the three core principles of the volume:

Sustainability: How can graduate education align with the long-term potential of the profession? How can we work toward sustainable models of graduate education, which do not borrow against the future of the profession or its members, and which have the plasticity to respond to structural changes as higher education and the world of work evolve?

Engagement: How do we conceptualize the humanities profession in a broad sense that includes our collaborators and partners in the public sector? How do we empower emerging humanities professionals and graduate programs to make an impact in their communities? How do we foster meaningful collaboration between disciplines, institutions, and sectors, and across the public-academic divide?

Joy: How can graduate programs seed an affirmative, ethical, and mission-driven culture in our profession moving forward? What is the role of mental health in our profession, and what are the mental-health needs of our graduate students and early career professionals? How can graduate education as an institution better foster human flourishing in our professional community?

We invite authors from diverse backgrounds and from across the humanities ecosystem (the academy, the private sector, the nonprofit community, etc.) to submit proposals that can contribute to a broad intellectual vision by 1 July 2018. Please include:

A 300-word abstract

A 1-page CV or 100-word bio

Contact: ​shartman@mla.org 

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