PAMLA Forum: The Future of Studies and Research in the Humanities

This year’s PAMLA Conference Forum, to be held on Saturday, November 12 in the Madera room of the Pasadena Westin from 5:10-6:40 pm, will explore the future of and research in the Humanities. In the wake of continuing emphasis on the sciences in our universities that too often results in weakened support for the Humanities, in the face of continuing economic pressures that threaten our disciplines, and given the dramatic effects of the digital revolution on research and teaching in the Humanities, we believe the topic of the future of the Humanities will be of great interest to PAMLA members, as well as to larger communities of scholars everywhere.

While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the crisis in the Humanities began, we can all agree that the Humanities, as academic disciplines, have been and continue to be severely challenged as we gather at this conference, which, judging by its healthy signs of vitality, meets the challenge with aplomb. The 2016 PAMLA Forum is thus designed to give conference attendees a forum in which to discuss the present state of the Humanities, its future in and for academia, and its continuing relevance and impact within the professional world at large. We intend to discuss the Humanities in terms of two branches: the teaching and study side, and the field of documentation and research. Our two Forum speakers this year offer expertise, experience and fresh ideas in these areas. Together with the Forum audience, we hope to enter into a lively discussion, exploring many perspectives on the topic as we discuss new ways to reinvent and reinvigorate study and research in the Humanities.

Andrea Gogröf, PAMLA 1st VP and Professor of Liberal Studies, Western Washington University, has put together and will moderate for us a terrific Forum. Our first Forum speaker is Sylvia Tag, librarian and associate professor at Western Washington University, where she teaches courses on information science, research strategies, and children’s literature. Professor Tag’s current scholarly publications and interests include integrating research and writing across the K-20 continuum, theme-based library instruction in higher education, and early twentieth-century children’s literature authors and illustrators.

Sylvia Tag’s presentation is entitled “Got Knowledge? Research Dynamics When Everyone Is An Expert.”

Sylvia Tag in her own words:

Fundamental questions within the practice and theory of information science continue to permeate the collection and services of libraries and archives. Who controls the creation, access, and distribution of information? Equitable opportunity, awareness, and agency continue to impact access to and retrieval of scholarly resources. Complexities arise around the ownership of ideas as traditional publication pathways exist alongside the immediacy of online expression and exchange. Commonly framed within the constructs of socio-economic status, the digital divide continues to impact students in higher education. Within academe, there exists a concurrent divide and disconnect between library users who prefer traditional print materials over digital resources. The dynamics of information specialization, disparity and retrieval have ramifications for teaching, research, and library collections. What a rich and provocative time for academic librarianship.

Questions we will explore with Sylvia Tag include: What is the responsibility of libraries to expand and democratize access to resources, particularly archival materials? How do libraries and archives effectively adjust, change and adapt to evolving Internet technologies? What connections does a librarian of the Humanities entertain with students, departments, and other institutions? How does a librarian today reach audiences beyond the academy?

Our second speaker is Eileen Joy, a specialist in Old English literary and cultural studies, as well as, in her own words, a para-academic rogue drone-strike machine who has spoken and published widely on poetry and poetics, historiography, ethics, affects, embodiments, queer studies, the politics of friendship, speculative realism, object oriented ontology, the ecological, and the post/human. Eileen Joy has also been an active blogger for over 10 years, writing on subjects pertaining to the public university, the Humanities, academic disciplinarity, the public commons, scholarly publishing, and para-academia. She is also the Lead Ingenitor of the BABEL Working Group, Founding Editor of the award-winning postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, Founding Director of punctum books: spontaneous acts of scholarly combustion, and Associate Director of Punctum Records. Her curriculum vitae and all of her publications, talks, and interviews can be found here:

Eileen Joy’s presentation is entitled “We Are All Itinerant Now: Cruising a Radicant Humanities.”

 Eileen Joy in her own words:

In his book The Radicant, Nicholas Bourriaud argues that we (the Humanists, the Artists, the Cultural Producers) need to reinvent together a common world which would be “a space of horizontal negotiation without an arbiter,” where we would “practice translation and organize the discussions that will give rise to a new intelligibility,” and which we would initiate through a “new exodus.” Bourriaud proposes that we go “radicant,” which means “setting one’s roots in motion, staging them in heterogeneous contexts and formats, denying them the power to completely define one’s identity, translating ideas, transcoding images, transplanting behaviours, exchanging rather than imposing.” The radicant doesn’t cut her roots—she both sets them down and takes them with her elsewhere, engaging in endless series of re-enrootings, and thus there is attachment as well as mobility. This means that, wherever we go, we take the Humanities with us as a set of objects and practices always subject to endless and dynamic translations and negotiations without end.

The task now, for those of us dedicated to the flourishing of the Humanities, is to get Outside and work alongside the growing academic Precariat to reinvent the Humanities as, in the parlance of the poet Lisa Robinson, a welcoming (and wandering) Pavilion of Thought. Whether or not this will be sustainable into the future is up for grabs, but what is for certain is that, for those of us who care about the future of the Humanities under neoliberalism, we must continue to read and reflect and write and analyze and critique (of course), but we must also found new spaces where such practices are less encumbered and threatened than they are currently are within the techno-managerial University. This talk will sketch out some possible routes toward such a Radicant (Itinerant) Humanities.

We are looking forward to this year’s PAMLA Forum and hope to meet you all there!