Public Humanities Chat Preview: Risks and Rewards

On Thursday, November 9, from 4-5 PM EST/1-2 PST, I will be co-hosting a Twitter chat on public humanities. This blog post (along with additional posts authored by other organizers) is intended to promote dialogue and exchange as a prelude to our chat! 

One topic that I would like to discuss during the chat are the risks of being a public scholar, in particular how social inequities linked to race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, class, and immigration status, for example, all affect an individual’s or a community’s ability to share views, knowledge, and perspectives in various forums and settings.

Forms of public scholarship, of course, are varied and dynamic. It can involve speaking to millions via a newspaper opinion piece or hosting a meeting with a handful of community members. However, in each case, the risks, rewards, and responsibilities / reciprocities vary dramatically. There are personal risks involved (being targeted by online trolls, for example) that can quickly turn into professional risks as well. There is also the time involved, which is not valued by all institutions or colleagues. Relatedly, do some academics need to consider how their decision to work for no pay (as experts for exhibits or as writers for various publications, for example) affect others who do not have the ability to take positions pro bono.

Sharing humanities scholarship with various publics is a tremendous opportunity, but it also does not come without serious potential drawbacks. Often, public scholarship opportunities are presented as enrichment with little mention of all the possible repercussions. I would love to hear what others think during our chat! Please comment with suggestions of resources we can share / recommend on this issue.