Self-Interpreting Animals and the Humanity of the Humanities

  • 2016-06-28
  • Public Seminar

Last September, the Japanese minister of education wrote to Japan’s national universities instructing them to actively abolish humanities programs or transform them into initiatives that “better meet society’s needs.” This directive is part of a broader, global trend in higher education that has lead to serious funding reductions in humanistic disciplines. In the name of austerity, the UK government followed the recommendation of the 2010 Browne Review by cutting all direct funding of arts and humanities teaching in 2012 . Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council budget suffered a 10.5% reduction between 2007 and 2015. And in the United States, federal funding for the humanities fell from $855 million in 2008 to $594 million in 2014.

Although these cuts are often made in order to promote the so-called “revenue-generating” subjects of science, technology, engineering, and math, scant bureaucratic attention has been paid to the way budget reductions in the humanities impact our distinctly human way of life. And since humans are self-interpreting animals, cuts to the humanities undercut our humanity.