Participants discussed the importance of funding for the humanities and spent a day visiting their representatives on Capitol Hill.
By Kurtis Hiatt
George Washington University President Steven Knapp addressed a capacity Marvin Center ballroom at the National Humanities Alliance’s Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day on Monday as the group came together to discuss the state of the field, federal funding and advocacy on Capitol Hill.
The National Humanities Alliance is a coalition of organizations, including GW, dedicated to advancing humanities education, research and preservation and public programs. It is the only organization that brings together the U.S. humanities community as a whole.
“We’re very fortunate that our location, in the heart of this nation’s capital, gives us the unique capacity to convene discussions like this important discussion of national and global issues, especially at this moment in our national global history,” Dr. Knapp said. “No issue is more important than the fate of humanistic studies. And no effort is more important than the preservation of rich and vibrant inquiry into artifacts that are the focus of the humanities.”
Dr. Knapp said it was important to emphasize “focus” rather than “possession,” saying one of the key lessons of the humanities is that products of human culture aren’t owned by any one person, nation, tradition, practice or institution.
“They’re always subject to reinterpretation, reinvention and recirculation,” he said.
While this makes the humanities exciting, Dr. Knapp said, it can also make them vulnerable because, given there is “no such thing as a final interpretation of a cultural phenomenon,” some may find the humanities “pointless” if they are concerned only with research that seeks “definitive answers to well-defined questions.”
Dr. Knapp said the understanding that the humanities bring is just as important as explanations of the natural world or scientific and technological innovations, and they are essential to our identity, values and a democratic society.
After Monday’s panel discussions and meetings on humanities advocacy and their importance, the group spent Tuesday on Capitol Hill, visiting the offices of their respective senators and representatives to make the case for the humanities.