the empirical impact of the humanities

(Washington, DC) I have two major professional interests: civic engagement and the humanities. Thanks to a partnership with the organization Indiana Humanities, I am enjoying an opportunity to bring the two together. Up to now, my arguments for the humanities have been theoretical and philosophical. (They are in my books Reforming the Humanities: Literature and Ethics from Dante through Modern Times, 2009; Living Without Philosophy: On Narrative, Rhetoric, and Morality, 1998; and Nietzsche and the Modern Crisis of the Humanities, 1995.) But there are also empirical questions about what happens when people experience the humanities–and especially when laypeople participate in the “public humanities” in the form of book clubs, museum visits, or maintaining local historical sites. We at CIRCLE are helping Indiana Humanities with a case study of their state’s humanities “ecosystem.” As it says on their website:

Using a survey method, Indiana Humanities (along with leading researchers) will collect data on humanities-related institutions and program opportunities in Indiana, how they are connected to one another, and how people in Indiana participate in the humanities. The goal is to “map” the network of relationships among the various public and academic humanities sectors and between the humanities enterprise and the broader community.

The next stage–if we can pull it off later on–will be to find out whether the strength of the humanities “ecosystem” in a community is related to important social outcomes.


About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.
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