What UCHRI Was Reading This Year

Perpetually in search of new means for facilitating open, critical discourse, in February 2018 UCHRI staff began exploring the reaches of the open source, online annotation tool, Hypothes.is. Using a simple url, online readers can highlight and comment on web material, post remarks for the public or for private use, and engage colleagues and the like in healthy debate.   


Ann Lauterbach “Use This Word in a Sentence: ‘Experimental’”

Poet and essayist Ann Lauterbach combs through the many implications and dimensions of the word “experimental.” From sociological and political catastrophes to the brazen bursts of poetic energy, “the experimental” has steered the course of human progress. Lauterbach both asks and answers: in what context does an experiment succeed and/or fail, and how might society progress heeding the lessons of experimentation? In conjunction with our May 2018 Exploratory Workshop on Experimentation, UCHRI staff takes stock of the experimental within the humanities as a mode for braving, barefaced, academia’s uncharted waters.

Other readings on Experimentation:

Bruno Latour, “The Force and Reason of Experiment”

Michelle Murphy, The Economization of Life

Mikhail Epstein, “Towards the Techno-Humanities: A Manifesto”  

Humanists at Work

Erin Bartram “The Sublimated Grief of the Left Behind”

When Visiting Assistant Professor of History and blogger, Erin Bartram, gave voice to academia’s “sublimated” broken heart, UCHRI’s HumWork staff, many of whom are former doctoral students, were eager to respond. Our discussion orbits key questions relating to academia outside the academy: Are there applications—practical and non—for the skills amassed during graduate school? When you become a non-affiliate, where does your work go and who is your work for? Or, more abstractly, where does the intellect live? Is it tethered umbilically to discipline, practice, and institution, or might it have breathing rights outside of these traditional loci?  

Other readings on Humanists at Work:

David Graeber, “Punching the Clock”

Amy Olberding, “The Outsider”

Bruce Robbins, “Reading Bad”

Social Heterogeneity

Chris Lebron, “Who first showed us that Black Lives Matter”

Professor Chris Lebron’s piece traces the historical arc that leads society once again to fight fiercely against racial injustice. The Black Lives Matter movement, Lebron stresses, is one among many moments in an unforgiving American trajectory that continually, without abatement, circles back to racial discrimination and aggression. His piece demonstrates that while nothing in fact has changed—bigotry might experience light ebbs and flows, but has never once disappeared—there is a rich intellectual history upon which the Black Lives Matter Movement can both lean, and from which it can draw inspiration. Prompted by the UC-wide Diversity Working Group and “The Racial Calculus: Thinking Through Race Today,” a Los Angeles-based public humanities event, UCHRI staff takes part in this contemporary discourse and with it stresses the significance of keeping Black Lives Matter continuously in the spotlight.

Other readings on Social Heterogeneity:

Clare Mullaney, “The Social Advantage of Pockets”

William H. Frey, “Will Millennials Make America Whole?”

Safiya Noble & Willow Bay, 2018 MAKERS Conference

Future of the University

Ron Srigley “Whose University is it Anyway”

Administration, argues Srigley, is taking over the university system in an act of aggression that includes, most grievously, the usurpation of the university mind. More than ever, he writes, students and professors are encouraged to think and perform as administrators: having been “broken by [administrative] cynicism,” they become outcome oriented, fixated on market value, and are pushed to produce. In simple terms, they become quantifiers over qualifiers. As part of our ongoing discussion around the Future of the University, UCHRI staff debates the impact of the shifting tide in education towards an economizing model that eschews the pleasure of process in favor of product, result, and outcome.

Other readings on the Future of the University:

Vincent Del Casino, Jr., “Machine Learning, Big Data and the Future of Higher Ed”

Eric Johnson, “Is ‘Uber Meets Harvard’ the Future of Learning?”

Colleen Flaherty, “A Different Kind of University”

Civilities at War

Justin Stover, “There is No Case for the Humanities”

If, by some horrible catastrophe, every university was destroyed beyond repair—the labs, the sports fields, the libraries, the tech classrooms all came tumbling down—the humanities would remain untouched among the rubble. While the university may need the humanities to exist—it is its (bleeding) heart—the opposite is simply not true. Why then must we defend them? For Stover, we cannot; we should not. There is no case for the humanities because “the justification for the humanities only makes sense within a humanistic framework.” Self-referential (“self-contained” and “self-serving”), the humanities truly speak for themselves—they can and will endure, despite infrastructure; they were born before the university and will get on without it. Along with Stover, UCHRI staff contemplates why, in this moment, the humanities are relegated to the periphery, yet also how they can rise again.

Other readings on Civilities at War:

Erika Hayasaki, “Is AI Sexist”

The Chronicle, Multiple Authors, “The Awakening”

Jonny Thakkar, “On Being an Arsehole”