The HRC interprets the ‘humanities’ generously, recognising that new methods of theoretical and empirical enquiry have done much to break down traditional distinctions between the humanities and the social sciences, creative arts and ‘non-traditional’ research practices, natural and technological sciences, and the ‘real worlds’ external to the university.

The Centre encourages interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary (team-based), practice-based, translational, technology-facilitated, and comparative work, and seeks to take a challenging as well as a supportive and representative role in relation to existing discipline-based studies in Australia. One of its central functions is to bring to Australia scholars of international standing who will both provoke and be enriched by fresh ideas both within and beyond the academic community, and gain new networks and communities of practice in the process.

Public culture

We use the term ‘public culture’ as a way to acknowledge that the humanities contributes to shape the understanding and lived experience of all people and communities, that it exists within public and civic spaces and everyday cultures, but that it also represents a scholarly process of critically analysing social lives, connections, places and pasts for the purpose of building new knowledges moving forward.

The phrase encourages us to move away from identifying ‘the humanities’ as a singular end-point or unchanging source or subject, and insists upon engagement and exchange between these elements as a condition of research that is both excellent by scholarly measures and socially meaningful. It relies on recognition of the specificity of the here and now, of history and context, and opens up different options for examining questions about humanization, power, possibility, and nation.

The phrase also represents an interest in interrogating the realms, processes, impacts, integrity and accountabilities of academic practices. For example, it encourages dialogue about what ANU’s national remit means to our diverse stakeholders and communities, and explores possibilities for shared authorship and community led or co-designed humanities scholarship.

The term ‘public humanities’ is sometimes used interchangeably with ‘public culture’ because public humanities is popularly understood to invite contemplation of, and engagement with, cultural and civic life. Reflecting on history and heritage, public humanities projects can allow a diverse public to look critically at issues through cultural organisations, public art, heritage, oral history and material culture.

Disciplinary orientations

Within the University, the HRC coordinates disciplinary and interdisciplinary strengths in and across fields including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, literature, history, art, design, film, philosophy and intellectual history, music, languages, linguistics, environmental and medical humanities, political science and international relations, Indigenous studies, art, and culture, as well as museums and public and digital culture and heritage.

Outside the University, the HRC collaborates with other Australian and international research centres and with libraries and other cultural institutions, such as the National Library of Australia, the National Museum of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, and the National Portrait Gallery.

The Centre’s commitment to the importance of the humanities in the public sphere is represented by its participation in key national and international networks, such as the Australian Academy of the Humanities (AAH), the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (CHASS), The Australian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) and the Consortium of Humanities Centres and Institutes (CHCI).

Updated:  18 January 2022/Responsible Officer:  Head, Centre/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications