Why we need applied humanities approaches

Article by Kathryn Strong Hansen: “Since the term “applied humanities” is not especially common, some explanation may be helpful. Applied humanities education prepares students to use humanities knowledge and methods in practice rather than only in theory. As the University of Arizona’s Department of Public and Applied Humanities puts it, the goal is “public enrichment and the direct and tangible improvement of the human condition.” While this goal undoubtedly involves “intrahumanities” outputs like museum and exhibit curation or textual editing, public enrichment through the humanities can also be pursued through science and engineering curricula.

The direct goal of much science education is improving the human condition, such as CRISPR developments opening up possibilities for gene therapies. Similarly, good engineering seeks to improve the human condition, like the LEED-certified building methods that minimize negative impacts on the environment.

Since the humanities concern themselves with the human experience in all its facets, they can offer much to STEM endeavors, and applied humanities approaches have been implemented for many decades. One of the most established applied humanities pursuits is applied linguistics, which has existed as a field of study since about 1948. Another useful and growing example is that of the medical humanities, which provide medical practitioners with training that can help them interact more effectively with patients and navigate the emotional impact of their profession.

While applied approaches might be less widespread or established in other humanities fields, they are just as needed. In part, they are needed because the skills and knowledge of humanities scholars can help students in a multiplicity of fields, including STEM disciplines, to improve their understanding of their subject matter and how it connects to society at large…(More)”.