After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the 1990s

After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the 1990s

After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the 1990s

After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the 1990s


This book resituates the political correctness debates in the humanities branch of the academy. Contending that conservatives have tainted entire academic disciplines, causing university humanists to go from irrelevant to dangerous overnight, the contributors see the PC debates as a struggle over the very purposes of higher education in the United States. Ronald Strickland and Christopher Newfield have assembled the best and brightest from across the academic disciplines for disclosure on the future of higher education in light of PC.


Christopher Newfield

Ronald strickland

After political correctness developed out of our belief that the attack on political correctness in the humanities was also the humanities' biggest opportunity in years. Though conservatives managed to taint entire academic disciplines, the aroused media attention marked an opening for the academic intellectual. Though university humanists went from irrelevant to dangerous overnight, the pc controversies rejuvenated debate over the purposes of higher education. Though hostile attention is rarely better than none, this time it signaled vulnerability in a conservative cultural order that, during the Reagan Restoration, had seemed relatively secure.

This volume is part of a new phase in the debate among different visions of the humanities. Following the early pc attacks in late 1990, the Center and Left spawned truth squads to refute, rebut, and reject the Right's evidence and conclusions, especially those based on a few anecdotes trapped in a widening circuit of media repetition. These rebuttals were remarkably effective: the news of another side moved the pc conflict from accusation to debate, and mainstream interest faded to the letters pages of book reviews. the next phase, now unevenly under way, involves a broad spectrum of progressive humanists moving beyond temporary self-defense toward a greatly expanded public presence.

The essays in this collection offer a number of perspectives on the debate about political correctness, but they are most concerned with developing prospects for a more public humanities. the writers assembled here believe that the present task is looking forward and detailing the ways and means of moving ahead.

The most urgent project involves redesigning and expanding the social and cultural role of the academic humanities. But this project will be most successful when it more clearly accounts for the meanings and effects of the pc debates. the forces shaping the debate have not gone away, and many of our contributors detail the long-range social changes and underlying cultural shifts that were often dimly rendered, and inaccurately described, by the immediate controversy. pc retained . . .

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