Why Study the Humanities?

By Dr. Mandy Elliott 

In her 2022 article “The Public Futures of the Humanities,” distinguished scholar and theorist Judith Butler notes that those studying the humanities “use the power of imagination to think beyond the status quo” (49). In other words, studying disciplines like English, psychology, community and urban transformation, film studies, and religion, gives us the ability to imagine a better world and to make it happen, which is what Booth UC is all about.  

We in the Booth UC humanities departments exist to connect with and serve all members of society while consistently adding to our knowledge. Our students study people’s stories and contexts and seek to understand what our society values most at any given point in time. Further, they work to integrate public scholarship into academia in order to dismantle the barriers between different societies and the traditional ivory tower and foster an exchange of knowledge. 

To study and work in the humanities is to defy the market value that neoliberalism attributes to some professions and not others and to strive to ensure equal opportunities to gain and share knowledge. That is, while our culture has enabled increasingly neoliberal institutions to assign value to what knowledge they feel is most lucrative, humanities scholarship operates under the critical assumption that all knowledge is worthwhile, regardless of market value.  

While a humanities degree does not necessarily qualify students for a specific professional path, it instead results in multifaceted graduates who are able to engage in a variety of careers and activities. Popular choices include publishing, archival work, broadcasting, and filmmaking, but grads can also use their degrees for non-profit work, government and policy work, activism, and other critical work that facilitates social change.  

And, even if a given student does not plan to major in the humanities, the skills learned by taking a humanities minor, such as critical thinking, reasoning, and effective communication, are advantageous in all fields of study. 

At Booth UC, we believe that studying the humanities is a crucial part of education for a better world. We’re proud of the work our students do to understand different experiences, contexts, and systemic inequalities and to build a better world through that understanding. 

To learn more about Booth UC’s programs, visit our Academics page.


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