Interdisciplinary Humanities

This secondary area of inquiry promotes interdisciplinary approaches and dialogues between the Humanities and other areas of research.

United States social scientist Daniel Yankelovich identifies "the need to understand other cultures and languages" as one of five imperative needs to which higher education must respond. "Our whole culture," Yankelovich states, "must become less ethnocentric, less patronizing, less ignorant of others, less Manichaean in judging other cultures, and more at home with the rest of the world. Higher education can do a lot to meet that important challenge."

Yankelovich is quoted in the MLA report "Foreign Languages and Higher Education: New Structures for a Changed World" (2007), which highlights the need to change and expand the dialogue across disciplines and cultures within the United States in order to successfully meet the challenges of our complex era.

According to the report the main goal should be focusing on "transcultural competence," which mostly implies that our understanding of culture, history, mass media, and language, should be situated within cultural, historical, and geographic cross-cultural frames. In order to achieve this ambitious goal, an interdisciplinary dialogue is urgent.

In harmony with this MLA-led call, NeMLA has created the Interdisciplinary Humanities trend of discussion, which aims to invite an interdisciplinary dialogue of the Humanities with disciplines that traditionally have not dialogued with the Humanities; for example, hard sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Astronomy, Chemistry, Biology), Economics (Finances, Management, Business), and the health professions (Medicine, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Social Work).

How do we create an ongoing cross-disciplinary dialogue of the Humanities outside of the common alliances (to name a few, History and Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies, Comparative Studies, Religion, Philosophy)?

As language and culture educators, we want to prepare our students to develop the multilayered set of critical thinking skills and problem-solving proficiency that they will need to comprehend and thrive in today’s highly competitive global world.

The Interdisciplinary Humanities forum first started in the 2015 NeMLA Annual Convention in Toronto, Ontario, then continued in the 2016 NeMLA Annual Convention in Hartford, Connecticut, the 2017 NeMLA Annual Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, and the 2018 NeMLA Annual Convention in Pittsburgh. It will also be present at NeMLA's 50th Anniversary Convention in Washington, DC, March 21 to 24, 2019.


Derek DiMatteo
English Department, Gannon University