16. - 17. September 2011

The Public Mission of the Social Sciences and Humanities: Transformation and Renewal


In the post-war era, many academic disciplines, especially in the United States, underwent an enormous professionalization and internal differentiation with increasingly self-referential scholarly communication, highly disconnected from the broader public sphere. As part of this process, large segments of academics lost their previously strong ties to non-academic groups (disembedding).

However, the decline of the public mission of academia has not simply been linear and uniform across disciplines and regions – nor is this trend irreversible. This conference and the larger initiative on Academia & the Public Sphere seek to establish a more nuanced picture of the historical transformations of the public role of the social sciences and humanities disciplines, looking at the manifold interdisciplinary and transatlantic variations. This also requires an account of the varying structuration of the public sphere itself. This collaborative effort to study those historical transformations comparatively is intended to inform and reinvigorate the search for pathways to the renewal of the public mission of the social sciences and humanities.

Leading scholars from both sides of the Atlantic who have studied the history and public mission of their disciplines will analyze the historical transformation of the public role of their professions comparatively and critically. 

Marc Helbling
publicmission [at] wzb.eu
WZB, Reichpietschufer 50, 10785 Berlin, Raum A 300
16. - 17. September 2011
WZB, Young Academy at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences (BGSS) and the Social Science Research Council New York (SSRC)