Background

Following the World Conference in August 2017 in Liège, and in response to its final document of recommendations, ratified by the UNESCO General Conference in November of the same year, several regional conferences have been prepared in the various continents and several new international programs are being implemented. In what concerns new programmes, three projects (a World Humanities Report, a Global History of Humanity and a project of Arts and Society) are underway, in addition to the creation of several new humanities chairs within the framework of the CIPSH and UNESCO, which have established and consolidated important international research networks. Meanwhile, also two new programs are being prepared, on the interfaces of Humanities with Arts and Technologies, and on the financing and sustainability of the Humanities, respectively.

Portugal participated actively in the World Conference, assuming responsibilities in the various programs. Following the UNESCO document on “Guidelines for the Broadening of the Concept of Sustainability Science”, of 2017, a meeting held in Portugal (Mação), in 2019, between the direction of the CIPSH, UNESCO’s Human and Social Sciences sector and coordinators of about 20 major international humanities programs and projects, began a collaborative process, which is formalizing itself as a new action within UNESCO, with the designation of “BRIDGES” coalition. The strong articulation between the Portuguese academic environment and the various international unions and federations that make up the CIPSH, offers an additional reason for the European Humanities Conference to be held in Portugal. The fact that this occurs during the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union enhances the scope that the Conference must aim at, in establishing a fruitful dialogue with the European Commission and the various member countries, which may have consequences for drawing national and Community strategies in the field of the Humanities.

In this context, like the World Conference, the European Conference takes on the field of Humanities (including its various traditions, notably under the designations of Humanities, Geisteswissenschaften and Sciences Humaines) as a set of specific methodologies and perspectives of approach. These, however, are not limited to traditional disciplinary issues and, within the conference, should focus on cross-cutting themes of society, highlighting the specific contribution of the Humanities to our world, in close cooperation with researchers from other disciplines such as the natural, social, engineering, and medical sciences, to discuss educational and scientific policy as well as processes of societal dissemination of knowledge.

 

Articulation with the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of the European Union

The articulation with Portugal will take place in two main levels, considering both the country’s priorities (expressed, inter alia, through the Thematic Agendas of Research and Innovation, the preparation of which is ensured by FCT – https://www.fct.pt/agendastematicas/index.phtml.en), and the priorities discussed at an European level. This articulation should strengthen world reflection with specifically European contributions, while contributing to global reflections and other continents.

The role that the European Union has played worldwide is beyond discussion, in promoting support for international and transcontinental projects for research and socialization of knowledge produced by the Humanities. In this sense, the European Conference will be of added importance, due to the global influence it may have in defining perspectives, processes and priorities in the coming years.

In addition to Portugal having a presence in the above-mentioned projects, which is a goal to be strengthened and manifest at the European Conference, two of the mentioned Thematic Agendas of research and innovation are in direct connection with the general objective of the Conference: Culture and Cultural Heritage (in its four vectors: Cultural Transits, Identities and Memories; Preservation and Sustainability and Changing Environments; Creative Processes, Cultural Production and Plural Society; Language, Technologies, Digital Culture and Production of Value) and Social Inclusion and Citizenship (including: Social inclusion in the knowledge society; Social protection, income and employment; Citizenship and quality of democracy; Territorial equity and mobility).

It should, however, be noted that, since the Conference is a meeting of the Humanities’ perspectives on the most diverse themes of society (and not only of disciplinary topics), the Conference will also have relevance to eight other of the Thematic Agendas of R&I: Climatic changes (in particular the axis of Innovation: Governance, Institutional and Societal Innovation), Portuguese Architecture (Heritage; City-landscape), Urban Science and Cities for the Future (information, participation and governance), Sea (Oceans and society), Health, Clinical and Translation Research (promotion of active and healthy ageing), Cyberphysical Systems and Advanced Forms of Computing and Communication (issues transversal to cyberphysical systems – ethics), Labour, Robotics ad Qualification of Employment in Portugal (qualification of people, skills and factors of employability) and Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality (territories and resources; behaviors and profiles; culture and globalization).

Finally, since linguistic diversity is one of the priorities of CIPSH and UNESCO, the first day of the Conference, to coincide with the International Day of the Portuguese Language, will be an occasion to underline the universal dimension of Languages and their openness to diversity.

 

Themes

The conference’s central theme highlights European Humanities and Beyond. It considers the development and contribution of the Humanities to societal problems in Europe, assuming an understanding of Europe’s responsibilities beyond its borders. In this field, the conference will highlight interactions with other academic traditions in the world and give priority to collaboration with Africa.

The following four specific topics articulate the cross-sectional central theme that raises issues such as climate and environmental changes, the relationship between heritage and historical and identity dynamics, management of urban and low demographic density territories, and legal implications of cultural processes or health and social cohesion.

1. Multidisciplinary Dynamics as Education and R&D strategies for meaningful problem solving 

Discussions will include the teaching of classical and new Humanities in the various education levels, including a R&D approach and the need to consider all disciplines as equally important and closely linked in education: Science education and Humanities education depend strongly on each other and require a close dialogue across disciplinary borders, facing main global challenges (e.g. climate and environmental concerns, health and wellbeing, or digitalization and human rights).

2. Heritage, mobility and identities

Understandings concerning cultural tangible and intangible heritage, identities, memories and intercultural exchanges; the unity and diversity of Humanity; hierarchies and internal colonization of knowledge and knowledge production; languages and multilingualism; threats to human dignity, homophobia and gender studies; mobility processes, from migrations to tourism.

3. Influence and impact of the Humanities in society

Experiences resulting from R&D projects (interaction of researchers and academic institutions with society); contributions of the Humanities to public policies (cities and low-density territories; basins, oceans and environment adaptations; citizenship, democracy and the Humanities; justice; epidemics and health humanities); close cooperation between researchers from the humanities and natural and social scientists, on issues of trust in scientific and academic knowledge and expertise; the know-how of the Humanities in museums, archives and libraries; Humanities, sustainability and SDGs; impact, quality assurance and assessment criteria in humanities research.

4. The Humanities in the 21st Century

The contemporary Humanities have answered promptly to the societal challenges of our times by setting up programs, curricula, centers and institutes in new fields of enquiry, which are known as the New Humanities, or the Posthumanities. The Environmental Humanities raises issues linked to the debates on the so-called Anthropocene, the place of humans in planetary history, and their ability to self-destruct and the motivation to construct sustainable futures. The Digital Humanities connects the debate about the new digital media and information technologies to the civic mission of the university to train responsible, active and informed citizens. The Biomedical Humanities move beyond bioethics to develop an interdisciplinary field that studies the impact of genomics, synthetic biology, stem-cell research, but also the neural sciences, not only on medical practice, but also on society as a whole. The Public Humanities aims at using the potential of the humanities to connect to a broader societal purpose and outreach. Assessing heritage, civic culture and traditions, the public humanities try to (re)connect the humanistic studies which gathered its information from human society back to that society. This section aims to explore the following issues: what examples of best practices can we identify in the new Humanities in European institutions of Higher Education? What is the “humanities” component of these “new humanities”? What meta-patterns do emerge from these developments? Which convergences do we witness between them? What institutional changes and transdisciplinary approaches do they develop?