Utrecht University Humanities Graduate Conference

Keynote Masterclasses (11.04)

Utrecht University
Graduate Conference

The Utrecht University Humanities Conference 2019 included two masterclasses, led by the conference keynote speakers, Eleonora Belfiore and Simon During. The masterclasses will be simultaneous, and the number of participants is limited to 15 for each masterclass.


Masterclass 1. How Vulnerable are the Humanities?

With Simon During

This masterclass focusses on the problems that arise from the various pressures under which the Humanities are operating today. These pressures include managerialism, globalization, populism and threats to the centrality of the category of “the human” as a result of both global warming and digitalization. The class starts from the position that addressing these problems requires a full and neutral picture of what the humanities are and do: it will ask what would such a picture look like? It also investigates the efficacy of the many defenses of the humanities that have appeared over the past couple of decades. Students will be encouraged to address these issues from the perspective of their particular disciplines.

(required to be studied beforehand)

  1. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2016. “Humanities in the Anthropocene: The Crisis of an Enduring Kantian Fable.” New Literary History 47 (2): 377–97. https://doi.org/10.1353/nlh.2016.0019.
  2. During, Simon. 2014. “Stop Defending the Humanities.” Public Books (blog). March 1, 2014. https://www.publicbooks.org/stop-defending-the-humanities/.
  3. Nussbaum, Martha Craven. 2010. Not for Profit: Why Democracy Needs the Humanities. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chapters 1 and 4.
Masterclass 2. Be Careful What You Wish For: On Impact as a Proxy for Value in Arts & Humanities Research

With Eleonora Belfiore

The context for this masterclass is offered by one of the defining debates in the academic humanities, namely the one around the tension between a desire (and often external pressures) to be useful to those outside academia, and the aspiration to preserve the scholar’s critical distance from the object of analysis, intellectual autonomy and the freedom to critique. Whilst this tension is especially noticeable within a small and emerging interdisciplinary field such as cultural policy research, in which I work, it is not by any means only found there. Taking developments in the UK as the geographical focus of analysis and as an example, it is clear that increasing expectations that research, especially when publicly funded, should have ‘impact’ bring with them similar kind of tensions. Expectation that research ought to deliver ‘impact’, which is often understood as a contribution to policy development, have been hotly contested and resisted, yet an important set of questions still remain open:
• What is the ultimate purpose of critical scholarly research? Or in other words, what comes after critique?
• Is critique for critique’s sake a satisfactory goal for cultural policy analysis or can we envisage a constructive engagement between critical research and policy debates that is not subservient to the needs of policy advocacy?
• Are there ways to articulate the contribution to society of arts and humanities scholarship that avoid turning ‘impact’ into a proxy for ‘value’?

Reflecting on her experience as an eternally engaged scholar and the academic lead for the Warwick Commission for the Future of Cultural Value (2013-5), Prof. Belfiore will invite the participants to explore the possibilities and challenges that publicly engaged research brings, and to develop their skills in articulating the value of scholarship and how to pursue impact and knowledge exchange in ways that preserve the authenticity and integrity of research.


  1. Ang, Ien. 2011. “Navigating Complexity: From Cultural Critique to Cultural Intelligence.” Continuum 25 (6): 779–94. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2011.617873.
  2. Belfiore, Eleonora. 2016. “Cultural Policy Research in the Real World: Curating ‘Impact’, Facilitating ‘Enlightenment.’” Cultural Trends 25 (3): 205–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/09548963.2016.1204050.
  3. Oancea, Alis, Teresa Florez-Petour, and Jeanette Atkinson. 2018. “The Ecologies and Economy of Cultural Value from Research.” International Journal of Cultural Policy 24 (1): 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/10286632.2015.1128418

Masterclass (S. During)

Masterclass (E. Belfiore)