Humanities Research and National Defense

A panel of humanities researchers and supporters argued humanities research plays a direct role in national defense at a congressional briefing on Thursday. As reported in Inside Higher Ed, the briefing, which was sponsored by the National Humanities Alliance and the Association of American Universities, explained how research projects funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities helped foster a better understanding of foreign cultures – particularly Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran – and how that knowledge has assisted U.S. military, aid, and diplomatic efforts in those countries. “To understand what’s on the surface, it is necessary to know what is below the surface, and that is often the history and culture of a region,” said Jim Leach, chairman of the NEH and former U.S. representative from Iowa. The projects recognized by the panel included those that cataloged Iranian civilization or Chinese historical figures, studied the history of uranium production in Africa, explored Arab demographic trends, and preserved newspapers from across Latin America.

Part of the briefing’s goal was to garner support for the NEH: Cornell President David Skorton said he would like for individuals to call for an increase in funding for the NEH this year to $167.5 million, what the endowment received in 2010. However, that number “would still fall far short of what we ought to be budgeting,” he said. “The funding we allocate to the humanities has never come close to the value it adds to our lives and the life of our country.” Read more at Inside Higher Ed.

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