The NEH assumption is that the overseas summer seminar program is done, dead, buried, and finished. They have decreed it so, in their imperial majesty, while hiding culpability and process.
In response, the most prestigious academic organizations need to take stands, rather than letting this just slide away into fait accompli. I’m pleased to say that the Medieval Academy has done just this.
Their letter is here. It’s signed by William Chester Jordan, the president, and Lisa Fagin Davis, the Executive Director, and I’m very pleased to have their voice on record.
We understand that the NEH has come under increasing budgetary pressure in recent years; however, we feel it continues to be crucial that the NEH support the best possible programming, and the best possible professional support for our Humanities scholars. Excluding Institutes on the basis of their geographical location seems at odds with this.
A foreign-based NEH Summer Institute or Seminar provides many scholars with a rare opportunity to work abroad, to experience the places they study, to consult original documentation and artifacts, and to meet with foreign scholars and lay the groundwork for future collaborations. All of this enriches both the scholarship of these academics and the scholarly culture of our country. Moreover, our participating scholars act as scholarly and cultural ambassadors for the U.S., at a time when our country’s position as a leader in setting global cultural and intellectual trends is increasingly less secure. Cultural isolationism is a not an effective strategy either for our country or for the NEH.
The NEH has, out of fear of the right-wing, chosen isolation. I’ll have more to say about their strategy in the coming weeks.