Next Article in Journal
“Hopefully I Won’t Be Misunderstood.” Disability Rhetoric in Jürg Acklin’s Vertrauen ist gut
Next Article in Special Issue
World Citizens: Pathways for the Development of Eco-Citizenship in Higher Education
Previous Article in Journal
Sisters on the Soapbox: Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Her Female Free Speech Allies’ Lessons for Contemporary Women Labor Activists
Previous Article in Special Issue
The University, Neoliberalism, and the Humanities: A History
Article Menu
Issue 3 (September) cover image

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Humanities 2018, 7(3), 70;

The Humanities as Contradiction: Against the New Enclosures

Department of English, Illinois State University, Normal, IL 61790-4240, USA
Received: 13 June 2018 / Revised: 10 July 2018 / Accepted: 13 July 2018 / Published: 17 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Saving the Humanities from the Neoliberal University)
Full-Text   |   PDF [244 KB, uploaded 17 July 2018]


This essay begins by surveying our current moment in the humanities, diagnosing the language of crisis that frames much of the discourse about them. It argues that the crisis is a manufactured economic one not a symbolic one. The problems with many recent proposals—such as the new aestheticism, surface reading, and postcritique—is that they attempt to solve an economic crisis on the level of symbolic capital. They try to save the humanities by redisciplining them and making them mirror various forms amateur inquiry. I describe these approaches as the new enclosures, attempts at returning the humanities to disciplinarity with the hopes that administrative and neoliberal forces will find what we do more palatable. Instead of attempting to appease such forces by being pliant and apolitical, we need a new workerist militancy (daring to be “bad workers” from the point of view of neoliberal managerial rhetorics) to combat the economic crisis produced by neoliberalism. Meanwhile, on the level of knowledge production, the humanities need to resist the demand to shrink the scope of their inquiry to the disciplinary. The humanities, at their best, have been interdisciplinary. They have foregrounded both the subject of the human and all the complex forces that shape, limit, and exist in relationship and contradiction with the human. The essay concludes by arguing that the humanities, to resist neoliberal symbolic logics, need to embrace both a critical humanism, and the crucial challenges to this humanism that go by the name of antihumanism and posthumanism. It is only by putting these three discourses in negative dialectical tension with each other that we can begin to imagine a reinvigorated humanities that can address the challenges of the twenty-first century. View Full-Text
Keywords: humanities; neoliberalism; crisis; humanism; antihumanism; posthumanism; new enclosures; bad workers; postcritique; new aestheticism; surface reading; new formalism humanities; neoliberalism; crisis; humanism; antihumanism; posthumanism; new enclosures; bad workers; postcritique; new aestheticism; surface reading; new formalism
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Breu, C. The Humanities as Contradiction: Against the New Enclosures. Humanities 2018, 7, 70.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Humanities EISSN 2076-0787 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top