The Future of the Human Sciences

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Ivan Jablonka Université Paris 13

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Amid the current crisis in the humanities and the human sciences, researchers should take up the challenge of writing more effectively. Rather than clinging to forms inherited from the nineteenth century, they should invent new ways to captivate readers, while also providing better demonstrations of their research. Defining problems, drawing on a multitude of sources, carrying out investigations, taking journeys in time and space: these methods of inquiry are as much literary opportunities as cognitive tools. They invite experimentation in writing across disciplines, trying out different lines of reasoning, shuttling back and forth between past and present, describing the process of discovery, and using the narrative “I.” We can address the public creatively, decompartmentalize disciplines, and encourage encounters between history and literature, sociology and cinema, anthropology and graphic novels—all without compromising intellectual rigor. Now more than ever, the human sciences need to assert their place in the polis.

Contributor Notes

Ivan Jablonka, a graduate of the École normale supérieure (Paris), is Professor of contemporary history at Université Paris 13. He is the co-director of the series “La République des idées” for Les Éditions du Seuil and is one of the editors in chief at He has in particular published: Les Vérités inavouables de Jean Genet (2004); Enfants en exil: Transfert de pupilles réunionnais en métropole (1963–1982) (2007); A History of the Grandparents I Never Had (2016); and Laëtitia ou la fin des hommes (2016). His “manifesto for the social sciences,” History Is a Contemporary Literature, was published by Cornell University Press in 2018. Email:

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