Department of Culture and Learning

Conference on The Challenges of Arts and Humanities


5 May 2015, Rendsburggade 14

10:00 – 15:30 followed by
wine reception

During the past few decades, a spectre has emerged, which is now haunting the Arts and Humanities in the Western world. The question posed by this spectre is: What is the usefulness of studying Arts and Humanities? A different and more constructive phrasing of the question would be: Which needs in society do the Arts and Humanities respond to and accommodate? However the question is phrased, several answers may be offered.

On the one hand, the usefulness of Arts and Humanities is fairly obvious: Without knowledge of languages, history, culture, media and ethics – areas which are all connected to our existence as human beings in a society – our society would be ill off.
The Arts and Humanities have participated increasingly in cross-disciplinary research and contributed to the development of various emergent research fields in collaboration with, for example, the social and natural sciences. As a result of this, new hybrid disciplines such as cognitive science, humanistic informatics, science technology and society (STS) are now transgressing the traditional divide between natural sciences and Arts and Humanities.

On the other hand, the legitimacy of the Arts and Humanities and the value of their contribution to society and their impact on the economy are being constantly questioned. The consequences of this have manifested themselves in difficulties of funding and decreasing acknowledgment, which has resulted in considerable downsizing, diverse forms of crisis management and, as a consequence, renewed questioning of the validity of the various subject fields, research and teaching methods of Arts and Humanities, as well as of the results achieved.

The debate about the challenges of the Arts and Humanities has called forth several scholarly contributions as well as interesting reports from various commissions investigating the above-mentioned questions. These contributions indicate that the common challenges are prompting different analysis results and different political solutions, depending on countries and contexts. This is the case even within the Scandinavian countries, which are otherwise so similar, and also in the UK and Germany.
The primary aim of this conference is to confront the common challenges of the Arts and Humanities and to compare our different analyses and possible answers with different political solutions within our neighbouring countries (Scandinavia, the UK and Germany); secondly, to identify and discuss societal challenges and possible objectives and roadmaps for the Arts and Humanities.

  • The conference will provide a forum for discussion among scholars engaged in researching and exploring the Arts and Humanities. The following questions will be in focus:What are the core characteristics of the contributions of the humanistic sciences?
  • How do we identify the common challenges and opportunities of the Arts and Humanities today, and what are the different ways in which they are met in the Scandinavian countries, the UK and Germany?
  • In which ways does Arts and Humanities research contribute to societal impact, and what do we envision the impact and role of this research to be in the future?
  • Why did the Humanities not succeed in the first round in Horizon 2020? And connected to this question: What new and more advantageous ways are there of organizing Arts and Humanities research?

Organising Committee

Gunhild Agger, Professor, Department of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University
Lone Dirckink-Holmfeld, Professor, Dean 2009-15, Faculty of the Humanities, Aalborg University
Antje Gimmler, Professor, Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University
Falk Heinrich, Associate Professor, Head of Studies, Department of Communication and Psychology, Aalborg University
Jørgen Stigel, Associate Professor, Vice-Dean, Faculty of the Humanities, Aalborg University


The Faculty of Humanities, The Academic Council, Department of Culture and Global Studies, Department of Communication and Psychology, Department of Learning and Philosophy, and The Obel Foundation.




Conference secretary Ulla Langballe

Further conference information