Neoliberal DH?

Hi Everyone,

Today, we have been challenged to answer the following question about Digital Humanities:

To what extent do you think the Digital Humanities (inadvertently or not) embraces neoliberal values in higher education?

It is quite a difficult question for me to answer as I am very new to Digital Humanities community and I am just learning more about DH. Honestly, I will try to answer it with my best knowledge, but I will try to divert the question a bit (maybe on purpose) by talking a bit more general (of course, including DH.)

If we talk about neoliberal values in higher education, we can generalize about every academic discipline as a whole, without excluding DH. (Yes, DH, for me, counts as an academic discipline as equal as “traditional” humanities and probably it would be another essay to talk about it.) So now we want to answer a new question:

To what extent do you think higher education embraces neoliberal values?

This question is also tough to respond, as I do not know how to estimate the extent, but I will first talk about how higher education does embrace neoliberal value, and then I will provide examples when higher education does not.

One of the main value that comes to my mind is that higher education is about money. Firstly, in order to get higher education you have to pay and nowadays, the higher education is very expensive. Many universities (public and private) demand very high tuition and you have to pay high amount. Because of today’s standards many people have higher education degrees, so it is one of the modern era necessities to get a higher education degree. Next, one of the main aims of higher education institutions is not to learn the knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself and growing as a person, but the main aim is to get the diploma to get a better job. It is coming both from people who are seeking higher education and from people who are providing higher education. People are often now thinking about what they can do with their diplomas after graduation and what kind of jobs they can get and how high they can earn. It makes people now learning not because of the fascination of the subject itself, but about what they can achieve afterwards with that degree. For example, I know many people from my major department and those people are majoring in it not because they like it or they find it interesting, but because they think that after graduation they can make more money and have a higher chance for a better job. But, it is ‘free market’ I guess and people can do whatever they are doing, even if they do not like it. Moreover, because this is neoliberal era and this is free market, universities can demand whatever they want and it is people’s decision whether they want to follow higher education and pay the tuition or they can give up higher education.

On the other hand, there are people who are fascinated in their discipline and really want to learn more about it. They are learning about the discipline and they are also willing to contribute to the discipline, without any physical gains. There are still many people who are doing research for the sake of the discipline and because of fascination about research and it is about all disciplines in higher education, including Digital Humanities.

At the end, I still cannot estimate to what extent higher education embraces neoliberal values but I know that it is still growing and getting more of neoliberal values.

Have a good weekend,



One Reply to “Neoliberal DH?”

  1. I would say that neoliberal values have permeated into higher ed because of outside forces, such as economics and politics, where people who don’t see the value in learning how to think but just want people to learn how to do things. It’s not that higher ed has wanted to embrace neoliberalism out of greed or want, but rather just to survive in many cases. And I certainly agree with you that DH is its own discipline, more than just being a methodology applied to more traditional disciplines. It requires a new way of thinking about things!

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