Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Towards New Directions in Humanities Scholarship in Nigeria

                                                Siyan Oyeweso
This paper seeks to explore the possibilities for charting a new path for the Humanities in Nigeria in an age where non-Science subjects, especially, the core Humanities, are treated with disdain in tertiary institutions, the private sector and the government. It argues that the long-standing policy that privileges science-based courses in admissions, job placements, societal and governmental recognition as well as lop-sided funding has contributed to consigning the Humanities to the margins of scholarship in Nigeria, if not in other African countries. It is against this background of unwarranted and ill-informed hostility on all fronts even from fellow academics in non-Humanities disciplines that this lecture tackles the issue of repositioning the Humanities in Nigeria. Essentially, the lecture considers the current developments in the humanities globally and makes necessary suggestions that could chart “new directions” for the Humanities in Nigeria.
It is not uncommon to hear about the imminent collapse of the Humanities. In an age of globalization where almost everything is measured by utilitarian values and science is given a pride of place in decision making, the very existence of the Humanities is threatened. However, I contend in this paper that to deny the importance of the Humanities in the train of civilization and globalization, and shift the focus of the global development from man, the creator, to the tools and skill (sciences) which are his creation, is to deny what makes us human and venture into self-destruction.
Interestingly, the artificial schisms between the Humanities and the core Sciences are getting thinner by the day through the wide application of the interdisciplinary approach to Humanities scholarship. Parts of the central questions which this lecture seeks to answer are: What are the Humanities? What are the challenges facing the Humanities? What possible solutions? What new directions?
The story below best illustrates the critical state of the humanities in Africa. In 2008 the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) introduced the African Humanities Programme (AHP). This initiative seeks to revitalize the humanities in Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda through fellowship competitions and meetings associated with them. The AHP is funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Fellowship awards to promising African scholars are the centerpiece of the African Humanities Programme. Approximately 40 such fellowships have been awarded annually since 2008. The African Humanities Programme is inspired by a commitment to the humanities as a core component of higher education and research in Africa, essential to progress and development.  This ACLS initiative is a timely intervention, indeed, a rescue mission for humanities research and scholarship in Africa. The programme also underscores the need to urgently reposition the humanities in the light of the new challenges peculiar to the present age. Mankind today is confronted with challenges that never confronted it in previous ages. But due to advancement in science and technology, man has to contend with new issues that never arose before, and resolve old problems that have assumed greater magnitude and urgency.
The Humanities are academic fields that study human conditions through analytical, critical or speculative method. The Humanities are also defined as the group of academic disciplines which focus on the study of man in society in its socio-cultural, existential, multi-dimensional realities. The Humanities are concerned with seeking explanations to the phenomenon of life and living and understanding socio-cultural and physical environment of man.[i] According to Perloff (2011) ‘the Humanities are not any one thing. They are all around us and evident in our daily lives. When you visit an exhibition on "The Many Realms of King Arthur" at your local library, that is the Humanities. When you read the diary of a seventeenth-century New England midwife, that is the Humanities. When you watch an episode of The Civil War, that is the Humanities too.’[ii] It seems Perloff’s explanation is too simplistic and inadequate because the meaning of the word ‘Humanities’ goes beyond that. The Humanities consist:
the study of history, literature, modern and classical languages; linguistics; jurisprudence; philosophy; comparative religion; ethics; and the history, criticism, and theory of the arts. Social sciences that employ qualitative approaches such as cultural anthropology, archaeology, and political science are considered part of the Humanities, as are interdisciplinary areas such as women’s studies, …and the study of folklore and folklife (Humanities Texas, 2010).

Rieger views the Humanities as ‘a branch of knowledge composed of clusters of related disciplines’ such as history, philosophy, art, literature, language and religion. She further explains that fields of studies in the Humanities exhibit unifying features and convergence in their perspectives to understanding the diversity and complexity of the world by examining historical, cultural, and philosophical dimensions of human experience.[iii] A more comprehensive definition of the Humanities is given by the United States National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act Of 1965 as includes, but not limited to:
 the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism, and theory of the arts; those aspects of the social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the Humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the Humanities to the current conditions of national life.[iv]

The Act also defines the term ‘arts’ to include but not limited to:
 music (instrumental and vocal), dance, drama, folk art, creative writing, architecture and allied fields, painting, sculpture, photography, graphic and craft arts, industrial design, costume and fashion design, motion pictures, television, radio, film, video, tape and sound recording, the arts related to the presentation, performance, execution, and exhibition of such major art forms, all those traditional arts practiced by the diverse peoples of this country. [,] and the study and application of the arts to the human environment.[v]

In her book, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, Nussbaum (1997) argues that the purpose of liberal education is to cultivate humanity through three basic capacities. First, humanity can be cultivated through critical self examination and critical thinking about one’s own culture and traditions. Second, humanity makes a man a being who is bound to all humans with ties of concerns. Third, through humanity, individual builds capacity for narrative imagination - the ability to empathize with others and to put oneself in another’s place.[vi]
Perhaps the problems confronting the Humanities began to surface in 1859 when Charles Darwin published his controversial work, the Origin of Species. There is no doubt that theology was the first victim of the Darwinian Theory, How? One of the dreadful and pessimistic tones on the future of the Humanities was made by Byrum (1978:35) in his essay, Much Ado about Little? The Crisis in the Humanities ‘The Humanities, if we are to trust their academic spokesmen, are in trouble’[vii]. The multiple problems facing the Humanities today were caused by myriad of factors. In the first instance, the elites who have benefitted from different fields of study in the Humanities and occupied top positions in the society felt threatened by the roles of the Humanities at liberating common people. The anti-intellectual tendency of the ruling class has been nakedly displayed in the budget allocation and education policy. Two subtle strategies were adopted by this group to mute the voices of scholars in Humanities. First, efforts have been made to redirect and narrow the range of societal debates to insignificant and almost irrelevant issues. Second, there were also bureaucratic and systematic persecutions of the Humanities through financing and administrative policies.
Another startling challenge posed to the Humanities came from the society. There seems to be a rapid degeneration and substitution of societal values for the utilitarian values. The prevailing laissez faire principle and the widening gap between the rich and poor encouraged the use of wealth and material things to measure the standard of societal progress. As far back as 1976, Oloruntimehin observes: ‘There is little doubt that we are in the age of materialism, interested primarily in pursuit and results of demonstrable immediate benefit. It is an age which conceives of progress nearly exclusively in term of affluence and technological feat.[viii] Consequently, products of the Humanities became objects of ridicule and persecution in the hands of avaricious capitalists who dictate and control the current of the world economy. The tendency now is to link the value of education directly to the employability of its products. Evidently, the rate of unemployment and poverty of products and scholars of the Humanities is shocking. As postgraduate programs in the Humanities proliferate irresponsibly, turning out more and more graduates who cannot find jobs, the waste of human talent becomes enormous and intolerable.
More importantly, scholars in the Humanities have become very passive and unconcerned about developments in the society. Their withdrawal from public debate, rather debating among their colleagues, has made many people to conclude that, scholars from the Humanities are either timid or bored. The low research outputs by scholars who seek refuge in the four walls of the class keep the rating of the Humanities constantly low.
In addition, the gradual erosion of national boundaries (the process of denationalization) through new technology has also posed serious challenges to the Humanities. With the advent of sophisticated technology, the place and relevance of the Humanities in human development became increasingly threatened. New global communication technology has facilitated the globalization of information and capital flows. Perhaps, the slow response of various academic fields in the Humanities to the tide of globalization has retarded their contributions to the material world in the post-modern period. This problem has been compounded by the vulnerability of fields of study in the Humanities through conservative adherence to old curricula. But whether globalization is a continuous phenomenon or a new slogan, globalization is both a continuity and a change for the Humanities. It is the link between the past, the present and the unborn future. The myriad of problems of development facing the third world today can neither be solved by science nor material things alone.
The Humanities are unquantifiable assets every nation possesses. In recognizing the place of Humanities in national development, the United States Congress in 1965 declared ‘The arts and the Humanities belong to all the people of the United States.’[ix] Development is a human question that can be answered by man himself. In the capitalist and multicultural democracy of the twenty-first century where money and material objects, rather than knowledge and exposure to the intellectual dimensions of the human experience, are the parameters of measuring physical and social developments, the role of the Humanities in fostering human development cannot be denied. Through exposure to the Humanities, different societies have passed through the ethical, aesthetic, and intellectual dimensions of the human experience, past and present, and so are prepared to make thoughtful and imaginative contributions to the culture of the future.
Despite the pessimism and lack of support for the Humanities, an advanced civilization cannot limit its efforts to science and technology alone. Other great branches of scholarly and cultural activities must contribute in order to achieve a clearer picture of the past, a better assessment of the present and a better analysis of the future.[x]   The Arts and the Humanities reflect the high place accorded by the people to the nation’s rich cultural heritage and fostering of mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all persons and groups.

Humanities and preservation of culture
The Humanities centre on critical thoughts which engage in continuous critical reflections of the past and the presents with the goal of affecting the future. Again, the Humanities could be seen as the imaginative studies of human experiences, critical thinking and analysis of cultural structures which help in the preservation and exploration of our collective socio-cultural memory. All the disciplines that are found under the Humanities, from philosophy to history, music to drama and languages are, without doubt, repository of culture and centre on how human knowledge have come to being. Beyond the building of museums, art galleries and monument for culture preservation, the Humanities preserve human culture in its totality through knowledge. During the early stage of colonialism when the Europeans were condemning African civilization as barbaric and attributed every sophistication to the now discredited Hamitic hypothesis, humanities scholars laboured intellectually to unearth the contributions of Africa to human civilization and helped the world to appreciate the knowledge of Africa’s rich heritage. The humanities act as a bridge between the distant past and posterity. History, which is just a strand of the Humanities, plays this role since it is the record of human activities in time perspective.[xi]
At this juncture, I crave your indulgence to speak briefly about the centrality of History to the Humanities. History is the study of the past and the past that exclusively concerns human.[xii] Every other things described by the historians, whether natural phenomenal or animals, are only relevant in historical discourse as it affects humans. Thus the entire knowledge we have today of the human world was derived from the Humanities.  History and society are inextricably linked, according to Guy Rocher,
Society is history. It is constantly engaged in an historical movement, in a transformation of itself, its members; of its environment as of other societies with which it maintains relations...

History has been the instrument for organizing into intelligible knowledge the changes which have occurred in the past of any society, and interpreting the collective and individual experiences to provide understanding for the present and a guide for the future. History is a medium for educating leadership as well as transmitting the culture and cosmology of the people to successive generation. The tool that is used however is language which also points to the sinews of the humanities in the making of any society. A society without the ideals of Humanities heads toward destruction. It is through the humanities that we come to be aware of our identity and culture, religion and philosophy. The basis of law, institutions, and customs are determined by the Humanities. Humanities is lived and felt in human lives and it is used to establish a political and social order. The Humanities are built upon the thorough understanding of the heritage of the society.

Apart from the focus on the study of history, we also use languages to promote cultural studies, Humanities and preservation of African languages

The language policies of most African countries are very poor. By the beginning of the twenty first century, African languages have become secondary or adjunct among the literate native speakers. It has been argued that in about 150 years’ time, the studies of African languages would have ceased in all our higher institutions of learning.[xiii] The threat of extinction of African languages can be linked to a few factors. First, the various colonial administrations in Africa yoked different groups with distinct ethnic and linguistic identities together for administrative convenience. The imposition of foreign languages as official languages by African governments in the post-colonial period set in motion the gradual death of the indigenous languages. This problem is compounded by the language policy of most African governments. Except with few countries such as Egypt and Libya in North Africa where Arabic is adopted as the official language, and Somalia and Ethiopia where English language is adopted as adjunct language of instruction at the primary and secondary levels, indigenous languages are receding as the medium of official and social interaction in the rest of African countries. In the Anglophone and the Francophone countries of Africa, both English and French languages are accepted as the language of instruction from primary school to the University level and for use in the broadcast media.
          The worst victims of language policies in Africa are the minority groups. Two stages have been predicted for the extinction of minority languages. First, minority languages submit to the predator (majority) languages. Second, they succumb to the pressure from foreign languages. In addition to the menace posed to them by the foreign languages, languages of the majority groups also threaten the very existence of the minority languages.[xiv] In Nigeria for instance, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, which belong to the three major ethnic groups are the most widely spoken among the indigenous people. The implication of this is not only the threat of disappearance of the minority languages; there is also the problem of identity for the minority groups.
How can African countries escape the clutches of language predators? One of the most loudly advertised solutions to the language problems in Africa is that the language of the majority groups should be adopted as the lingua franca. While this is a promising solution, it is to the disadvantage of the minority languages. Although the use of Swahili in some countries in East Africa has checked the growth of English language in that region, it has almost led to the extinction of some weak indigenous languages. In addition, the imposition of languages of the three major ethnic groups will be an attempt to de-legitimize languages of the minority groups. This can spark unprecedented language-based violence in the country. What Nigeria and other African countries need is a long term language policy that will encourage indigenous languages, first at the grass root and then at the state level. A good example can be emulated from the multi-lingua India. The 1951 population census in India reported 845 languages and dialects in the country. The 1961 population census recorded about 1,642 “mother tongues”. The government of India has adopted it as a language policy to allow each state to own its official language while central government business is conducted either in Hindi or in English. Within each state in India, at least fifteen languages are spoken by an overwhelming majority. To protect the minority groups within each state, the Indian constitution guarantees that all children may receive education in their mother tongue and that the state government may not discriminate against educational institutions on the basis of language of instruction. The constitution also provides for the appointment of a Special Officer who will serve as a watchdog over the socio-cultural right of the minority groups[xv].
A long term language policy advocated here involves the encouragement of both written and spoken indigenous languages at the grass root level. The Nigerian Government should therefore take a cue from the successful Indian example and not only encourage the use of indigenous languages both at the primary and secondary, but should go further to enforce compliance. It has been argued that pupils taught in their mother tongues are likely to do better than children who began their studies with English language. The Ife Six Year Yoruba-medium Primary Education Project has testified to this claim.[xvi] Another advantage of the proposed system is also that, it is easier and faster to think in one’s language than in a foreign language.
The adoption of indigenous languages by our legislature at the state level should be encouraged to prevent the extinction of indigenous languages. The roles of scholars in the humanities will include not only researches and the publication of their findings but also their active involvement in various public debates and publicity. Apart from scholars, it has also been suggested that Local Governments in Nigeria can play a useful role in the preservation of indigenous language in the country. The Federal Government has a herculean task to deal with in the day-to-day administration. It therefore suffices that the preservation of indigenous language be handled by other levels of government like the Local Governments. In this regard, the Local Government can help to facilitate the collection and collation of indigenous languages of their communities for preservation. It could establish special schools to train local language teachers who will, in turn, be teachers in primary and secondary schools. In the same vein, the local authorities should be able to monitor the progress of the language teachers in the schools.[xvii]
It is significant to note that the above arguments should not be interpreted as the obliteration of foreign languages in Nigeria but an exercise to preserve the identities of the various peoples of Nigeria. The role of English as a second language in Nigeria cannot be ignored due to its functions as a world language as well as a common language to the different peoples of our nation. Since English as used in Nigeria has been observed and confirmed by research as remarkably different from standard forms such as British and American English, and the trend is towards the development of the world Englishes, Nigerian English should be codified and a common point of reference for teaching and learning of the English language be established.  Facilities required for the teaching and learning of the foreign languages should be provided to achieve optimal proficiency.
             Another direction we should focus on is the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the preservation of languages. As language remains our window to the world, the ICT has been found to provide us with an opportunity to tackle the problems of endangerment and language death pragmatically and cost effectively. As observed by Francis Egbokhare,[xviii]
Technology provides us with an opportunity to move from ’communication babel’ to ‘linguistic Pentecost’. ICT provides the bridge between languages, the gateway between cultures and the network between minds. We must however engage it, adapt and deploy it.

The ICT would help to nativise our technology. One of its greatest impacts, according to Egbokhare
is that technology will no longer be seen as belonging to foreign cultures and peoples. In this sense, it will influence the thinking process and attitude to technology. Second, it will increase the sense of pride and value in local languages and cultures and thus help to preserve them. ICT becomes something that can be owned and appropriated. Third, it will enable Nigerians, especially over forty million Yoruba people engage in the Global Information Infrastructure (GII). This innovation has a potential for redefining literacy since one can be literate only in Yoruba and still have access to the GII.[xix]

Interdisciplinary studies may be defined as a process of answering a question, solving a problem, or addressing a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately by a single discipline or profession.[xx] It is an attempt to combine methodologies from different discipline to offer analysis and interpret a situation which may otherwise have defied one singular approach. It is a process that brings together researchers of different disciplinary background for a common goal, while the respect and purity of each discipline is maintained.[xxi] Interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary studies attempt an integration of diverging perspectives and harmonization of various branches of knowledge to understanding phenomena. It is a work that can be traced or located across literature, philosophy, science, mythology and arts, borrowing ideas and approaches from them and transforming those into original and synthesized voices.[xxii] Two levels of interdisciplinarity have been identified by Klein (2005). These include narrow interdisciplinarity and broad interdisciplinarity. Narrow interdisciplinarity occurs between disciplines of comparative methodologies such as history and philosophy while broad interdisciplinarity occur among areas of disciplines with contrasting methodologies such as sciences and humanity.[xxiii]
The concept of interdisciplinary studies is not new in the humanities discourse and it has been used extensively for all intents and purposes in history, especially when historians attempt a reconstruction of the past. In this category belongs ancillary studies which draws on many sister disciplines like Archaeology, Linguistics and Philosophy. Albeit this may appear narrow for interdisciplinary attempts, yet it shows that it is not unknown to the humanities. A broader form of interdisciplinary process could be located in Ogunleye’s example of theatre artists working with psychiatrists at mental institutions with psychological drama therapies for patients.[xxiv] The hybridization of disciplines allows for pluralistic knowledge that helps formulate and analyze global cultural realities.[xxv] In the recent times, the attempt at interdisciplinarity in the humanities has led to these two concepts, Medical Humanities and Digital Humanities. The critics of interdisciplinary approach in humanity have however warned of the risk of surface research that lacks substance in depth and breadth and that is bereaved of scholarly quality. Kamboureli summarizes these concerns that, unless we foster specialization along with interdisciplinary methodologies, we run the risk of producing a kind of general knowledge that will lack depth and substance, a general knowledge whose pedagogical, cultural and political implications will not serve the needs of our communities.[xxvi]

  Interdisciplinary fields of humanities (literature, philosophy, ethics, history and religion), social science (anthropology, cultural studies, psychology, sociology), and the arts (language, literature, theater, film, and visual arts) and their application to medical education and practice are relatively new and largely unexplored especially in the developing countries of Africa.[xxvii] Medical Humanities deal with the intersection of human experience, medical practice, and scientific technology and transcend the disciplinary boundaries of academe and engage all aspects of human culture - science, history, ethics, philosophy, literature, religion, art - in a discursive dialogue centered on what medicine means in relation to the individual and society.[xxviii]   Owing to the rich and in-depth knowledge of the humanities, it is believed that it could offer an invaluable insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood, our responsibility to each other.[xxix]  It is an outgrowth of concern to tackle the growing dehumanization of medical care. Being an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the health and medical conditions of patients, it thus offers a historical perspective on medical practice. Attention to literature and the arts help to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection - skills that are essential for human medical care. The medical practitioners are made more sympathetic towards their patients and improve their ethics in the course of discharging the duty required of them.
 A trip to many   hospitals today in Nigeria reveals the lack of coordination not only in the tracking of the medical history of the patient, but also in the ethical behaviours of many medical practitioners who are largely  insensitive to patients plights or choose to ignore the plights of patients, at times till death. The humanities help us to understand how bioscience and medicine take place within cultural and social contexts and how culture interacts with the individual experience of illness and the way medicine is practiced. Medical Humanities explores how humanities disciplines can engage and illuminate the nature, goals and practice of medicine.[xxx] Sir Kenneth Calman, Chancellor of the University of Glasgow sums it up:
Perhaps the most important characteristics of medical humanities is (sic) that it links seemingly disparate disciplines and stimulates collaborations that benefit patients. In this tradition, the work which will be presented here comes from medical and arts communities, and from healthcare as well as academia. It promises to generate discussion and new ideas, and stimulate further development.[xxxi]
The concept of Medical Humanities is relatively new in African countries or perhaps yet to be identified within Africa. If anything, the concept represents attempts by intellectuals to bridge the lacunae between the field of medicine and the humanities and show that both are not necessarily diametrically opposed. The disciplines encompassed by medical humanities cross the borderlands between medical school, hospital and other healthcare provider programmes, and also traverse the university.[xxxii] Many of the critics of this concept have argued that medical humanities is a term which emanate from humanities scholars whose discipline is facing challenges of relevance in an increasing age of consumerism which lay values on material reward and is highly technologically oriented. They conclude that it is derived from the want of relevance. The critic may not be out of context for the discipline of medical humanities is still facing identity crisis which extends beyond its name[xxxiii]. However, identity crisis is not peculiar to medical humanities; it is as true for many disciplines at their tender age of existence.  Contrary to the critic arguments however, the concept was developed by Dr Pellegrino, a foremost medical practitioner whose concern for the erosion of ethics in medical practices in the US and evasion of sympathy for economic reward in the profession has earned him ‘the father of Medical Humanities’.      
According to Campo, the emotions of knowing intuitively that the way medicine is now taught and practiced is simply wrong, that the humane is being supplanted by unfeeling science and uncaring economics[xxxiv]. The work of doctoring in our moment, has been converted from a sacred vocation borne of the desire and duty to alleviate suffering into a merely financially rewarded, technically challenging line of work. Thus, many of us find ourselves looking instinctively to the humanities as a source of renewal, reconnection, and meaning[xxxv].
For Nigerian Universities, the Medical Humanities will represent a new direction not only in the Humanities and Medical faculties, but also in the practice of medicine in Nigeria. Through personal experience and relations with many of the medical students as an undergraduate in this university many years ago, it was realized that many of the students studying medicine choose their career path not necessarily because of the humane nature of the job, but most importantly because it pays the bill. This factor among others determines their dispositions towards their patients. Perhaps the incessant regular strike embarked upon by our medical doctors to demand a pay rise would explain this better.
Colleges and faculties of humanities in Nigeria will do well to redefine the curricular so as to incorporate the elements of medical humanities in their curricula. By so doing medical students would be encouraged to take courses in the humanities for better ethical knowledge. The humanities faculties in our universities should move with the trends in humanities discourse and work relentlessly to encourage students to write their long essays in the new area. This will further promote the relevance of the Humanities in the world of scholarly discourse and contribute significantly to the ongoing debate.

The concept of digital humanities is not as new as it may seem[xxxvi] and according to Hockey[xxxvii], it has a very well known beginning traceable to 1949, when an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Roberto Busa, began what even to this day is a monumental task: to make an index verborum of all the words in the works of St Thomas Aquinas and related authors, totalling some 11 million words of medieval Latin. Though the concept is plagued by definitional problems owing to various definitions from scholars and practitioners of Digital Humanities, for workable definition, it could mean an interpretation of the cultural and social impact of new media and information technologies—the fundamental components of the new information age—as well as creates and applies these technologies to answer cultural, social, historical, and philological questions, both those traditionally conceived and those only enabled by new technologies.[xxxviii]  Reiger defines ICT within the context of humanities scholarship as comprising ‘a range of technologies and associated practices that support creating, sharing, accessing, processing and archiving information as well as facilitating communication’[xxxix]. She however views digital humanities as ‘a range of ICT applications that converge at the intersection of technology and humanities scholarship’[xl].
 The Digital Humanities henceforth called DH is the appropriation and adaptation of information technology to storing data, accessing data, sharing data between and among scholars widely distributed on the worldwide web otherwise called internet. The digital age - characterized by  web-based media forms, massive data archiving, social networking, mapping technologies, visualization of environments, and cloud computing - has brought about a transformational moment that far exceeds the oft-compared revolution caused by the invention of the printing press due to the nearly limitless possibilities for the creation, analysis, and dissemination of knowledge.[xli]
Traditionally, the humanists depend largely on archival materials, field studies, interviews, library, journals and documents to conduct research and disseminate knowledge to their audiences. The revolution in technology and the information age has brought changes to the conduct of research which allows scholars not only to research electronically, but also make their results available via the same means. Humanists are exploring differing modes of engagement, institutional models, technologies and discursive strategies. There is also a strategy-level push for the digital humanities which, among other things, affects university research strategies, external funding and recruitment.[xlii] The Digital Humanity Manifesto 2.0 (2009) states that Digital Humanities is not a unified field but an array of convergent practices that explore a universe in which: a) print is no longer the exclusive medium in which knowledge is produced and/or disseminated; instead, print finds itself absorbed into new, multimedia configurations; and b) digital tools, techniques, and media have altered the production and dissemination of knowledge in the arts, human and social sciences.[xliii]
Significantly, embracing digital humanities will foster scholarly communication that enhances the creation, exchange and dissemination of knowledge within the context of academic discourse. To be more relevant in this ICT age, it is very important for scholars in the humanities to appropriate and customize internet technologies to their field of studies. Through appropriation and customization of digital infrastructure, scholars in the humanities will not only adapt and create new platforms for dissemination of research outputs but will also reach more sources and audiences. Another clarion call to all Colleges and Faculties of Humanities is to create Digital Humanities Centres (DHC) equipped with cyber infrastructure that will enable technical and social configuration to aid the development of digital humanities. Our libraries should go digital to be able to have a place in the 21st century humanities scholarship. The role of government in promoting research into this interdisciplinary approach will go a long way opening up this area of study. For example in Europe, there is EU-funded research on cultural heritage, digital libraries and digital preservation (DigiCult). The Nigerian government will do well to learn from the EU by funding researches. It is my hope that humanities scholars in Nigeria universities will avail themselves of the opportunities to key into these developments in humanities scholarship.
There is also the need to re-emphasise African cultural studies in African Humanities curricula. The sources of culture to be incorporated into the curricula range from the repertoire of African music of various kinds, to the striking epiphanies of African Films, especially Nollywood which has recently been rated the second largest in the world, to the stand-up comedy initiatives, to the making of social, political and economic cultures of communities and states in order to come to full terms with their humanistic and artistic merits, which are ultimately exploitable for the actualization of development.
Furthermore, the need to re-position the humanities in Nigeria is reinforced by the fact that the repositioning of the humanities has not only been done in Western universities, but it is an ongoing process (Khor, 2001:24). In this regard a scrutiny of the syllabus of the humanities in Europe and America would reveal a refreshing departure from that of three decades ago. For instance, in the Department of History, Cleveland State University, Credit courses in African Religious Influence in America, Contemporary Afro-American Relations as well as African Arts have been added to the conventional Afro-American History (Williams, 2010:2). In the U.K., and so many universities in the U.S. the humanities and the natural sciences have been organically fused to create such disciplines as Medical Humanities, Humanities Computing, Gender Studies, Media Studies Ethnicity Studies, etc. (Adesegun, 2007: 452; Wikipedia, 2010: 1). By creating these hybrid disciplines, the strengths of the humanities are made available to the sciences and vice versa. This tendency towards interdisciplinarity finds manifestation in the adoption of integrated teaching approach in many colleges of Humanities in American universities (Williams, 2010: 9). A noteworthy example in this regard is The Initiative for the Study of Religion and Spirituality in the History of Africa and the Diaspora (RASHAD), by the Department of History, Cleveland State University (Williams, 2010: 1) It is not surprising that in 2009 the Association of American Colleges and Universities at the end of its annual convention issued a communiqué urging the Humanities to de-emphasize the Ivory Tower view of liberal education and emphasize more its practical and economic value (Cohen, 2009: 2).
At this juncture, the point is worth noting that the need to reposition the Humanities has not been totally lost on Nigerian scholars. Indeed, as far back as 1996, the Department of History, Lagos State University, blazed the trail when it reviewed its Curriculum and transformed itself into the Department of History and International Studies (Oyeweso, 2006:4; Olukoju, 2007: 178).
Indeed, this development is not by any means limited to history alone. Similar trend can be seen in the transformation of Departments of English Language to Departments of English and Literary Studies, English and Creative Arts etc. Similarly, Mass Communication Departments across Nigerian universities have being resorting to nomenclature change such that in place of Mass Communication the tendency is to combine Mass Communication with Film Studies, or rechristen it as Communication and Media Studies, etc.
However, curriculum review and nomenclature change is not an end in itself. The belief is that by so doing, graduates of Nigerian humanities colleges can possesses an education that has both academic content, and vocational content. Thus, such graduates would have the benefit of the refinement that comes with liberal arts education, as well as vocational skills that place them in good stead in the employment market. This is the philosophy behind the curriculum design in the College of Humanities and Culture, Osun State University, where all the courses on offer are double honours.
Scholarship in the Humanities in Nigeria has its peculiar challenges especially in the contexts of the worsening crises of underdevelopment, nation building and globalization. Scholars in the humanities possess skills and knowledge that are valuable in contemporary world. However, deploying these unique skills in the service of mankind in this ever changing world requires pragmatism and not dogmatism on the part of Nigerian scholars in the humanities. This is no time to be cocooned and oblivious of developments in other parts of the world. The Nigerian humanities scholar of today cannot afford to be provincial in his scope or methodology. Indeed, this paper asserts that this is the era of digital humanities. There must be fruitful dialogues between the sciences, the technologies and the humanities. Newly emerging interdisciplinary fields such as bio-humanities, medical humanities, forensic linguistics and computational linguistics must also be explored if the humanistic disciplines are to remain relevant in the contemporary age. It is the conviction of this paper that the foregoing is sine qua non for a better repositioning of the humanities scholarship in Nigeria. 


[i]B. Olatunji Oloruntimehin, ‘Rethinking Humanities Scholarship in Africa’, In Sola Akinrinde, Dipo Fashina, David O. Ogundigbile and J. O. Famakinwa (eds) Rethinking the Humanities  in Africa (Faculty of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, 2007).
[ii] Marjorie Perloff Crisis in the Humanities http:/ (accessed on 13/06/2011).
[iii]Oya Yiedrim Rieger, Humanities Scholarship in the Digital Age: The Role and Influence of Information and Communication Technologies (Ph.D. thesis: Cornell University 2010).
[iv] 20. U.S.C. 951, National Foundation on the Arts and The Humanities Act Of 1965, National endowment for the Arts Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations and Related Agencies (2010).
[v] Ibid.
[vi] Martha C. Nussebaum, Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defence of Reform in Liberal Education (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, Harvard University Press, 1997).
[vii] Byrum E. Carter, ‘Much Ado about Little? The Crisis in the Humanities’. Change, Vol. 10, No. 3. Pp.35-37. (Taylor & Francis, Ltd, 1978)

[viii] B. Olatunji Oloruntimehin, ‘History and Society’ An Inaugural Lecture Delivered at the University of Ife on 24th February, 1976 (University of Ife Press, 1976).
[ix] 20. U.S.C. 951, National Foundation on the Arts and The Humanities Act Of 1965.
[x] Ibid.
[xi] B. Olatunji Oloruntimehin, ‘History and Society.’
[xii] W. H. Walsh, An Introduction to Philosophy of History (New Jesey: Humanities Press, 1967).
[xiii] Munzali Jibril, ‘New Directions in African Linguistics’, In Sola Akinrinde, Dipo Fashina, David O. Ogundigbile and J. O. Famakinwa (eds) Rethinking the Humanities  in Africa (Faculty of Arts, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, 2007).
[xiv] Ibid.
[xv] Ashutosh VarshneyCitizenship and Identity Politics: The Indian Experience’. In Citizenship and Identity Politics in Nigeria. (Conference Proceedings) (Lagos: Cleen, 2009).

[xvi] Munzali Jibril, ‘New Directions in African Linguistics’.
[xvii] Babalola, E. Taiwo, “ The Development and Preservation of Nigerian Languages and Cultures: The Role of Local Government”, in Studia Anglica Posnaniensia: International review of English Studies, January 1, 2002, accessed 0n 16-06-2011 from 
[xviii] Francis Egbokhare, iConnect Africa Volume 1, Issue 5, July 2003, accessed on 16-06-2011 from
[xix] ibid
[xx] Klein, Julie Thompson and William H. Newell. "Advancing Interdisciplinary Studies." Pp. 3-22 in Interdisciplinarity: Essays from the Literature, William H. Newell, editor. New York: College Entrance Examination Board, 1998: 3.  
[xxi]Ogunleye Funke, ‘Interdisciplinarity and Nigerian Universities: Designing Drama Courses for Non-Humanities Majors’, In Sola Akinrinade, Dipo Fashina, David Ogungbile and J.O Famakinwa, (eds.) Rethinking The Humanities in Africa (Nigeria, Cedar Productions, 2007) pp. 403-412
[xxii] Ibid 406                                                                           
[xxiii] Oya Yiedrim Rieger, Humanities Scholarship in the Digital Age.
[xxiv] Ibid, p 404
[xxv] Benjamin Berger, etal, “The Humanities in 2010: Alternative World” Report of the Working Group on the Future of the Humanities, (Ontario: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, 2001) p. 17
[xxvi] Large-Scale Research Project and the Humanities. Report Prepared by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, June 2006
[xxvii]Aull Felice, Medical Humanities,, accessed 13/06/2011
[xxix] Aull Felice, Medical Humanities,, (accessed 13/06/2011)

[xxxii] Ibid                                                                        
[xxxiii] Ibid
[xxxiv] Campo Rafael, ‘The Medical Humanities, For Lack of a Better Term’,  the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA),, (accessed 14/06/2011)
[xxxv] Ibid
[xxxvi] Svensson Patrik, ‘The Landscape of Digital Humanities,’ Digital Humanities Quarterly (dhq), accessed 14/06/2011
[xxxvii] Susan Hokey, The History of  Humanities Computing,
[xxxviii] What is DH,, accessed 14/06/2011
[xxxix] Oya Yiedrim Rieger, Humanities Scholarship in the Digital Age.
[xl] Ibid.
[xli] Ibid.
[xlii] Svensson Patrik, The Landscape of Digital Humanities,  Digital Humanities Quarterly (dhq), accessed 14/06/2011
[xliii] Presner, Todd, et al. "The Digital Humanities Manifesto 2.0". UCLA Mellon Seminar, Digital Humanities.

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