If interpretive methods and perspectives are necessary to the practice of geography, they are no less necessary to other projects supposedly separate from the project of the humanities. And that is why, in addition to GeoHumanities, we now have Biohumanities (“the humanities not only comment on the significance or implications of biological knowledge, but add to our understanding of biology itself” — Karola Stotz and Paul E. Griffiths), Disability Studies (of which the X-Men films might be both a representation and an instance), Metahistory (the study of the irreducibly narrative basis of historical “fact”), Law and Literature (the laying bare of the rhetorical and literary strategies giving form to every assertion in the law), Cultural Anthropology (an inquiry into the very possibility of anthropological observation that begins by acknowledging the inescapability of perspective and the ubiquity of interpretation), Cultural Sociology (“the commitment to hermeneutically reconstructing social texts in a rich and persuasive way” — Jeffrey C. Alexander and Philip Smith), and other hybrids already emergent and soon to emerge.
What this all suggests is that while we have been anguishing over the fate of the humanities, the humanities have been busily moving into, and even colonizing, the fields that were supposedly displacing them. In the ‘70s and the ‘80s the humanities exported theory to the social sciences and (with less influence) to the sciences; many disciplines saw a pitched battle between the new watchwords — perspective, contingency, dispersion, multi-vocality, intertextuality — and the traditional techniques of dispassionate observation, the collection of evidence, the drawing of warranted conclusions and the establishing of solid fact. Now the dust has settled and the invaded disciplines have incorporated much of what they resisted. Propositions that once seemed outlandish — all knowledge is mediated, even our certainties are socially constructed — are now routinely asserted in precincts where they were once feared as the harbingers of chaos and corrosive relativism.
One could say then that the humanities are the victors in the theory wars; nearly everyone now dances to their tune. But this conceptual triumph has not brought with it a proportionate share of resources or institutional support. Perhaps administrators still think of the humanities as the province of precious insights that offer little to those who are charged with the task of making sense of the world. Volumes like “GeoHumanities” tell a different story, and it is one that cannot be rehearsed too often.