The Big Humanities, National Identity and the Digital Humanities in Germany

Gregory Crane June 8, 2015 Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Digital Humanities Universität Leipzig (Germany) Professor of Classics Winnick Family Chair of Technology and Entrepreneurship Tufts University (USA) Summary Alexander von Humboldt Professors are formally and explicitly “expected to contribute to enhancing Germany’s sustained international competitiveness as a research location”. And it is as an Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Digital Humanities that I am writing this essay. Two busy years of residence in Germany has allowed me to make at least some preliminary observations but most of my colleagues in Germany have spent their entire careers here, often in fields where they have grown up with their colleagues around the country. I offer initial reflections rather than conclusions and write in order to initiate, rather than to finish, discussions about how the Digital Humanities in Germany can be as attractive outside of Germany as possible. The big problem that I see is the tension between the aspiration to attract more international research talent to Germany and the necessary and proper task of educating the students in any given nation in at least one of their national languages, as well as their national languages and histories. The Big Humanities — German language, literature and history — drive Digital Humanities in Germany (as they do in the US and every other country with which I am familiar). In my experience, however, the best way to draw new talent into Germany is to develop research teams that run in English and capitalize on a global investment in the use of English as an academic language — our short term experience bears...