Open Letter on the Fate of Cultural Studies in Poland

UCSB English Department letterhead/

January 1, 2018

Mr. Jaroslaw Gowin,
Minister of Science and Higher Education,
Republic of Poland

cc: Professor Tomasz Majewski, Chair,

Polish Association of Cultural Studies (Polskie Towarzystwo Kulturoznawcze)

Dear Minister Gowin:

I am writing in this open letter to add my voice to those of other international scholars concerned that a pending Polish Higher Education Ministry act will remove Cultural Studies from the list of registered scientific disciplines in Poland.

One of the most intellectually stimulating international visits I have made as a scholar during my 38-year professional career (first at Yale University and then the University of California) was to the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Wroclaw in June 2017, where I gave two talks and met with a remarkable community of faculty, graduate students, and members of the public attracted to the department’s events. Especially of interest was the Laboratory of Contemporary Humanities in the department, which conducts research on the cultural impact of digital media, the relation between humanistic disciplines and scientific “laboratory” disciplines, and the relation between old media such as books and new media such as the Internet. Because my own research in Digital Humanities and New Media Studies connects with these fields, but also because I am a well-known researcher in more traditional humanities scholarship (specifically, early nineteenth-century Romantic literature), I recognize how important Cultural Studies of this kind is for Poland. Many of us in the Digital Humanities field also visited Poland for the first time in 2016 for the internationally important Digital Humanities conference, held that year at Jagiellonian University and the Pedagogical University in Kraków.

Why is Cultural Studies important for Poland? I am also founder of the international 4Humanities.org initiative, which studies the role of the humanities and cultural studies in nations around the world. As part of that project, I am the principal investigator of a major grant-funded project that is researching how the humanities and cultural studies are discussed in newspapers around the world. My own view is that nations wishing to compete globally today need to educate their students not just in cutting-edge scientific, engineering, and computational fields but also in cultural studies fields. That is how a nation can link its unique traits—its history, heritage, culture, and the ethos of its people—to scientific progress. Without that unique ingredient, a nation will always be at the mercy of other nations that have a stronger record in linking scientific progress to the underlying culture and motivation of its people.

Along with other well-known international scholars, I urge your government to reconsider the de-certification of Cultural Studies as a scientific discipline in Poland. In my view, Cultural Studies is exactly what is needed as part of the total intellectual ecosystem of a progressive nation.

Yours truly,
Alan Liu
Distinguished Professor, Department of English
Affiliated Professor, Media Arts and Technology Program
Affiliated Professor, Center for Information Technology & Society