A recently, an episode of the "PhD Comics" webcomic was published that depicted fictionalized versions of some members of my department. The folks depicted were pretty pleased with the comic, and I suppose publicity for the school (since the program has been conflated with another program here, either to protect the anonymity of the folks in the comic or by mistake) is a good thing.
You can read it here.
However, as much as people seem pleased with the comic, I must really, really take issue with the way that my discipline is depicted in this cartoon.
There are a bunch of things I don't like, but right now I'd like to single out the way my colleagues are apparently quoted as saying that, in humanities scholarship, there are "many truths." This sort of simple, pluralist line reinforces what I think is an important mis-representation of what we as humanities scholars do (or at least should be doing, in my opinion).
To say that doing humanities scholarship is about showing that "there are many truths" is like saying that doing environmentalism is about showing that there are many species. Yes, there are, but that is not the point. The point is what is happening to those truths and species under the systems of power at work in contemporary capitalism. Namely, they are being tossed into its gaping maw, shredded, and shat back out as commodities.
And what about the wonderful, snowflake "truth" that our smirking jock-boy conservative ass-clown depicted below lives in? Is it important for us to understand that it exists? Oh yeah. Does that mean we respect it as a co-equal member of the smiling community of truth? Hell no. Our duty is to confront it, to challenge it, to limit the effects of its toxicity where ever we can.
And that means our job is to reach conclusions, to take stands, and to advocate for some truths and not for others. Not because they are the sole truth, but rather quite the opposite, because what truth will prevail is always at stake.