In a 1959 lecture British physical chemist and novelist C.P. Snow addressed the dangerously divided state of intellectual life, arguing that knowledge-making was increasingly fractured into “two cultures.” Scientists and “literary intellectuals” were becoming so isolated from one another that each side’s ways of thinking were nearly unintelligible to the other. Such rifts, in Snow’s appraisal, could trouble the foundations of modern society. “When these two senses have grown apart,” he warned, “then no society is going to be able to think with wisdom.”
In the drive towards specialization and professionalization the 21st century university has further stressed disciplinary fault lines, creating even bigger gaps between a plethora of distinct intellectual cultures. While now the division of disciplines in the name of specialization may feel second nature, Snow’s alarm at the development of the two cultures just 60 years ago is a potent reminder that such divides are far from inevitable or natural.
Lehigh University’s Humanities Lab has been established as an experimental effort to mend some of these broken links and weave the disciplines back into a more symbiotic and integrated structures. While such work is increasingly undertaken by individual scholars, our approach ambitiously strives to create institutional scaffolding across campus that doesn't just allow but foments these efforts both at the level of faculty research and undergraduate teaching.
In sum, Lehigh’s Humanities Lab is an interdisciplinary experiment designed to create new knowledges by reintegrating academic disciplines that have been slowly atomized over the past two hundred years of institutionalized academic learning. We seek to reconstitute epistemic affinities and craft new ways of researching by implementing Humanistic strategies across all disciplines and welcoming all disciplines into the Humanities. Lehigh’s Humanities Lab is truly an experiment, and we embrace the accidental, the unknown, and most of all, the desire to explore and create anew.