The HUSC Name Change
As of Summer 2018, HUSC has changed its name! It is now officially called the Department
of Human and Social Sciences.
So what happened to “human sciences in the contemporary world”? Has the program become
noncontemporary? Are some human sciences being turned into social sciences?
Human and Social Sciences—for short we’ll still refer to it as “Human Sciences,” and
for shortest we’ll still call it “HUSC”—is simply a clarification of what was already
there. Changing the name doesn’t change the program at all. It is still just as contemporary
as always, and it still takes a broad, interdisciplinary approach to the subject matter
at its heart: the modern sciences that put human social being at the forefront, like
anthropology, sociology, social psychology, linguistics, social ecology, political
economy, social theory, historical studies of culture, even human-centered biology—all
grounded in theoretically-justified empirical work.
So why do it? Why change the name? The problem is that you needed to be an “insider”
to understand the implications of “human sciences in the contemporary world.”
There have been human sciences for a long time; they grew out of a philosophical conception
of what is human, and they were by their nature interdisciplinary. From them grew,
in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, modern social sciences and the
biological sciences concerned with the human-inhabited world. As they have developed
and matured, many of those sciences and their practitioners have lost touch with their
philosophical basis and interdisciplinary roots.
The old title encapsulated that we were trying to maintain a lively historical and
philosophical connection to the older tradition while still being fully modern and
engaging with contemporary issues. So why not keep the old name and just explain this?
Well, the problem is this: if you have to explain to everyone just to give them a
rather sketchy idea of the most basic meaning of the program’s name, then very few
people will notice it on their own, much less get to the point of asking about it
and looking into it.
An example can make the problem clearer: One recent HUSC major had a senior roommate
who did not figure out until her last semester that UD actually offers courses in
social-scientific subjects like anthropology and sociology!
So now, with the new name, when people, whether students, prospects, or parents of
prospects, are casually glancing through the Bulletin, the web site, or course offerings,
they will see the heading “Human and Social Sciences,” and they will immediately recognize
something that the senior roommate did not. If they are a little bit intrigued they
will still need to know more. But a lot more people will know where to ask, and a
lot more people will ask.
And that will mean we can more easily explain why Human and Social Sciences is a fascinating
and innovative way of approaching the contemporary world from the background of the
great Western intellectual and spiritual traditions.