As Director of the Boston University Center for the Humanities, I take great pleasure in inviting you to our public forum, Humanities Approaches to the Opioid Crisis.
Our annual BUCH Fall Forums are designed as “open air markets” in the classical sense, that further the free exchange of ideas among scholars in humanities fields and other professionals and practitioners who rarely come together to discuss social problems and their prospective solutions. Our subject in 2017 was “Libraries and Archives in the Digital Age”; our 2018 forum will treat “Humanities Approaches to the Opioid Crisis,” and our topic in 2019 is “Sexual Politics.”
By collaborating with colleagues beyond the College of Arts & Sciences at BU (the Boston Public Library and the Boston Athenæum for the Libraries Forum; area schools of public health and medicine, and city, state, and federal government for the Opioids Forum), we seek to initiate local, national, and global conversations with experts at both academic and non-academic institutions.
The goal is to share knowledge and skills in order to address social crises that require us to marshal every analytic and aesthetic concept. We believe that humanities fields can offer language that builds bridges across institutional and disciplinary borders, providing innovative thinking and perspectives that are complementary to non-humanities disciplines, as well as to work in philanthropic, governmental, and commercial arenas.
Addiction is perhaps the most significant, highly public and intractable social problem of the decade, and it has hit especially hard in Massachusetts. The problems associated with it are complex, and while people from many different fields have weighed in, we see a unique role for the humanities to play in addressing these problems.
Historians have written transnational histories of the U.S. drug markets and philosophers have explored the ethical status of addictive states, the moral obligation of societies to those suffering from addiction, and the role that societal structures play in fostering addictive behaviors. But no humanities field has been more directly engaged with the subject of addiction than literary studies. Some of the greatest Anglo-American literature—in memoir, poetic, dramatic, and prose form—is fundamentally concerned with addiction.
The humanities fields offer original insights not only into the more obvious social stigma associated with addiction, but the much harder-to-define subjective experience that has such profound implications for treatment and policy. The forum seeks to more fully integrate work by humanists into the thinking of the medical community and governmental officials who are on the front lines in addressing these problems.
William Arrowsmith Professor in the Humanities