The death of humanities and social sciences is here — so it’s never been more important to try and keep them alive. And no, they are not useless areas of study.
You read it right. Here are two disciplines that seek to understand the people, culture and institutions surrounding us. The social sciences includes subjects such as sociology and economics, and the humanities focus on aesthetic concepts like philosophy and literature. In a way, the disciplines intertwine to understand the human experience.
I sincerely believe everyone should consider and take more than just the required humanities or social science courses during their time at the 5Cs — especially a course in ethnic studies. Recently, I have noticed a lot of people shrugging off individuals that are not STEM majors, saying that it is the easy route and thus overlooking the richness of the two types of disciplines.
In a world of student debt and figuring out what we should do after four years in Claremont, our future careers are connected to the internships we land and, often, our majors. There is a proliferation of internships in mega-corporations. Whether it might be a financial analyst or a coding specialist, we seek to chase numbers and numbers but forget the humans behind our technology and scientific endeavors.
I recognize the privilege of being able to choose whatever you want to do. I know. It’s hard to land a decently paying job unless it’s corporate, pre-med or technology-based. Even if you don’t major in those disciplines, though, it is still worth it to take a class in humanities and social sciences anyways.
Coming into Pomona College this fall, I immersed myself in the two fields, focusing particularly in the subfield of ethnic studies. Ethnic studies is an interdisciplinary field that encompasses the skills needed from both social sciences and humanities with a focus on specific ethnic groups’ experiences. The emergence of ethnic studies makes the two disciplines more culturally-relevant and encourages us to confront racism. Techno-Orientalism, an Asian American Studies class, opened a whole viewpoint of posthumanism.
You might be asking, “What the hell is techno-orientalism?”
In short, the class seeks to examine how the West imposes its anxieties over Asia taking over the world in the economy and technology. In our techno-orientalism class, I was aghast and absolutely disgusted at the corporations that treat women of color as disposable. I read about how the Fairchild Corporation racialized Navajo women and exploited them for labor. I learned the stories of people such as Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was brutally murdered by two resentful and unemployed white men who thought he was a threat because the Japanese auto industry was flourishing. He was killed for one simple reason: He was Asian and disposable.
As a new generation of students who might potentially own a corporation or be part of one, the examples I bring up from my techno-orientalism class highlight the need for students to be conscious of their future actions to break the cycle of oppression. Taking a class like techno-orientalism gives the next generation an idea of what not to do and how to be ethical.
To sit here as a Filipino American and read stories about my community being exploited for tech labor takes an emotional toll as well.
I give examples of the content I learn in my class because I want you to critically think about why these problems exist and what it is like to be a humanities or social science student. To read about systemic oppression and its effects every week is a different kind of difficult. I can’t solve them like a problem set in chemistry or biology. There is no discipline at the 5Cs that is superior to the other. However, I implore attitudes towards these studies to shift from seeing them as not valuable or as inferior from STEM. Many abhor taking humanities and social science because of a preconceived notion that it is just endless reading, discussion and writing. It is more just that: these classes give perspective about our society and allow people to think in critical, creative ways.
I love individuals who are prospective STEM, economics or pre-med majors. I see the value in learning about the physical world through calculations, coding and scientific theories. There’s also value and legitimacy in the way the humanities and social sciences use evidence: ethnography, primary accounts and other experimental designs. Since I know many of my friends studying in these fields will be in positions of influence one day, I ask them to give humanities and the social sciences a shot — especially ethnic studies. This means taking more classes in those areas and even considering it as a minor. Learn about the people who make things like the internet possible by them manually creating and harvesting the materials required to make the computers. They are the invisible and uncredited labor force, primarily people of color, who are overshadowed by the CEO of the companies they work for. Learn, learn, learn through the humanities and social sciences about the people that make it possible for our world to function.
If you choose to take classes in them, you can begin to connect them to what you might be doing in the future and how it relates to society. Ask yourself, “What can I do to change the system?” and apply what you learned, since you might be in a position of power one day through your choice of academia.
Zeean Firmeza PO ’26 is from Miami, Florida. She enjoys drinking boba, playing video games and reading.