On March 12, 2014, I gave a talk on "Global Humanities" at the University of California Santa Barbara:
"If we want to think comparatively about what the humanities mean in different areas of the world, we should ask ourselves first what is meant by the term humanities in these different areas, both in the past and in the present. Let me start with the present. And I say this with some hesitation, since I realize that by focusing on the meaning of the term humanities in the present, I am actually talking about how western domination – or should I say European colonialism -- has imposed the notion of humanities in other parts of the world. For example, in India for many centuries there was no distinctive notion of humanities, until under British domination it was introduced under the collective name of Arts – faculty of Arts -- at the University of Bombay. To be sure, there was an extremely rich and ancient Indian tradition in the study of language, the study of literature, dance and theater and the study of music, but these studies were seen as separate branches of knowledge in India at least until the 19th century. Similar stories exist for universities in China, Japan, the Arabic world, Africa and other places. Even where there was no colonial rule, the hegemony of the West was such that institutions, concepts and practices were exported – even mimicked – almost everywhere in the world, from the 1900s onwards. So perhaps we should limit our focus for the moment and start by looking first at Europe and the US and ask ourselves whether there is any common notion of humanities in the West. It turns out that this is already a tough question. [...]"
Click here for the full talk.
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