Rethinking the Human Sciences
This two-pronged–intellectual and curricular–initiative grew out of a collective reflection among the Institute for the Comparative Literary Studies’ multiverse faculty over the situation of disciplinary knowledge and humanities pedagogy in today’s global university. The generally cultivated skepticism about the contemporary pertinence of humanities-based education to current problems in social achievement and capacity to compete in a global sphere energized the ranks of the Institute to seek new venues of re-conceptualizing and re-articulating the human sciences. No doubt, the particular term is not of common usage in the Anglophone tradition and, moreover, it may be said to belong to another historical era. (Indeed, the historical legacy of the name “the human sciences” would very much be part of the process of rethinking in what sense this name may lend itself to domains of inquiry and pedagogy in our own time.) But perhaps precisely because of this distant significance, the term “human sciences” may be more usefully mobilized in order to confront the wide-spread assumptions as to the dead-end of the humanities.
More specifically, the challenge that emerged in plain view was to rethink the humanities in broader fashion in order to address, not merely modes of learning that characterize the social sciences (historical methodologies, sociological and geopolitical conceptualizations, or anthropological figurations of culture), which has been the work of the Institute since the outset, but increasing tendencies in all disciplines (including the life sciences) that problematize the permutations and boundaries of the human. This covers an enormous range of specific scholarship that includes meta-empirical discussions in neuroscience and cognitive science; the complex intersection of biotechnology, biopolitics, and bioethics; the geopolitical dimensions of epidemiology, public health, human rights, and humanitarianism; the international legal apparatus for transitional justice and determining crimes against humanity; the media and imaging technologies of human bodies; the emergent fields of ecology and ecocriticism, posthumanism and animality; and a great deal more.
Stathis Gourgouris, Professor
Sarah Monks, Assistant Director
The Heyman Center for the Humanities, Room B-101
Southwest corner of West 118th Street and Morningside Drive
New York, NY
United States http://icls.columbia.edu/initiatives/rethinking-the-human-sciences/